February 6, 2013
According to Federal Bureau of Investigation data recently reported by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, two-thirds (66%) of New Jersey homicides are attributable to gun violence. Given these staggering statistics, the underground sale of illegal guns poses an undeniable threat to police efforts to stem crime in communities across the state. Moreover, this threat may not necessarily abate when offenders are arrested. On the contrary, their guns may simply exchange hands and continue to be used for violent purposes that drive up assault and homicide rates. What can be done to avoid this cyclical pattern of illegal gun use?
One option is to sell the weapons as part of a gun buy-back program — a growing police tool used to ensure these weapons do not cycle back through the community or end up as potential hazards in homes. Gun buy-back programs ask no questions, assign no blame, and offer a secure, safe way for law enforcement to reduce the number of deadly weapons in the community.
Just last year, one of the Community Foundation of New Jersey’s fundholders sought to implement such a program in the their hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey as a way to give back and make the community a safer place.
Thanks to the grant from the fund, the city was able to offer cash in exchange for weapons with no questions asked. The only condition for turning in a gun was for it to be free of ammunition and have safety locks on, to ensure safe transport. The announcement quickly spread throughout the state, and on July 17, 2010, nearly 100 people were waiting outside the Elizabeth Police Headquarters before the event even began. By the end of the two-day program, more than 400 guns had been safely removed from the streets and set aside to be melted down and disposed of.
“If we can take one gun off the street that would have otherwise been used in a crime or an accidental shooting, I think that’s a major plus for the community,” said James Cosgrove, Elizabeth Police Director.
Representatives from the Elizabeth Police Department and Union County Prosecutor’s Office were on-hand to determine the value of the weapons, and owners were paid a percentage of the weapon’s true value. The cash offered depended on the type of gun and ranged from $200 for an assault gun or rifle (UZIs), $150 for handguns, and $75 for shotguns. The majority of the collected weapons were handguns, but also included a Civil War rifle, a hunting rifle from the 1940s, and at least one collector’s item — a Lady Derringer two gun wooden box set.
At the end of the program, thanks to the grant from a Community Foundation donor advised fund, $55,000 worth of unwanted weapons were removed from the streets of the community.