While the debate over gun control picks up after the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, law enforcement officers in Camden County seem to know what they want.
A gun buyback took more than a thousand guns out of circulation during a gun buyback Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile, across the river in Philadelphia, vendors sold “a couple of thousand” firearms during a gun show.
On Tuesday, police in Camden pulled together a roomful of tables to lay out all the handguns and rifles collected over the weekend. The haul included five automatic weapons.
Authorities paid $250 per gun. Business was so brisk, officials ran out of cash for the buyback early Saturday afternoon, and started issuing IOUs. In total, they spent $156,000 in money forfeited by criminals.
New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa attributed some of the record turnout was due to events in Connecticut. Some people turning in guns told officers they finally wanted the weapons out of their homes.
Chiesa acknowledged no buyback could necessarily prevent an event such as the Newtown massacre from occurring.
“What I can say is there are 1,137 less guns than there were before we started this initiative,” he said. “And I think every gun we take out of circulation is one less gun that can be used in a way that can harm these communities that these guns are found in.”
Most of the guns will be destroyed, officers said.
The National Research Council and others have criticized gun buyback programs as high-profile events that don’t help reduce the crime rate.
The Camden could certainly use help. Homicides in the city of 77,000 hit a record high of 67 this year. That’s more than 10 times the national average.
Elsewhere, others were in the market for weapons.
An organizer of the Philadelphia Expo Center gun show, which also took place over the weekend, says attendance was high in advance of the holidays. Joel Koehler says vendors sold “a couple of thousand” firearms.
He said contacts told him that business has been similarly robust for other events across the country.