Camden buyback program nets record number of guns

December 18, 2012 3:55:32 PM PST
Residents of New Jersey's most impoverished and murder-prone city turned in a record number of weapons in a recent gun buyback program, and officials on Tuesday surmised that the Connecticut school shooting could have something to do with that.

"A lot of people said they don't want the guns around the house now," said state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa as he announced the result of the program held Friday and Saturday at two Camden churches.

The state brought in 1,137 guns, surpassing the previous record of 700 weapons from a 2009 Essex County event. Among them were scores of rifles, shotguns and pistols, sawed-off shotguns, a century-old antique weapon, a rifle used for hunting elephants and five fully automatic weapons. Some 90 percent were in working condition. Many were illegal weapons under state laws; some were so-called community guns stashed around neighborhood. Nearly all are to be destroyed.

The shooting at a Newtown elementary school on Friday left 26 people dead, including 20 children, ages 6 and 7. Twice as many firearms were turned in Saturday, the day afterward, than on Friday, Chiesa noted.

The state had $110,000 in cash to give to those who turned in guns, along with $6,000 in gift cards left over from a previous program.

"At 2 o'clock," he said, "we were out of money."

Workers offered IOUs worth nearly $40,000 to people who brought in guns after the money ran out.

Individuals were allowed to turn in up to three weapons and were paid up to $250 for each of them.

"There's 1,137 less guns than there were the day before we started this initiative," Chiesa said.

It leaves an untold number of weapons in the city, though.

Camden, with a population of 77,000, has had 67 homicides in 2012. That is also a dismal record, well above the 58 killings in the city in 1995.


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