You can put a price on safety.
The Ridgefield Police Department learned that this weekend when the town’s first-ever gun-buy program collected 103 firearms from residents, including four pre-ban assault rifles, Saturday at the Town Highway Department.
“It was more than we expected,” said Police Chief John Roche. “The weapons came from people in town that didn’t know what to do with them or that didn’t want to bother with registering them under the new state gun laws.
“Everyone was very cooperative and very interested in eliminating their possession of these weapons.”
The police spent a total of $29,500 on weapons and ammunition that will be turned over to the state police to be destroyed.
Chief Roche said rifles and shotguns were the most popular weapons that were purchased. They included a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun and the .308 Winchester hunting rifle.
However, the department was most impressed with the four banned assault rifles, which they bought at $750 each.
Police were offering $750 for pre-ban assault rifles and $500 for post-ban assault rifles.
The gun program also paid $300 for working rifles and shotguns and $200 for working handguns.
There was a “no questions asked” policy to promote people to turn in their weapons without fear of prosecution.
A single gun owner turned in three of the four automatic weapons, as well as several handguns.
“He had quite the collection,” said Detective Steve Papstein.
Detective Papstein added that about 10 people from other towns participated in the program.
“The large majority of people that showed up were from Ridgefield,” he said. “There were a couple of different reasons why people came out but mainly they just didn’t want to have these weapons anymore.”
Police purchased 150 high-capacity magazine clips — 46 of which will be retained for department use — for $20 apiece. In addition, they half-filled a five-gallon bucket with random ammunition, including bullets and shotgun shells.
Captain Daniel Ryan said it took several officers all day Monday to sort out the weapons and ammunition and process the paperwork.
He added that ammunition can still be turned in at the police department.
Despite the massive haul, the police are looking ahead to hosting another gun buy event in the future.
“Future programs really depend on donations,” Chief Roche said. “One benefactor was kind enough to help us get this going not long after Dec. 14th, when we discussed starting this program here.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi attended the program Saturday and was impressed with the diversity of guns collected.
“Fortunately, we had someone willing to step up and fund this program because its something the town really wants to have and we want to continue,” he said. “If we could, we’d have it twice a year.”
Chief Roche confirmed that other cities in Fairfield County have done gun-buy programs in the past but that Ridgefield is the first town to host such initiative.
“People don’t know what to do with their weapons; well, now, hopefully they do,” he said. “We are hoping to give them a consistent forum to turn their weapons in if they no longer have use for them.”
Despite the program’s success, Captain Ryan said 111 pistol permits have been processed this year and there are 120 permits pending, which means there are still plenty of guns in town.
“We encourage anybody to donate so we can keep this going,” Chief Roche said.
The gun-buy program is funded through private donations. Those wishing to contribute to the program may send their donations to the Ridgefield Police Department, 76 East Ridge Road, Ridgefield, CT. Checks should be made payable to the Gun Buy Program, Friends of Ridgefield, a non-profit organization.