(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John F. McKeon, Speaker Vincent Prieto, Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker and Assemblyman Lou Greenwald that would create a statewide gun buyback program in an effort to reduce the number of firearms in New Jersey communities continues to advance in the Legislature with an approval on Thursday by a Senate panel.
“Gun violence claims lives every day. In some communities, it is an-all too common reality,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “We realize a gun buyback program alone will not eliminate gun violence, but it can help enhance public safety by reducing the number of firearms in circulation.”
The bill (A-2374) would require the New Jersey Attorney General to establish a statewide gun buyback program, which would allow New Jersey citizens to voluntarily and anonymously surrender firearms and weapons in their possession in exchange for a monetary reward.
“A gun in the hands of a violent or disturbed individual is a bad combination,” said Prieto (D-Bergen, Hudson). “This can help keep guns from falling into the wrong hands by creating a controlled environment where individuals looking to get rid of their weapons can do so safely and anonymously.”
Under the bill, state Office of the Attorney General would be required to hold at least nine gun buyback programs a year throughout the state; three each in the northern, central and southern regions. At least one program in each region would be required to be held in an urban area with a high crime rate, as determined by the uniform crime report.
“Every extra gun we get off the streets is another potential life saved,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We’ve had a great deal of success in getting unwanted, and often illegal guns, off our city streets through previous gun buybacks, so absent nationwide gun reforms, we need to do everything we can in New Jersey to make our streets safer.”
“The more we can do to get guns off our street, the better,” said Zwicker (D-Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “This is about public safety. If people want to voluntary give up guns, then we should make it easier for them to do so. Each gun turned in can mean a life saved.”
“Some people will find any reason to attack proposals meant to protect the public from gun violence,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “This bill would simply give gun owners who want to get rid of their weapons another avenue to do so. Surely this is something even they can get behind.”
Funding for the program would primarily be generated by captured proceeds from criminal activities in the state and private donations from corporations, small businesses, and individuals.
The Office of the Attorney General held a similar gun buyback initiative in 2012. Through 10 buybacks across the state a total of 15,958 firearms were collected, including more than 7,300 handguns and nearly 1,900 illegal guns.
The measure was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. The bill was approved by the Assembly, 52-17-5, on April 7. It now awaits further consideration by the Senate President.