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Amnesty program overlooks offenders


In response to growing concerns over illegal firearm possession in their communities, towns and municipalities across the country have been experimenting with ways to curb gun-related crime. South Brunswick introduced a gun amnesty program last week, “Project Safe Surrender,” aiming to do just that.

Specifically, the project aims to collect unwanted guns without risk of arrest for participants. Yet the problem here is that these “unwanted” guns might come from wanted criminals.

South Brunswick Police Department has good intentions, but has failed in its execution. Liberating potential murderers is too steep of a price for gaining miscellaneous guns ¬– and probably only a handful, at that. Despite an element of relief in taking guns off the streets, there is no way to prevent gunmen from restocking. It is one thing to take away a gun. It is another thing entirely to change a violent personality. The authorities aren’t even going to attempt the latter.

They will, however, pay you for your cooperation. Last April, Middlesex County resolved to reduce gun crime through a buy-back program; “when you turn in guns, you make our neighborhoods safer and may save a life,” said Middlesex County prosecutor Bruce Kaplan. Middlesex County’s buy back program, like South Brunswick’s amnesty program, also promised an unquestioning atmosphere. The added bonus was, of course, the cash: $80 for operable handguns and $150 for operable assault weapons. According to a few reliable sources on staff, 311 firearms were turned in through Middlesex’s big buy back.

So, what makes South Brunswick any different? How can authorities ensure its success, its worth? Unless the gun-holder is currently facing gun-related charges, unlawful possession of the gun is overlooked. In fact, no background check is required to give up weaponry to South Brunswick. Just as violent video games don’t make a person violent, owning a gun doesn’t make a person a criminal. But violent people exist, and criminals walk among us daily.

In light of recent gun-related tragedies (Newtown’s shooting, Obama’s gun control proposal, etc.), the project seems ill-timed and potentially ineffective. Getting guns off of the street is a good thing, but leaving the criminals behind, albeit unarmed, isn’t a good thing at all. The balancing act proves tricky.

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