A Basking Ridge man's inspiration to put up some of his own money to buy back unwanted and illegal guns as a way of preventing potential shooting tragedies has been gaining support through private donations and the help of Somerset County law enforcement authorities, he said.
Like many people, Basking Ridge resident Richard Palumbo watched the news about last month's school shooting in Newtown, CT., wishing there was something he could do to help.
For Palumbo, the sympathy for the families of the children who were killed was made more acute because he himself has children, ages 5 and 8. He also noted that Basking Ridge, the community where he and his wife live and his children attend school, is remarkably like Newtown in many ways.
But instead of writing a check to donate to the victims, Palumbo has come up with his own way of playing forward his concern about shooting victims.
"Money doesn't make what happened to those families any better." He said he himself couldn't imagine what it must be like to lose a child.
Instead, Palumbo, a financial adviser, decided he would spend some of his own funds to "buy back" unwanted and illegal guns in the area.
Along with seeking guns that are illegal, Palumbo said he wants the collection to target unwanted guns.
"An unwanted gun, in my opinion, is an uncared-for gun," he said. That might lead to the kind of situation where a child finds a gun simply stashed in a shoe box, he noted.
However, Palumbo said finding a way to turn his idea into a plan was somewhat harder than he expected.
He said his first step was to call Bernards Township Police Chief Brian Bobowicz.
"The chief of police was very helpful, but it was something that had never been done before," Palumbo said. He said he was steered in the direction of the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, but his idea had never been put into action in Somerset County. Nor, he said, had private funds been used for a gun buyback.
"Mr. Palumbo is spearheading and coordinating the funding of the gun buyback program that will be overseen by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office with the assistance of local police departments," Bobowicz said in an email this week. He said the county and municipal law enforcement agencies will set up regional collection sites.
The Bernards police chief added that the Somerset County Association of Chiefs of Police will be holding the funds donated by Palumbo and any other donors, Bobowicz said.
Palumbo credits Bobowicz with putting him in touch with the right people. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be doing this."
Palumbo said the county police chiefs association will be setting up gun buyback locations on dates a little later in the spring in three Somerset County communities—Bridgewater, North Plainfield and Franklin Township.
The police chiefs association will set the buyback amounts for different kinds of guns and will conduct the collection and dispose of the weapons collected, Palumbo said.
Palumbo said he initially approached businesses for some financial support for his program, but was unsuccessful. Since his idea began gaining publicity, however, he said that pledges from private donors have been arriving, and have now added up to more than $6,000 as of Friday.
"I have gotten a lot of phone calls and emails from people," he said.
However, he said he himself still expects to pick up the "lion's share" of the estimated $35,000 cost of the program, with the county law enforcement community possibly picking up any extra costs.
Palumbo said what he's doing has no political agenda. He said he has no problem with the second amendment.
But he said he is inviting those who have guns that they don't want to bring them in.
Palumbo said the communications he has received have all been positive. But he said that an online comment noted that a community such as Basking Ridge doesn't have such problems as gun-related gang violence. (Palumbo and his family previously had also lived in neighboring Bernardsville in northern Somerset County.)
"This isn't exactly a high crime area," Palumbo acknowledged. "But neither was Newtown."
Palumbo can be reached at 973-315-1850.