Gun buybacks coming to Tri-Lakes

The Franklin County District Attorney’s Office is planning to hold gun buybacks in Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake in early March.

The DA’s office will accept guns with full amnesty – no questions asked – and give participants some money in return.

District Attorney Derek Champagne held two rounds of buybacks already. The first was at the end of January in Constable and Hogansburg, and the second was held Tuesday in Malone, Chateaugay, Dickinson and Hogansburg. Most of the buybacks were held at fire stations, and one was at the county’s 911 emergency building – places not related to law enforcement – to ensure that people would feel safe turning in the weapons.

The Tri-Lakes buybacks will be the third and final event in this initiative. The locations and exact date and time have not yet been announced.

Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne launched the program shortly after 20 children and six adults were killed in a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December. He consulted with district attorneys in other parts of the state to find out how to hold successful buybacks.

Between both rounds so far, the county has collected 101 guns: 49 handguns and pistols, some of which were illegally possessed, as well as six assault rifles, 17 shotguns, 29 rifles and a number of high-capacity magazines.

Both dates were declared a success by Champagne and the law-enforcement organizations involved.

“Our thought was, if we got one illegal handgun off the street, then that was a success,” Champagne told the Enterprise this morning.

He said he’s targeting the guns that people have lying around and that are off the radar, because those are often the ones sold under the table.

“Those are the ones we’re really worried about,” Champagne said. “Typically, those are the ones used in serious crime throughout the state.”

He said guns from Franklin County have turned up in New York City as murder weapons in the past.

Some of people have guns they don’t want and don’t know how to dispose of, Champagne said, like people who have inherited weapons and stashed them in a closet or under a mattress.

“We’ve had several people that have been very appreciate that we gave them the chance to get rid of these,” he said.

Champagne has stressed that the buybacks are totally voluntary. He argues that this has nothing to do with the Second Amendment, and he’s not trying to take guns away from anyone who doesn’t want them.

“This has nothing to do with the whole gun debate that’s going on nationwide,” Champagne said. “It’s a totally different issue.”

Champagne used forfeiture money from drug dealers for both buybacks, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe also provided some funding. The county Board of Legislators pledged $5,000 of contingency funds for the program, but Champagne is trying to use drug money instead due to a few people who picketed recently for Second Amendment issues, arguing that taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used for such a program.

When the initiative was first announced, Champagne said the county will dispose of all the weapons collected.

Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or