In attempt to get illegal guns off the streets and cut into gun violence, the Attorney General’s Office is staging a state-sponsored gun buyback to be held in Monmouth County early next month, officials said Thursday.
State Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa was in Asbury Park Thursday to announce the March 8 and 9 program would be held in conjunction with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the Asbury Park Police Department, the Keansburg Police Department, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, and local faith-based community organizations.
Monmouth County residents can turn in up to three unloaded guns at the Shiloh Community Fellowship Ministry in Asbury Park – 142 Dewitt Ave. -- or the St. Ann Catholic Church in Keansburg – 267 Carr Ave. -- between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Chiesa said.
Chiesa said the program is not a panacea for gun violence, but an attempt to curb it.
“I remain troubled by the level of gun violence in New Jersey and in our nation,’’ Chiesa said. “Sadly, the victims of these senseless acts of violence are often innocent people whose only crime was to be minding their own business when someone decided to start shooting.’’
The Monmouth County buyback is the fourth in a series of initiatives that have taken place in Camden, Mercer and Essex counties. Those three programs have collected about 5,400 guns. More than 1,000 of those guns were illegal either because they had large ammunition capacities, had sawed-off barrels or where modified in some way, Chiesa said.
“This is a means of reducing shooting deaths,’’ Chiesa said. “It’s been said before but it’s a thought worth repeating: If we can save even one life through out gun buyback program it’s an effort worth making.’’
Police officers will be on hand to collect and handle the guns. No questions will be asked in the amnesty program and cash will be paid on the spot -- up to $250 for each gun, Chiesa said.
During the two-day buyback program held in Camden city, Chiesa said, 1,100 guns were taken in. More than 2,600 guns were taken in during the Mercer County event and another 1,700 were taken during the Essex County buyback, including one AR-17 automatic rifle similar to the one used by the Newtown, Conn., shooter, Chiesa said.
“I was stunned,’’ he said. “Those are guns that are no longer able to hurt police officers, no longer are able hurt innocent people and no longer able to terrorize the communities that they find themselves in.’’
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office last held “Guns For Cash’’ program in 2011 in Asbury Park, Keansburg, and Freehold Township. Close to 300 guns were bought for nearly $12,000.