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Franklin County gun buyback deemed success

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AKWESASNE - Law enforcement officials are pleased with the outcome of Franklin County’s first gun buyback.

A news release from the county District Attorney’s Office said 36 weapons had been collected as of 4 p.m. between the two locations at the Constable and Hogansburg/Akwesasne volunteer fire departments.

Final numbers have not been tallied as the Hogansburg/Akwesasne site was accepting guns until 6 p.m.

Included were 16 handguns or pistols, some of which were possessed illegally, nine shot guns, eight rifles, three assault rifles and a few high capacity magazines.

Anyone who turned in a fully-functioning gun Wednesday was paid a certain amount and could turn in as many as they liked, with a payoff maximum of $450.

All of the firearms turned in will be destroyed.

“We had a lot more handguns than we anticipated,” District Attorney Derek Champagne said.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department Detective Sgt. Matthew Rourke also said he felt the event was a success.

“Great day. Our expectations were high, and the community did a good job,” he said in the release. “We hope to do this again.”

At the Hogansburg/Akwesasne department, some of the weapons included air guns and high-capacity magazines.

Pastor Peter Bortz of the First Congregational Church in Malone was one of the attendees who dropped off a .22 revolver at this site.

“I just have no use for it,” he said. “I think it’s an excellent program. Anything that gets it off the street, I’m all for it.”

Mr. Bortz noted that the possibility of thieves knowing people have guns in their homes could make them a target.

“It just seemed to be the rational thing to do,” he said of the buyback.

Mr. Rourke noted the Tribal Council donated some money for the program.

“They want to help out the community here,” he said. “It’s a good gesture on their behalf.”

He added that the council had its own buyback several years back.

Constable also saw a variety of weapons dropped off.

A Constable resident who only identified himself as Allen said he was dropping off his son’s rifle, which is now classified as an assault weapon because of its collapsible bayonet.

“It was just sitting around, it hadn’t been shot in years and years. He just thought it was the right thing to do; he wasn’t going to use it,” he said. “I guess if it keeps them from ending up in the wrong hands someplace it’s a good thing.”

Though the buyback seemed to end on a high note, it didn’t come without some opposition.

Several protesters stationed themselves across the street from the Constable fire department, claiming that their Second Amendment rights were being violated by the buyback.

Mr. Champagne said that the buyback isn’t forcing people to turn over their guns and that it is separate from any of the new state legislation on guns.

“We’re not looking to take away anyone’s guns,” he said. “We just want to have unused guns turned in.”

Mr. Champagne said in the news release the program looks to dispose of unwanted guns which are no longer wanted by their owners.

Because of Wednesday’s success, more gun buybacks may be in the future, according to Mr. Champagne.

“We’re probably going to have two or three more throughout the county,” he said.

The program was run through a joint effort between the District Attorney’s Office, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, county Traffic Safety Coordinator, New York State Police and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police.

Staff writer Andy Gardner contributed to this article.

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