Deeply affected by the massacre at Sandy Hook, gun owners in Camden, New Jersey, America’s deadliest town, turned in a record number of weapons in a buy back scheme over the weekend.
1,137 firearms including an elephant-gun were handed in on Friday and Saturday at two churches in the crime-plagued town as the ramifications of the mass child killings in Connecticut seemed to inspire residents to give up their arms.
‘We heard that there were a number of gun owners on Saturday who had publicly said, in light of the situation that had just occurred in Connecticut, they wanted to turn in their weapons,’ Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the Camden police, said in an interview with Philly.Com
Among the weapons handed in were scores of rifles, shotguns and pistols, sawed-off shotguns, a century-old antique weapon, a rifle used for hunting elephants and five fully automatic weapons.
Some 90 per cent were in working condition,
Many were illegal weapons under state laws; some were so-called community guns stashed around the neighborhood.
All those who turned in guns were promised anonymity and no questions asked.
‘A lot of people said they don’t want the guns around the house now,’ said state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa as he announced the result of the program held Friday and Saturday at two Camden churches.
NJ.com reported that those who came to the event were paid up to $250 per weapon with ‘no questions asked.’
Gun owners received $25 for BB guns, $50 inoperable firearms, $150 for revolvers, semi automatics, shotguns and rifles and $250 for assault weapons.
Nearly all of the weapons are to be destroyed.
‘The more we unarm ourselves then maybe we can stop some of the violence that’s going on. If we don’t have the firearm then we can’t use the firearm,’ said James Green, who turned over his firearm.
The shooting at a Newtown elementary school on Friday left 26 people dead, including 20 children, ages 6 and 7.
The gunman, Adam Lanza, used a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle in the killings, and used a handgun to kill himself as police officers closed in.
Twice as many firearms were turned in Saturday, the day after, than on Friday, Chiesa noted.
‘These guns are coming from people’s homes and many times end up as items of burglary, end up on our streets and in the wrong hands. We would much rather have custody of these guns now as opposed to at the scene of a crime after a shooting,’ said Chief Scott Thomas, Camden Police.
It wasn’t just the criminals handing in guns in Camden – law abiding members of the public were bringing in their guns to rid their homes of their firearms.
‘I don’t want them around the house anymore so I brought them here,’ said Henry Budniak.
Officials have said there are about 170 drug markets operating in Camden, a city of 77,000 near Philadelphia, more than 700 people on parole and 600 registered sex offenders.
The city ranks first in violent crime, according to the FBI. It also leads the country in murders for cities of more than 50,000 people.
The murder rate is unthinkably high. In 2007, Newark attracted national attention for a record number of homicides.
Some residents, interviewed Friday, said they turned in guns simply because they no longer wanted them in their homes. One man said he would use the $400 he received to buy Christmas gifts.