TRENTON – At last count, some 9,100 guns have been collected from gun buyback programs that have taken place at five locations, Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa told the Assembly Budget Committee on Tuesday.
There’s more to come, as guns from a recent event in Passaic County have yet to be tabulated.
Of all the guns collected, Chiesa estimated that about half of them were handguns. But nearly 1,200 of them were illegal guns, such as those with larger-than-allowed magazine capacities. The buyback even saw its share of Uzis, Tech 9s, devices emitting tear gas, even a rocket launcher, Chiesa said.
Gun application backlog
Assemblyman Jay Webber, (R-26), said that while it was encouraging to see illegal guns off the street, he has received calls from constituents who have been experiencing delays in approvals of their gun permit applications, which go through State Police.
“They have waited far more than 30 days,” he said. “Some have waited for several months.”
Chiesa said he believes much of the delay stems from a large backlog in the number of applications that need to be processed. State police have been deluged by the large number of applications made, especially after the Sandy Hook school massacre last December in Newtown, Conn.
To address the backlog, he said the number of troopers working on application processing will increase from 9 to 13. The four additional officers are being trained on the paperwork, he said.
He anticipates the additional workers will come in line “very soon.”
Once they do, he anticipates the gun application backlog to decrease by as much 600 per week. It was not immediately known the total number of gun permit applications State Police have received.
In addition to getting guns off the street, Chiesa said the office has tried to address the gang problem as much as it can. He said police have frequently swarmed Route 21 between Newark and Paterson, where there have been “an incredibly large number of crimes taking place.” State and local police work together to combat the gang problem, he said, and he believes the force has adequate resources.
“This is something that had to remain a top priority,” he said about battling the gang problem.
Chiesa said in the past year, the Attorney General contracted out $24 million worth of work for outside counsel. In the last seven years, that is the third highest amount. Despite that, the attorney general said his office is always looking for areas of efficiency.