By Christian Bollwage
League Past President
Just some of the more than 400 weapons collected during the two day “Gun Buy Back” Program in Elizabeth. The event was made possible through a generous donation.
Safety is a priority in every community. With technological enhancements, such as the incorporation of security cameras, municipalities are thinking outside of the box to develop and integrate additional tools to assist residents and safeguard neighborhoods.
The City of Elizabeth initiated a Cash for Guns program that took place on July 17, 2010 and July 24, 2010 from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. Held at Elizabeth Police Headquarters, the event was implemented in conjunction with the Elizabeth Police Department, Union County Prosecutor’s Office, and Union County Sheriff’s Office. The program enabled individuals with firearms to turn them in at a secure location, without any questions being asked. The initiative was made possible by a generous anonymous donation.
Our buy-back program eliminates the possibility of weapons falling into the wrong hands. Whether the recovered firearm was held by a family for generations or by an individual who is just looking to safely remove it from its present location the law enforcement community will purchase the weapon. A monetary reward acts as an incentive for people to turn in unwanted handguns and firearms. The only requests associated with turning in the weapons were that they be free of ammunition and be turned in with the safety locks on, to make sure the weapons were secure.
We used a variety of tools to raise public awareness regarding this initiative: flyers were developed, posted and distributed, and an announcement was made on the weekly Media Advisory, website, as well as on the weekly cable access program entitled Our City. Registered individuals
were also informed through Nixle, the free and secure service that allows the communication of important information and events via email and text messaging.
Once information was released to the media, the story quickly circulated statewide, with major news organizations also expressing interest. On the initial day of the program, approximately 100 people were eagerly waiting inside Elizabeth Police Headquarters for the event to begin. Law enforcement representatives then announced instructions to the awaiting public regarding the process for turning in the weapons. Individuals were directed to enter a separate room one by one, where representatives from the Elizabeth Police Department and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office accepted the unwanted weapons, checked them to ensure that they had been disarmed, cataloged each piece, and then placed them into a secured container. Upon completion of this process, the former firearm owner was issued payment.
The amount of cash individuals received depended on the type of weapon, ranging from $200 for assault guns (UZIs) or assault rifles to $75 for each rifle or shotgun. Most of the weapons recovered were older and included hunting rifles from the 1940’s as well as a Lady Derringer two gun wooden box set, which is a collector’s item. All weapons will eventually be melted down and disposed of.
The initiative was an outstanding success, collecting more than 400 firearms and distributing $55,000 dollars. The weekend event provided individuals with traditional work schedules the ability to attend without any conflicts.
With nationwide gun violence headlining the news, this program is a win-win for municipalities and residents. For those residents, who do not know how to legally and safely discard an unwanted firearm, it provides an opportunity to meet an unaddressed need. For municipalities, this initiative creates safer neighborhoods for children to play, businesses to thrive, and communities to grow.