By David Cruz
Even hardened police beat reporters were taken aback by the firepower on display. More than 1,100 handguns culled from the streets of Camden city and Camden County. Flanked by the city’s police chief, Mayor Dana Redd and the county prosecutor, Attorney General Jeff Chiesa said the visuals speak for themselves.
“In only two days, our gun buyback effort took in more than 1,000 guns, deadly weapons from around the state. You can see them lying on the tables before us,” Chiesa said. “The exact total of the guns is 1,137. They range in type from non-operational handguns to fully operational rifles and five fully automatic assault weapons.”
So many in fact that officials ran out of money had to issue tens of thousands of dollars in IOUs. Using criminal forfeiture funds to pay $250 a pop, officials say the two-day buyback program — begun ironically on the Friday of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. — seemed to have been impacted by that incident.
“Interestingly, we took in twice as many guns on Saturday as we did on Friday,” Chiesa said. “We do know that a number of people remarked when they brought their guns in that they wanted these guns out of their house now, or out of wherever they’d brought the guns in from.”
Mayor Redd, whose city is a perennial national leader in crime rates and gun violence, has been at the helm of a controversial downsizing and some say outsourcing of her city’s police department. Today, she said she was pleased by the effort but under no delusion that crime and violence here would drop immediately or significantly.
“I’m sure there are other guns that we would love to draw in as part of a gun buyback program and yes, again we wanna make our city safe — Camden and other urban centers. And I’m overwhelmed just by the tremendous turnout over the past two days,” Redd said.
In a town as troubled as this one, getting just one gun off the street has got to be considered a victory, but as most people around here will tell you, even a record-breaking gun buyback is still a drop in the bucket.