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New London — Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio is aware of local criticism of the city's gun buyback program that was held over the weekend.
But he countered Monday, as he stood with acting Police Chief Peter Reichard in a conference room at the police headquarters, that the 126 weapons collected will never fall into the wrong hands.
Finizio said after the Sandy Hook school shootings in Newtown, where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed, he couldn't just sit and do nothing. He said he knows that the gun buyback program is one of many things that could prevent gun violence.
"Any one of these guns could have been stolen," Finizio said. "They will never end up on the streets of New London. If we could save one life or prevent one major crime, then I consider the program a success."
Finizio said he comes from a family of gun owners, but believes that no one should own an AK-47 like the one turned in over the weekend.
Reichard said some guns taken off the streets were older, but he noted that several quality guns were turned in, such as a Ruger Redhawk .45-caliber revolver, a Taurus 9mm and 1911 nickel-plated Colt .45.
Many people turned in their weapons because they weren't using them and wanted to properly dispose of them, according to Reichard.
Participants in this weekend's buyback event received gift cards of $75 for shotguns or rifles, $100 for handguns and $150 for assault weapons.
Finizio said close to $20,000 has been raised for the program through private donations. He said he plans to make the list public to ensure city residents know that no city funds were used for the program.
Police collected 126 weapons over the weekend — 62 handguns, 63 long guns, and one AK-47 assault weapon — and distributed $10,900 in gift cards. The guns will be transported to the Connecticut State Police Firearms Unit to be destroyed.
The police department also will purchase guns next weekend, March 9 and 10. The program is open to New London County residents and only three guns per person will be accepted.
Reichard noted that after the program ends people can still turn their guns in to the police station, but they won't get compensated.