Illegal Gun Buy-Back Program
In 2018, the president of the Essex County Bar Association appointed Matthew to spearhead a fundraising and public safety outreach program aimed at taking guns off the streets of New Jersey’s third-most populous county. It was no small task, but an endeavor that he took great pride in pursuing through a public-private partnership.
The March 30, 2109 “no questions asked” gun buyback program ― a partnership between the Essex County Bar Association and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and other law enforcement agencies ― paid out $41,000 in private funds to take more than 330 guns off the streets of Newark and surrounding communities.
“The proliferation of guns is an ongoing problem in Essex County and beyond. This is a unique collaboration between law enforcement and a private, nonprofit organization to reverse that trend,’’ said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II in a statement.
“Taking unwanted, illegal, and unsafe guns off the street through programs like this contributes to public health and safety,” Matthew said. “With full amnesty and no questions asked thanks to the leadership of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, members of the community are incentivized to come forward and do the right thing.”
Matthew shares Fox Rothschild’s commitment to veterans, and has provided pro bono legal work to support the efforts of the veterans’ legal clinic the firm developed at the Lyons, New Jersey, VA facility.
Over the years, he has been a vocal advocate for robust criminal justice reform programs for veterans. For example, in January 2017, Matthew testified before the New Jersey Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs and Appropriations committees, urging state lawmakers to expand the scope of then pending legislation to establish a program in New Jersey to divert eligible service members away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate case management and mental health services. At the hearing, he challenged legislators to expand the scope of the bill to reach a broader swath of the veteran community and take advantage of available federal resources.
Matthew spoke at a January 2017 press conference with lawmakers and veterans advocates on then pending proposed legislation that created a diversion program for veterans, video below:
On May 1, 2017, then New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1st) to create a “Statewide Veterans Diversion Program” aimed at helping veterans and active military by diverting them from the criminal justice system and into appropriate case management and mental health services as early as possible following an interaction with law enforcement. In the lead-up to the bill’s passage, Matthew provided a passionate voice behind an even more expansive program than was ultimately signed into law, and authored a widely circulated op-ed piece entitled “ Fierce Urgency of Getting Veterans Diversion Right in New Jersey.”
After the May 2017 bill signing, Matthew continued his fight for veterans’ criminal diversion by participating in a county-by-county effort to create local programs that expand the diversionary goals of the statewide program through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.