More than 300 legal and illegal weapons were taken off the streets Saturday through a Nassau County gun buyback session at a Uniondale church.
The three-hour event at Grace Cathedral International was part of a joint effort by the Nassau County police and the district attorney's office as they combat gun violence and seek to improve neighborhood safety, officials said.
"One gun off the street can help save a life," said Charles Ribando, executive chief of the police investigations bureau, "but with 330 guns, who knows how many lives it could save."
A diverse crowd -- many wearing sunglasses, hoods and baseball caps into the event -- poured into the church after they had transported unloaded guns in their car trunks and placed them in cardboard boxes, shoe boxes or plastic bags, as required. They anonymously exchanged their weapons, mostly illegal, for cash with no questions asked. Rifles were worth $100, handguns $200 and assault rifles $400. Forfeiture funds support the program.
"We pay the most for assault rifles obviously because of the recent crimes involving assault weapons and the new law passed by Governor [Andrew M.] Cuomo," Ribando said.
About 25 officers sorted through mostly handguns, and about 17 assault rifles, among other weapons collected. The guns were put in evidence bags before being carted away."We run the serial numbers and then we destroy them," Ribando said.
The 4-year-old gun buyback program had previously removed more than 2,000 guns from the streets. The buyback program has been effective in decreasing gun-related crime in the county, along with the ShotSpotter and GunStoppers programs, officials said.
Uniondale, Roosevelt and a portion of Freeport have ShotSpotter, a computerized system that locates the sound of gunshots and transmits the information to police.Nassau police have credited the system with helping police catch suspects and more quickly find victims.
"If people are willing to turn guns in, we will accept it," said the church's senior deacon David Sweet, a former military police officer, adding the church lost a member to gun violence last year. "By these methods of collecting guns, it would only help the community save lives and avoid another potential Sandy Hook."