Hefting an AK-47 turned in to the New London Police Department over the weekend, Mayor Daryl Finizio questioned why a resident would own such a firearm.
“This weapon is something that is not needed,” Finizio said, arguing that it wouldn’t be useful for hunting or home defense. “This is a military style assault weapon.”
The AK-47 was the only assault weapon turned in over the weekend during the first weekend of New London’s gun buyback program. Police also collected 63 handguns and 62 long guns from 75 residents, who received prepaid credit cards in exchange for the firearms.
The weapons were displayed at police headquarters today and ranged from derringers to shotguns. Some of the guns looked new and untouched, while others were others showed rust and other signs of aging.
The program, which continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Truman Street substation, is funded by private donations. Finizio said close to $20,000 has been received as of today and that the city will continue to collect donations through the week. The program distributed $10,900 in gift cards after the first weekend.
Acting Chief Peter Reichard said some firearms predated a 1968 law requiring guns to have serial numbers, but that a check on the weapons with serial numbers determined that none of the guns been involved in major crimes. Critics of the gun buyback have said it will not have an effect on crime rates since the weapons that are being forfeited are not the type that are generally used in street crimes.
Finizio defended the program, saying it has not used city funds and provides a safe way for residents to dispose of aging weapons. He also said the buyback prevents the possibility that the firearms could be stolen, sold privately, and used in a major crime.
“If it saves one life, if it prevents one major crime, than it was worth it,” he said.
The program offers $75 for long guns, $100 for handguns, and $150 for assault weapons. Residents taking part in the gun buyback should make sure that the weapon is unloaded and place it in clear plastic wrapping in the trunk of their vehicle so an officer can check that it is safe. Gift cards are given out for up to three firearms once a resident fills out required forms on the weapon and other information.
Reichard said the guns will be turned over to the Connecticut State Police for destruction. He said residents who wish to dispose of a firearm outside of the gun buyback period may also contact the police department to do so.
Finizio said any donations left over from the second weekend of the buyback will be put in a reserve account toward future gun buybacks.