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TRENTON – Flanked by local government leaders, law enforcement, clergy and community leaders, New Jersey’s two top law enforcement officials jointly announced today that they are sponsoring a two-day gun buyback next month to be held simultaneously in three counties – Camden, Mercer and Essex.
In addition to the buyback initiative to remove deadly weapons from New Jersey communities, the Attorney General and the Acting U.S. Attorney announced an enhanced commitment to coordinate state and federal efforts to prosecute gun crimes aggressively, with a particular focus on the “Triggerlock” program, under which high-priority gun offenders arrested by municipal police or state authorities are referred for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office under federal law, which carries lengthier prison terms, including potential penalties of 15 years without parole to life for the most serious gun offenses.
Acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick and Attorney General Christopher Porrino made the announcements at the Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton. Porrino explained that the state-led “Guns for Cash” event will be held on Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29 at a single church in each of three cities: the Antioch Baptist Church on Ferry Avenue in Camden, the Friendship Baptist Church on Perry Street in Trenton, and the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church on Lyons Avenue in Newark.
Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on those dates, residents can turn in up to three firearms of any type “no questions asked” and receive as much as $200 per weapon. Police officers will be stationed at the three churches to collect and secure the guns. The Attorney General’s Office is paying for the gun buyback with forfeiture funds obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice, the State Police, and the three participating County Prosecutors’ Offices.
“Our joint efforts to take guns off the street – whether it is through the Attorney General’s buy-back program or our coordinated prosecution of firearms offenses and violent gangs – demonstrate our shared commitment to use every strategy, investigative technique, and resource to protect the communities we serve,” Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick said. “Attorney General Porrino, Colonel Fuentes, Director Ambrose, Director Parrey and Chief Thomson have used the latest technology, intelligence and analytics to develop investigative strategies that officers, detectives and federal agents carry out on the streets of Newark, Trenton and Camden. These efforts by local, state and federal investigators have significantly weakened violent gangs like MS-13, the Grape Street Crips and the Sex, Money Murder Bloods. Although there is much work to be done, because of their leadership the state-federal partnership has never been stronger, and because of their vision the people of New Jersey have never been better served.”
“Gun buybacks provide a vital means for taking deadly firearms out of circulation before they can be used to take a life,” Attorney General Porrino said. “Some say that weapons turned in during these buybacks are just old ‘attic guns’ -- as if that somehow makes them less lethal. Whether we’re talking about a Tech-9 or an old hunting rifle, guns are dangerous. All anyone needs to do is read news stories from across the nation – including New Jersey – to know that guns left lying around the home are a common source of tragedy.”
In addition to publicizing the late-July gun buyback campaign through today’s press conference, Porrino explained, the tri-county gun buyback will be promoted through radio, newspaper, bus transit, social media and other advertising.
Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick and Attorney General Porrino emphasized that while gun buybacks present an important opportunity to remove dangerous guns from circulation, law enforcement at all levels will continue to work diligently and collaboratively to arrest violent offenders and criminals who commit crimes with guns. New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, and the crime of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm is a second-degree offense under state law punishable by between five and 10 years in prison. Moreover, through continued partnership among federal, state, and local counterparts, including participation in the Triggerlock program, the Acting U.S. Attorney and the Attorney General pledged to make use as appropriate of even stricter penalties available for many gun crimes under federal law.
“Through these joint initiatives, we aim to remove from our streets the most dangerous offenders driving gun crime in our communities as well as the guns themselves,” said Attorney General Porrino. “I am grateful to Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick for his commitment to collaborating on this law enforcement priority, which will make the people of New Jersey safer.”
Attorney General Porrino also pointed to recent changes in the State’s bail system – changes championed by the Attorney General’s Office and law enforcement officials around the state – that enables prosecutors to more readily keep those accused of gun crimes, as well as certain repeat offenders, off the streets until trial.
In May of this year, the state Supreme Court approved additional changes to the overhauled bail system whereby defendants charged with a range of gun and weapons offenses will now face a presumption of pre-trial detention – although a judge will still have final say.
Porrino explained that, simply put, the changes mean that for many people who persist in endangering New Jersey communities by making guns and gunplay a part of their lives, the next arrest could be a case of: “No Bail. Go Directly to Jail.”
He noted that, as part of the initiative announced today, billboard advertisements and other outdoor media messaging will be used to drive home the warning that certain offenders can expect to face pre-trial detention and the harshest possible prison sentences if they persist in endangering communities with gun violence.
The Attorney General also pointed to continuation of the state’s intensified, targeted anti-violence enforcement efforts in urban centers, and the excellent firearms forensic work being done at the State Police Tech Center in Hamilton as other examples of the broader effort to combat gun violence.
Porrino noted that, at the tech center, State Police investigators – aided by a federal ATF data base known as the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) – are analyzing guns and learning of their possible links to unsolved crimes more quickly, and more effectively, than ever before.
Regarding the upcoming gun buybacks, Attorney General Porrino thanked the Antioch Baptist Church, the Friendship Baptist Church and the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church for their willingness to host the gun buyback, and urged residents to take advantage of the money, and amnesty, being offered by the program.
“Again, this buyback is a ‘no questions asked’ event. It is a truly collaborative effort being carried out by law enforcement, government, the faith community and others whose sole objective is to have safer cities, safer counties and a safer state,” Porrino said. “It’s difficult to quantify prevention, but it certainly stands to reason that a gun that no longer exists – a gun that has been turned in and melted down – can never be stashed in a vacant building and used as a community gun. It can never be stolen in a burglary and used later in a violent crime, and it can never fall into the hands of a curious child and cause the death of that child, a playmate, or some other innocent person.”
Among those joining Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick and Attorney General Porrino for today’s kick-off press conference were: New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig, New Jersey State Police Major Glen Szenzenstein, Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Brodack of the FBI Newark Division, Acting Special Agent in Charge Marcus S. Watson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Newark Division, Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division, U.S. Marshal Juan Mattos, Jr., of the District of New Jersey, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino, Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose, Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey, Chief Ron Moten and Captain Kevin Kellajan of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Deputy Police Chief Joseph Wysocki and Lt. Gabe Rodriguez of the Camden County Police Department, Camden Mayor Dana Redd, William Simpson of the Office of the Newark Mayor’s My Brother’s Keeper Program, Antioch Baptist Church (Camden) Pastor John O. Parker Jr., Friendship Baptist Church (Trenton) Pastor John Taylor, Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church (Newark) Deacon John Thornton, and New Hope Memorial Baptist Church (Elizabeth) Pastor Steffie Bartley.
Under standardized pricing set for the tri-county gun buyback, residents will be paid $100 for turning in a rifle or shotgun, $120 for a handgun or revolver, and $200 for an assault weapon. Law enforcement firearms experts will be on hand at each location to assist with the valuation and securing of turned-in weapons.
Residents with questions about the buyback effort can call the Attorney General’s Citizen Services unit at (609) 984-5828 or visit www.nj.gov/guns.