YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County’s haul during this weekend’s gun buyback was 1,345 firearms surrendered — along with 55,000 rounds of ammo — one of the state’s highest totals to date, Sheriff Michael Saudino said today.
The literal caliber of many of the weapons reflects the population of the county.
The total included 10 assault weapons and scores of handguns, rifles and shotguns. The sheriff’s office also pulled in high-powered air rifles, flare guns and combat knives at 11 houses of worship where the event was staged countywide.
Among the novelty weapons collected was a double-barreled black powder percussion rifle. SEE BELOW .
“We’re thrilled with the overwhelming results,” said Saudino ( top, left ). “As we’ve seen far too many times, gun violence – whether intentional or accidental – destroys lives.”
Saudino said the program was just part of an overall push to make the community safer.
“This initiative was a great step in getting unwanted firearms off our streets and out of our homes,” he said, “but we’ll continue to find ways to curb gun violence and protect our children, our families and our neighborhoods.”
A total of $101,923 was paid out, funded through cash legally seized from criminals by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.
The two-day weekend event was such a success that Saudino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT he had to call Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli ( top, right ) for more money Saturday night.
“We ran out,” the sheriff said. “It reached the point where we actually had to turn people away.”
Molinelli said today that he originally committed $65,000 in forfeiture funds and readily agreed to more because he believes in the program — and hopes to make it an annual event.
Some received vouchers. “When we have money, they’ll get paid,” the sheriff said.
The amount of weapons surrendered 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.
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.
And while some questioned whether such programs remove guns from the streets, Saudino said that wasn’t the point.
“This was all about safety, it was all voluntary,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “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. READ MORE….
Saudino thanked the houses of worship that participated.
“This was a key part of the program,” the sheriff said. “People who would feel uncomfortable going to a police station would come to a house of worship that’s familiar to them.”
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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