June 11, 2013
Building safe and vibrant communities can begin with one person’s commitment to making a difference. Take the inspiring example of one Community Foundation fundholder who felt compelled by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut to help reduce the potential for gun violence in his community.
Seeking to stay “above the fray of politics,” the fundholder sought the best ways to promote a consensus on safety. After speaking with his local police chief, he decided to sponsor two gun buyback programs in Monmouth County.
Together with local law enforcement and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, the fundholder – whose $12,500 grant the Community Foundation will match – is expanding an effective strategy for improving public safety.
How it works
A growing trend nationally, gun buyback programs take unwanted firearms out of the community, thus reducing their potential for cycling through illegal networks or ending up as potential hazards in homes.
The process is quite simple. A state, county, or local law enforcement office (sometimes a combination of the three) hosts a one- or multi-day buyback at a secure location. The event is advertised in advance with an emphasis that no questions are asked of those who hand over their unwanted firearms. The buyback organizers pay individuals for the firearms according to a basic price menu and the guns are ultimately destroyed. As an added benefit, the scrap metal is often used elsewhere, whether for construction or even, in a few cases, to create jewelry.
The important thing is, the unwanted guns are safely and securely removed from the community.
“If we remove just one gun from the streets, we remove another chance for gun violence,” says Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni. “But multiply the number of guns that will come off the streets through this program and we are not just eliminating another possibility for gun violence but wiping clean some of the grief and agony gun violence inevitably brings to a great number of families and the communities where gun violence persists.”
Fundholders making it happen
In 2010, another CFNJ fundholder sponsored a buyback program in Elizabeth that safely removed more than 400 guns from that community. Other buyback programs led by the State have recovered more than 10,000 firearms in total, and Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa recently announced plans for another buyback program this June. Even in Monmouth County, the Prosecutor’s Office has been running the “Guns for Cash” program for almost ten years.
Since state and local funding is, of course, limited, philanthropic support is playing an increasingly important role in helping law enforcement officials plan and execute gun buybacks.
In Monmouth County, Chief of Detectives for the County Prosecutor’s Office Michael Pasterchick describes donor-sponsored buyback programs as one of the more effective grassroots methods to reduce the possibility of gun-related crimes.
“The majority of the funding goes directly toward recovering weapons with a small portion used for local advertising,” explains Pasterchick. “Foundations and individuals that partner with local police and county law enforcement to organize these programs is absolutely the way to move forward.”
The fundholder supporting the Monmouth County buybacks, who wished to remain anonymous, surely agrees.
“We all have our individual rights in this country. That’s important. But this is above the fray of politics. If we can take unused guns off the streets and that leads to just one person being saved… well that’s just great.”
The fundholder hopes to encourage others to sponsor buyback programs in their communities.
If you would like to sponsor a gun buyback program in your community, please contact the Community Foundation at 973-267-5533.