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Critics of Bergen’s first gun buy-back program are off-target

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Video Credit: YouTube

Naysayers are firing criticism at a gun buy-back program that netted more than 700 firearms this weekend, but Bergen County Sheriff Leo P. McGuire says they’re way off the mark.

McGuire, center, outside Bergen’s Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI)

No one involved ever thought Bergen’s first buy-back effort — allowing people to anonymously turn in guns in exchange for far less than black market value — would take out a major threat in one fell swoop. It simply was one of many proactive tactics used to help make the county safer, McGuire said.

“As a father and Bergen County resident, it gives me peace of mind to know we’ve done all we can to ensure the safety of our communities,” he said.

Somehow, though, the collateral benefits got lost:

For one thing, the entire program cost taxpayers nothing: Nearly $50,000 in payments came from cash legally seized from drug dealers and other criminals.

And it created an image that McGuire hopes will stick with good people who don’t want to see their loved ones — or anyone else, for that matter — either struck down or caught illegally using a firearm.

At the same time, it forged a solid bond between law enforcement and clergy of all denominations in Bergen County, by having the guns dropped off at six houses of worship spread countywide, instead of at a station house, jail or law enforcement complex. Just one look at the program’s brief promo video displays a powerful unity not only between cops and clerics but among the clergy themselves:

Altogether, the program gathered 708 guns, including a pair of assault weapons, plucked from dresser drawers, 0closets, cubbyholes and elsewhere, the sheriff said. Besides handguns, rifles and shotguns, the weaponry brought to church this weekend included ammo, air pistols — even a cross bow.

Cynics cite the timing, months from McGuire’s re-election bid in November. But there’s another timing element the sheriff said accounted for his scheduling: School’s back in soon.

The critics also say two antique guns turned in — both from World War II — mark gun buy back programs as futile.

McGuire with local clergy

But McGuire said several operable weapons showed up, some with the serial numbers scratched off. With a top-notch ballistics squad under his direction, the sheriff said, his department could end up closing some cold cases.

While these firearms will become part of the evidence trail, the relics will go to military organizations and the rest will be destroyed, McGuire said.

If you have a weapon you want to turn in, contact your local police department or the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office at  201-336-3500.

200 guns turned in on first day of Bergen buy-back weekend

Saturday, Aug. 28

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : Bergen County Sheriff Leo McGuire and local clergy were delighted when 200 guns were turned in at various houses of worship during the first day of this weekend’s of Bergen’s very first firearm buy-back program. “It was a great turnout that will ensure 200 fewer guns will be available for a child to access or a criminal to use on our streets,” McGuire proudly told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this evening. “This is a proactive law enforcement initiative to promote safe streets and safe schools.”


QUESTION : What do YOU think about gun buy-backs?

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