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A statewide gun buyback program is being launched today by State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman at a kickoff event in Rochester, with a compensation site to be set up soon in Cheektowaga for Erie County drop-offs.

“By encouraging gun owners to turn in their weapons through our cash-for-guns program, we’re removing deadly firearms from locations where they can be stolen or otherwise misused, keeping them out of the wrong hands,” Schneiderman said in launching the program. “Every day, my office fights to ensure all New Yorkers are safe and secure in their community, and along with vigorously enforcing our state’s gun laws I’m proud that my office has taken this additional step.”

Under the program, guns are to be brought to the designated drop-off sites unloaded and placed in a plastic or paper bag or box. The payback money will come in the form of debit cards after the weapons are screened by officers at the sites, with the debit cards worth $100 for assault weapons, $75 for handguns, $50 for rifles and shotguns and $25 for antique and nonworking firearms.

Several times in recent years the City of Buffalo has run similar one-day gun buyback programs.

The Attorney General’s Office also will be accepting working and nonworking unloaded weapons in exchange for compensation, with sites being set up in Binghamton, Poughkeepsie, Utica and Yonkers in coming weeks.

Schneiderman noted that close to 33,000 Americans were victims of gun-related deaths in 2011, with reports of an average of 268 people shot each day of the year.

“That’s 97,820 people per year,” Schneiderman said.

There will be no limit on the number of firearms an individual can turn in, but licensed gun dealers and active or retired law enforcement officers are not eligible for the program, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said.

Initial questions about the program can be made by contacting Debra Martin at the attorney general’s Rochester regional office at (585) 546-7514.

Schneiderman said the operation is part of the ongoing effort “to stop the outbreak of gun violence that has plagued our communities.”

email: mgryta@buffnews.com