The haul for last Saturday’s gun buyback program in Amsterdam was less than last year’s, but still a success, according to Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick.
“Amsterdam has very minimal gun violence, but any time we take one of these off the streets it’s definitely worthwhile in our community,” said Culick. “If a handgun is not properly secured and someone breaks into a house and steals it, they can trade the gun for drugs, it eventually gets used in a crime.”
This year’s program netted nine handguns and a rifle, said Culick, adding that last year’s program brought in more than 30 handguns. The rifle was accepted this year because the owner wanted it out of the house and declined to sell it to a gun shop, Culick said. A stun gun was also turned in.
The event was spearheaded by Pastor William Hodgetts Jr. of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on Guy Park Avenue. Those who wished to participate were instructed to drop off any working handgun at the church last Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., no questions asked.
Those who turned in handguns were given their choice of gift cards valued at $100 from various merchants. A press release last week said the program allows people to turn in handguns anonymously without fear of being prosecuted for illegal gun possession.
Culick credited Hodgetts with bringing the program into the community. Before last year’s gun buyback, the last time Culick remembers the city holding a similar event was in the late-1990s with help from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
This year’s program was supported by Eastern Medical Support and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, which provided funds for the gift cards that were given out. The individuals who turned in the rifle and stun gun did not receive gift cards.
Culick said while the buyback program is truly anonymous, and that no police officer is present at the handoff, police do run the serial numbers from the weapons through their crime database. None of the nearly 40 guns received over the past two years were connected to any known crimes, he said.
If any of the guns were traced to crimes in either Amsterdam or other jurisdictions, it would be the responsibility of law enforcement in that jurisdiction to open an investigation. His department, said Culick, would notify other law enforcement agencies that they received a gun involved in a crime in their jurisdiction.
Culick said usually it’s guns that get stolen from rural areas like Montgomery County that are used in crimes elsewhere. His department often gets inquiries from law enforcement in New York City on guns that they’ve traced to Amsterdam, he said.
“They get shipped down the line and a lot of times our stolen guns wind up down in the city,” said Culick. “We tell them it was stolen in a burglary.”
He added of this year’s gun buyback program that “to have them out of the hands of potential criminals is absolutely a good thing.”
Reach Gazette reporter Dan Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, [email protected] or @DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.
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