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Guns For Cash Violates NJ Gun Laws, Helps Criminals

PROSECUTOR'S "GUNS FOR CASH” PROGRAM VIOLATES NJ GUN LAWS, HELPS CRIMINALS

A program run by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office to pay cash for anonymously-surrendered guns appears to violate New Jersey gun laws and help violent criminals escape prosecution and get rid of evidence.

A press release announcing the "Guns-for-Cash" program, scheduled for December 2-3, 2005 solicits the anonymous turn-in of guns and claims that transportation of firearms to the surrender location without a permit is allowed. But under New Jersey law, neither the anonymous surrender of firearms, nor the receipt of surrendered firearms by a prosecutor's office, is authorized. Also, there is no transportation exemption for such a surrender scheme.

"Under Monmouth County's program, criminals no longer need to fear being caught with illegal guns used in crimes, which would otherwise carry severe penalties,” said Scott Bach, President of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs. "No longer in jeopardy, criminals can now safely and anonymously surrender their contraband to the Prosecutor's Office and no one will ever be the wiser. Criminals are then rewarded with a cash bonus for anonymously disposing of evidence that might otherwise incriminate them and solve crimes.”

New Jersey law provides for the voluntary surrender of firearms only when the person giving up the firearms first gives written notice to the chief of police where he resides or the state police superintendent. Anonymous surrender is simply not authorized. The same law authorizes only the local police chief or the state police superintendent to receive surrendered guns. A prosecutor's office is not authorized under the statute to receive surrendered firearms. (See N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-12.)

The immunity granted under New Jersey's voluntary surrender law is limited to unlawful possession only and nothing more. By allowing for anonymous surrender, the Monmouth County program effectively creates de facto immunity far beyond this.

The purchase of firearms in New Jersey is strictly prohibited except for licensed dealers and individuals with a handgun purchase permit or firearms ID card. All gun sales are recorded and include the name and address of the seller. A prosecutor's office is not authorized under the statute to purchase firearms, no less from anonymous sellers. The payment of cash for firearms by anyone other than a licensed dealer or a permit/ID cardholder is a crime. N.J.S.A § 2C:58-3(a) and (b).

"New Jersey is aggressive in enforcing its strict gun laws against law abiding citizens,” said Bach. "But prosecutors themselves need to follow the law. However well intentioned, this "guns-for-cash" program subverts the intent of the legislature and does a disservice to the public in the fight against violent criminals, who need to be taken off the streets instead of being given a free pass.”

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