The New York State Attorney General’s (AG) Office held a gun buy-back program in Johnson City this past weekend.

According to AG Letitia James — who serves the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the state of New York — a total of 340 guns were turned in during the buy-back event, which was hosted at the Johnson City Fire Department. The program was designed to encourage residents to turn in their unwanted firearms in exchange for prepaid gift cards. During the buy-back event, participants were able to turn in a variety of firearms including handguns, long guns and assault weapons. Out of the 340 guns, 25 were assault rifles, 169 were handguns and 114 were long guns.

In a press release, James shared her motivation for creating this event and explained how the buy-back initiative emphasized the importance of gun safety.

“Gun violence has caused so many avoidable tragedies and robbed us of so many innocent New Yorkers,” James wrote. “Through our partnership with local law enforcement and public officials, we were able to organize this historic, single-day gun buy-back event in nine locations throughout New York state. Every gun that we removed out of Johnson City homes and off the streets is a potential tragedy averted and another step in protecting communities throughout New York state.”

The event was a collaborative effort between the Attorney General’s Office, the Johnson City Police Department, the Broome County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police. James expressed thanks to the partners involved for their dedication to making the program a success.

According to the AG’s press office, the event was the largest gun buy-back held in the Southern Tier. Individuals who turned in assault rifles or ghost guns — “unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home,” according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — received $500 gift cards. $150 was offered for each handgun, $75 was offered per rifle or shotgun and $25 was given out for each non-working, replica, antique, homemade or 3D-printed firearm. More than 3,000 guns were turned in throughout New York state, and James has taken back more than 7,000 firearms from New York communities since 2019.

Adam Chen, a press aide at the AG’s office, expressed the benefits of the initiatives.

“Every gun that [James] has successfully removed from New York [state] homes and communities is a potential tragedy averted,” Chen wrote in an email. “Each of these firearms has been destroyed, meaning they will never pose a risk to any New Yorker ever again. Clearly, these efforts were successful as this historic event removed over 3,000 guns in a single day, including 340 from Johnson City and the surrounding communities.”

Chen shared that the office continuously works with local law enforcement to help benefit communities across the state. There was an extensive promotion on social media and outreach to local news, which included sending media advisories and doing TV interviews that ran throughout the state. Additionally, both law enforcement and public service representatives helped to spread the word and promote the program.

Alex Linerode, a senior majoring in biochemistry, emphasized the importance of holding such programs.

“It is encouraging to see law enforcement agencies working together to keep our communities safe,” Linerode said. “By providing a safe and anonymous way for individuals to dispose of their unwanted firearms, this program helps to reduce the number of guns on our streets and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.”

Alvin Chen, a senior majoring in business administration, said he believes there is a need to recognize the importance of gun safety and responsible gun ownership.

“This is a crucial step in the fight against gun violence, which continues to plague our society,” Chen said. “It is good to see that people in law enforcement are spreading information about programs like this throughout the state.”