A sea of weapons on display at the Monmouth County Police Academy Tuesday is more evidence that New Jersey residents like their firearms and that's in a state with some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.

In total, 1,581 guns were collected in the fourth state-sponsored Gun Buy Back Program held at the Shiloh Community Fellowship Ministry in Asbury Park and at the Saint Ann Catholic Church in Keansburg on Friday and Saturday.

State Attorney General Jeff Chiesa says among the weapons they brought in were 761 handguns, 409 rifles and 356 shotguns, including 15 assault-type weapons. He goes on to say that 45 of the guns collected were not even legal to posses in New Jersey.

"Either they were somehow modified or had ammunition capacities that exceeded state laws. That now means through the four gun buy back programs we've taken in 1,050 illegal guns."

They weren't all duds either. Chiesa says of the nearly 1,600 guns, only 40 didn't work.

Most Collected Guns are Operable

"The overwhelming majority of all the 7,100 guns taken in are operable and could have been used to hurt somebody."

A total of $209,175 was spent on the Monmouth County program, all proceeds from state and county criminal forfeiture funds. Chiesa says even though the anonymous participants could receive up to $250 per weapon, the average participant received around $132 for their guns.

Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni says, "I had expectations that we were going to exceed past gun buy back programs that we've done just at the county level. Am I surprised? I'm blown away by the number that we got and I'm so thankful to have partnered up with the Attorney General's Office because they inherently bring a level of publicity that we wouldn't other wise experience in addition to the financial support to buy these many guns."

Most Collected Weapons Will Be Destroyed

The pastors of the two churches that participated say they've been troubled by some of the gun carnage in their communities and were glad people saw their facilities as a safe heaven where they could bring guns. They say their congregations were in full support of the program as well.

Most of the weapons will be destroyed, according to Chiesa with the exception of a very small fraction that may have been stolen from legal gun owners.

So far, a buy back in Camden County last December yielded 1,137 guns, Mercer County in January 2,604 guns, Essex County in February 1,770 guns bringing the total to 7,092.

The next state-sponsored Gun Buy Back program is headed to Atlantic County. The two-day event to be held at churches in Atlantic City and Pleasantville on March 22 and 23. For more information, visit go the website or call 609-984-5828.