New London will conduct a gun buyback program on two weekends in March, Mayor Daryl Finizio announced this afternoon.
The collection will take place on March 2-3 as well as March 9-10 at the Truman Street police substation. Residents may turn in firearms in exchange for a prepaid credit card.
The program will give out $75 for rifles or shotguns, $100 for handguns, and $150 for assault weapons. The effort is not limited to New London residents, and people from the region may participate in the buyback program or make monetary donations toward it.
Finizio said people turning in weapons will not be prosecuted for minor offenses such as owning a firearm without a permit, but the serial numbers of guns that are turned in will be checked to see if they were involved in major crimes.
“This is not a general amnesty program,” said Finizio.
Finizio said the New London County Bar Association as well as ministers with the New London County Clergy Association have pledged to support the effort. The New London County Bar Association has set a goal of raising $25,000 for the effort.
Finizio said the rate of gun violence in New London exceeded the national rate between 2003 and 2010, with 76 percent of the murders in the city committed with firearms in those years as opposed to the national rate of 67.2 percent.
“If we can reduce the number of guns on the streets of New London, it is absolutely certain that we will save lives,” he said.
Rev. Carolyn Patierno, the minister at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation, said the buyback effort is welcome in the wake of last month’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
“In the aftermath of this tragedy, we feel the urgency to move forward on this issue,” said Patierno.
Deputy Chief Peter Reichard of the New London Police Department will coordinate the effort, and further information on the times and procedures involved in the buyback will be issued by the police department. Any guns collected in the effort will be turned over to the Connecticut State Police to be destroyed once they have been checked and catalogued.
The City Council referred the question of implementing a gun buyback program to the Public Safety Committee earlier this month. Finizio said the program will not require final approval from the council since it will be funded by donations rather than public funds, and that he informed councilors about the program and did not receive any objections.
Chris Baker, a research intern in the mayor’s office and 2012 graduate of New London High School, compiled the information on gun data. Baker is currently studying political science at University of Connecticut.
Tax deductible donations toward the gun buyback program may be made in person at City Hall or by mailing the mayor’s office at 181 State Street, New London, CT, 06320.