When all was said and done, the community gun buyback event had been a rousing success, judging by the two trash cans full of firearms that were hauled across the parking lot last Saturday outside the Andy Murphy Midtown Neighborhood Center in Kingston.
The Kingston, Saugerties, Ulster and New Paltz police plus the sheriff’s office participated. “What we’re looking at really is trying to, first of all, build that trust with the community and get these weapons off the street,” said sheriff Juan Figueroa. The day’s catch included 28 long guns, 20 handguns six assault rifles, and another eight guns classified as non-working.
Over $7,000 was paid for the surrendered weapons, including $300 per assault rifle. The money comes from forfeiture funds, a pool confiscated from individuals placed under arrest anywhere in the state by a police department. According to a representative from the attorney general’s office, the seized funds are most commonly collected from drug busts.
A fact sheet explains the process. An individual in Ulster County decides they’re in possession of one firearm too many. That individual takes the bullets out of the magazine, makes sure the barrel is empty, places the gun into a container like a box or a garbage bag, and brings it on down to where law-enforcement professionals wait to provide ready cash in exchange.
As it is a program of amnesty, no identification is required. “Oftentimes these firearms are from a person who has stopped hunting, or maybe it belonged to a family member who has passed on,” explained Jon Wood, a deputy chief investigator with the attorney general’s office.
The surrendered guns were displayed on a long folding banquet table between tall vinyl signs. One sign read: Unwanted Guns. Forgotten Guns. Neglected Guns can become dangerous guns.
The representative from the attorney general’s office pointed out various models and calibers: A Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun. A pearl-handled .38. A Ruger revolver. Numerous classic-looking hunting rifles with wooden stocks. A Rock Island Armory semi-automatic rifle.
After the event, all the guns will go back to the sheriff’s office to be destroyed.
“I can’t be there on Destroy Day,” jokes one uniformed officer. “It breaks my heart.”
A Lewis Machine Tool Assault Rifle is probably the most satanic- looking weapon of the bunch, absolutely intended for waging war and killing soldiers. Only a lazy coward would use it for hunting animals, and it has no sane use in home defense. The .223-gauge bullets would tear through every wall in a house, excepting brick, and there’s no telling where the bullets traveling at 3251 feet per second could end up.
“I will say with these gun buybacks,” Wood says, “having done over 40 of these, guns that would come in would often get cut down or defaced in some manner that they’re altered in some way that now they’re illegal. So picture a shotgun like over there on the table, what happens is that they will cut that down, a person with ill intent, cuts the barrel down, cuts the stock down, instead of it being 28 inches long …. That’s not legal. Actually, last year the very first gun we got in Kingston was an AR-15 that was a knockoff. Street guns. Homemade guns.”
Other services on hand
Along with the gun-buyback program, a number of complementary services were available in the Andy Murphy Midtown Neighborhood Center. Formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, representatives from the Newtown Action Alliance Foundation were in attendance, handing out free combination safes for the purpose of safe firearm storage. This could provide a responsible way to store a firearm and prevent the unintentional consequences which can result from having an unsecured firearm lying around.
The Ulster County Career Center was trying to steer those in need towards gainful employment.
And the task force known as Oracle had a table at the event. Its primary focus is drug overdose intervention. About 25 Narcan kits were distributed. Narcan, a popular brand name for the medicine naloxone, is a sort of miracle drug delivered by nasal spray which immediately reverses the effects of an overdose related to opioid use. Think Heroin, Oxycodone and fentanyl. Taken altogether, police forces appear to be diverging more and more from the standard punitive model and arriving somewhere closer to armed social workers, embracing the concept that poverty is a driver to crime and that the unintended consequences of drug-taking behavior should be viewed with compassion rather than needing punishment.
Nearing the end of the event, sheriff Figueroa said he was pleased with the results.
“It was pretty successful,” the sheriff said. “At last count it was 45 weapons altogether. That’s pretty good. Oracle was here, Newtown, so it was a great event, a great building to do it in.
“Most importantly though, summertime’s coming. We saw what happened the last couple of years. and it’s a way to say let’s get these weapons off the street, we’ll give you money, we’ll get you help, with no questions asked.
“As we know, we’ve been locked up for a couple years, pandemic, and people are going to be out and about and our fear is that we’re going to have an uptick in violence. This is our way to get ahead on some of this stuff. We take the guns, no questions asked.”