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New Jersey Gun Buyback Gets Record Participation

A state-sponsored cash-for-guns program for Camden County residents picked up 1,137 firearms over two days, a record number for the state, officials said Tuesday.

New Jersey's attorney general said some of the gun owners who showed up at two Camden churches Friday and Saturday appeared to be motivated by the mass killings Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Jeffrey S. Chiesa alluded to the possible motive at a news conference at Camden's police department, where heaps of surrendered firearms were on display.

"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, said in an interview.

Loriquet said the anecdotal accounts were relayed to the attorney general by law enforcement officers who spoke to gun owners at Antioch Baptist Church, which hosted the program along with the Higher Ground Temple Church of God in Christ.

On Friday, Adam Lanza, 20, allegedly killed his mother in their Newtown home and then killed six adults and 20 children at the elementary school before taking his own life.

Loriquet said the state's previous most successful gun buyback was a 2009 event held in Newark, East Orange, and Irvington that yielded more than 700 weapons in a day and a half from Essex County residents.

Officials said $110,000 from the Attorney General's Office in forfeited money along with $6,000 in gift cards for groceries from a city-sponsored gun buyback program last year were doled out in Camden this time. In addition, $39,000 in IOUs will be honored through future forfeited money.

County residents could turn in up to three firearms, no questions asked. Payment was set on a sliding scale, with the $250 maximum going to operable assault weapons and illegal firearms.

Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson said most of the 533 handguns and 504 long guns, including five semiautomatics, were operable.

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.

Last year, 57 guns were turned in during the city-sponsored program.

Copyright 2012 - The Philadelphia Inquirer

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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