By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Only hours into the Newburyport Police Department’s first-ever gun buyback program, law enforcement officials yesterday were already calling the two-day initiative an overwhelming success.
City Marshal Thomas Howard said by 2:30 p.m. yesterday, the department accepted more than a dozen rifles and shotguns and five handguns, some of them dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
“Which is way more than expected,” Howard said, adding there was a steady flow of traffic all day.
The firearms — including two-lever-operated rifles that looked as if they came out of an old Western movie — were lined up against a wall in the department’s basement and photographed.
“Some don’t have serial numbers they are so old,” Special Operations Unit officer Charles Eaton said.
Other firearms included two pistols infamously called Saturday Night Specials due to their small size, availability and use in armed robberies and other quick-hit crimes. One of the rifles, a collapsible .22 caliber, was encased inside its stock and could be assembled quickly.
Those bringing in operable firearms yesterday left with Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce gift cards courtesy of the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank. Owners turning in an operable handgun received a $100 gift card. A rifle or shotgun earned owners a $50 gift card, while assault rifles were exchanged for a $150 gift card.
While the department did accept inoperable or antique guns as well, those weapons were not eligible to receive gift cards.
All but gun dealers and those police believe to be gun dealers were encouraged to take part in the buyback program, which continues through at least today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Howard said the program could extend into tomorrow should there be gift cards remaining.
“If they’re coming in and the funds are there, we’ll certainly keep taking them,” Howard said.
All weapons being turned in must be unloaded and delivered in a bag. Ammunition is also being accepted, but must be placed in a separate bag.
Once the program is over, firearms turned into police will be picked up by state officials and disposed of. A private contractor has been hired to dispose of all turned-in ammunition.
Although the initiative had been in the works, Howard said it only made more sense to introduce it in light of last month’s massive shooting inside a Newtown, Conn., elementary school killing 27 people, most of them children. If the program helps prevent another Newtown massacre, “then that’s an added benefit,” Howard said.
Howard reminds gun owners that transporting firearms without a permit is a criminal offense. If a resident is unlicensed or fears transporting a firearm to the station, a police officer will stop by the person’s home to retrieve their gun.
Howard and Eaton both said the buyback program has eased the minds of many with unwanted firearms, including one grandfather who said his grandson had begun eyeing some guns he had recently inherited. Another person said she had been holding on to her late husband’s firearm for too long and had been looking for a way to get rid of it.
For more information on the gun buyback program, call the Police Department at 978-462-4411.