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More than 300 guns were taken off the streets at gun buybacks in the cities of Lockport and Niagara Falls, as residents lined up at both sites to participate.

Leaders from both cities said they were pleased with the results for the first-time event for both cities. Both Niagara Falls and Lockport coordinated their events and held them at the same time last weekend.

“I wasn’t expecting this volume. We got 180 guns, and two-thirds of them were pistols, which is kind of surprising,” said Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert.

In Lockport, police also took in 75 pounds of unwanted prescription drugs and a large amount of ammunition.

“We got a lot … off the street that now we won’t have to deal with – guns that won’t get lost or stolen,” Eggert said.

Eggert said one person did not have permits for any of the seven handguns she turned in. She said most were left behind by family members and she just wanted to get rid of them.

“The bottom line is let’s say this woman’s house was burglarized and someone took all her guns. Those are seven or eight guns that would be on the street that we would have to deal with. So every gun you get off the street is a plus,” Eggert said.

In Lockport, the city used $11,265 in drug seizure money to buy back 117 handguns and 61 long guns. More than 100 free gun locks were distributed and about 5,000 rounds of ammunition were collected.

In Niagara Falls, part of a state grant aimed at eliminating gun violence was used to buy back 95 pistols and 55 long guns. Only two of the guns were non-functioning. Niagara Falls also handed out gun locks and collected ammunition.

“I thought the gun buyback was an overwhelming success,” said Niagara Falls Police Superintendent E. Bryan DalPorto. “It did exactly what we intended to do. We provided an outlet for people to bring in their firearms that they no longer wanted or needed and got an overwhelming response.

“The one thing we know for sure is that nobody is going to be hurt with an unwanted gun they got off the street,” he said.

He said police did advise people with more expensive guns how to sell them at a gun store – and two people did take back guns to sell – but most said they no longer needed the guns and just wanted to get rid of them.

DalPorto said he would like to see the gun buyback become an annual event and plans to revisit the idea.

“We’ve definitely shown there is value in the program,” DalPorto said. “The thing to remember though is this is just part of a larger initiative to end gun violence in Niagara Falls and we are kicking the other components into effect now.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster agreed, saying that gun buybacks aren’t a “silver bullet” that’s going to end gun violence. However he said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm of the public during the buyback.

“A large number of participants were people who ended up with guns in their house that they had no use for and were very thankful for a way to get rid of the guns so they couldn’t be used in a commission of a crime,” Dyster said.

Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he expected people would just be trying to get rid of guns that didn’t work, but said nearly 90 percent were working guns.

“I had some elderly people call me who had guns laying around and didn’t know what to do with them. So this was a good opportunity for them,” Tucker said. “When we started, there was a line out the door.”

Dyster said, “A gun may be in the hands of a law-abiding person today, but where a person has no use for it, the gun can be in the hands of a criminal tomorrow.”

None of the collected guns will be saved or resold, according to Eggert and DalPorto. Eggert said police will catalog each gun and note its serial number, and that any guns that are found to have been stolen will be returned to their rightful owners.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com