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90 weapons turned in at gun buyback in Amityville

Nearly 90 legal and illegal weapons were taken

Nearly 90 legal and illegal weapons were taken off the streets through a privately funded gun buyback at Prayer Tabernacle Church in Amityville. (March 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A diverse crowd of young and old came looking for a cut of $10,000 in cash given out in return for firearms -- and some walked away disappointed.

Nearly 90 legal and illegal weapons were taken off the streets Saturday through a privately funded gun buyback at Prayer Tabernacle Church in Amityville.

Officials said they could have collected more weapons, but they ran out of funds, meaning they will have to try it again.

The scheduled three-hour event ended in less than 90 minutes, and people were turned away. The event was part of a joint effort by Suffolk County police, CrimeStoppers, Long Island Men's Center and a local business owner to curb violence and improve neighborhood safety, officials said.

"One gun off the street can save many lives," said Pastor Walter C. Willie Jr., the buyback host.

People walked up to the unmarked police car outside the church and anonymously exchanged weapons for cash, no questions asked. Police paid $100 for handguns and $300 for assault weapons, with some turned in for free.Rifles and shotguns were not accepted.

"People like cash," said Det. Lt. Robert Donohue of the Community Response Bureau.

Officers collected 63 handguns, 10 assault weapons and 15 other weapons. The guns, some made during World War I, will be destroyed and the metal recycled, Donohue said.

"I came across the guns. I have no use for them," said a woman who identified herself as Roslyn S., 68, of Holbrook, who surrendered two handguns for $200. "Guns kill, and I don't want them around where they could be found."

Tax dollars or asset forfeiture programs fund most buybacks, but a private donor made this one possible. Old Westbury resident Harvey Manes -- an orthopedic surgeon, attorney, developer of a pain cream and former candidate for mayor of the village of Old Westbury -- funded the buyback through his Manes-American Peace Prize Foundation.

"I had to see it with my own eyes," said Manes, who said he would be willing to donate more money. "By taking guns off the street, it would make it more peaceful; there would be less murders and crimes."

The buyback was the fifth in the county in the last six years, Donohue said.

Clergymen said they believe December's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., played a part in the buyback's success.

"Those kids in Newtown could have been geniuses," men's center president Pastor Thomas Humphrey said. "Enough of the violence. We are here to protect our children."

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