$100,000 gun buyback set for Trenton

New Jersey’s latest gun buyback program will be held in Trenton later this month. The state capital has experienced a rise in gun violence since about a third of its police force was laid off to close a budget gap in 2011.

A similar program in Camden last month yielded more than 1,100 guns including some assault rifles.

The number of weapons sold at gun shows in the region might far outnumber those collected during the buyback programs, but state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa says that’s not his major concern.

“I can’t do anything about the legal purchase and use of handguns. That’s a right that people have,” he said. “And those, by the way, typically aren’t the people we’re talking about in a situation like this.”

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Chiesa, who says too many people are dying as the result of gun violence, said the buyback program is just part of a strategy to focus attention on the issue.

The firearms-buyback programs have been criticized as ineffective.

And while state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) agrees that criminals are not likely to give up their weapons, she says such initiatives will help reduce gun violence.

“If there are guns on the street or in the homes lying around, they can possibly be stolen and be used in the commission of a crime,” she said Thursday. “Or during the heat of an argument, if there’s a gun in the home someone may grab that gun … use it and regret it forever.”

Trenton had 24 homicides in 2012.

The state will use $100,000 seized from criminals to pay for guns that are turned in at two churches in Trenton on Jan. 25 and 26 — the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church and the Greater Mount Zion AME Church. Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on those days, Mercer County residents can turn in up to three firearms, “no questions asked,” and receive cash payment of up to $250 per weapon.

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