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‘Sold out’ Bergen gun buyback: 1,307 weapons turned in

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County’s two-day gun buyback program was such a success — producing 1,307 weapons in all — that Sheriff Michael Saudino had to call Prosecutor John L. Molinelli yesterday for more money.

“We ran out,” Saudino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “It reached the point where we actually had to turn people away.”

And while some questioned whether such programs remove guns from the streets, the sheriff said that wasn’t the point.

“This was all about safety, it was all voluntary,” he said. “The economy has something to do with it, but these were people concerned about their children.

“The story of the 4-year-old boy who was shot [in Ocean County] is still on people’s minds. A lot of people talked about how accidents like these occur in the home with people who legally own weapons.”

Of the eight Bergen towns where no-questions-asked buybacks were held, the one that produced the most weapons might come as a surprise to some.

“Park Ridge outdid everybody,” Saudino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “And although Fair Lawn was a real knockout today, Park Ridge apparently had the highest overall numbers.”

Assault rifles, TEC-22, Bergen Sheriff Michael Saudino

Rockland residents may have boosted those figures, the sheriff theorized.

It was enough to force him to ring up the prosecutor.

Molinelli originally provided $75,000 for buybacks at 11 area churches and temples from funds seized from criminals. Late yesterday, he agreed to another $35,000 to fund today’s purchases.

Eight assault rifles and two machines guns were part of the haul, which nearly doubled the 708 weapons turned in when the Bergen Sheriff’s Office did its first buyback in 2010.

It also topped the 1,100 collected recently in Camden County and approached the more than 1,700 retrieved in Essex. Mercer County has produced the most from the current statewide campaign: 2,600.

State Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa warned earlier this year that gun buybacks alone “can’t solve the complex and multi-faceted problem of gun violence,” but he said they do serve as “an important aspect of a larger strategy to get firearms out of communities and reduce the number of shooting deaths and injuries.”

Those who turned in the firearms received up to $300 for each — varying from $20 for non-operational weapons to $80 for rifles and shotguns to $100 for handguns, and $300 for automatic assault weapons and machine guns.

“My ballistics guys have a lot of work to do now,” Saudino said tonight. “But it’s well worth it.”

After the 2010 buyback, the sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Identification pulled three stolen guns from the pile.

“If we find any this time, we will get them back to their rightful owners,” Saudino said.

“Gun violence knows no bounds,” the sheriff said. “Intentional violence and accidental discharges involving firearms can destroy families and communities.”

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