By John Boch
On Saturday, June 23, three of Guns Save Life’s intrepid members, Chris Betley, John Sutter and Steve Fuller drove to Chicago to participate in the city’s annual gun “turn in” event titled, “Don’t Kill A Dream Save A Life.” In short, the sum real-world value of the guns we took up to the Windy City would have been calculated by most people – ourselves included – solely on their scrap metal value. To the gun-hating do-gooders up there, though, they were worth big dollars; $100 for each firearm and $10 for BB-guns and replicas. No questions asked. So, to take advantage of this artificial market for accumulated rust and machined parts, we sent our three members up north with sixty “guns” and four pellet pistols . . .
This was a larger and more organized endeavor than our 2007 trip where Guns Save Life sold $2300 worth of rusty scrap metal to these same do-gooders who live by the lake. In more recent years, Mayor Daley was only offering $50 for guns, so GSL sat those events out.
But we didn’t take those years off. We’ve been busy collecting non-firing junk donated by our GSL members almost non-stop, earmarking the rusty, broken-down clunkers for the self-defense eschewing gun-haters in Chicago. And it’s all for a good cause: the children.
Keep in mind that for this event, we use the term “firearms” loosely as these guns were, by and large, non-functioning scrap. Even the guns that didn’t look like they’d spent the last twenty years at the bottom of Lake Erie were frequently missing trigger groups or other significant parts. Many were little more than barreled receivers, including ten pre-1898 Mausers. Out of the sixty guns we collected, maybe a dozen would actually manage to shoot a round or two. But some of those would probably have been pretty exciting (in a dangerous way) to fire.
When our boys arrived in the big city with their truckload o’ guns that no self-respecting criminal would dare to be caught dead with, our members found plenty of po-po on hand. “There was a heavy police presence at all the turn-in locations,” Betley said in describing his experience.
“If you were a criminal, there’s no way you’d go to one of these,” Betley said. “There were police everywhere, including detectives that were sizing up people as they came in. They knew what we were up to. Most of them didn’t care,” Betley noted, “but some of the younger detectives acted pissed off about it.”
At the second location they visited, our members ran into what they all agreed was a tenacious, bordering on obnoxious detective. The detective hit our three guys up with a series of rapid-fire questions and pointed remarks. “Where in the hell did you dig these up? Out of a grave site?” the detective asked. “Who are you with? What’s your affiliation?” he continued. So much for that “no questions asked” policy.
Betley said he told those who asked, including the rude detective, that we’d been collecting old clunkers as a fundraiser for our youth camp. “I didn’t mention that it was a youth camp with guns,” Betley laughed heartily. Another detective there also gave them some grief. “Hey, next time, get some guns from this century, will ya?”
One CPD officer “broke” one of our guns by beating it against a metal door frame trying to open the action to ensure it was unloaded. It was an old muzzle-loading double-barreled shotgun that was missing a stock and much of its receiver. That made opening the action to check for shotgun shells an understandably difficult proposition.
After breaking the rusty barrels open, the cop then refused to give us credit for turning it in as he said it wasn’t a gun. In a moment of poetic justice, though, a paperwork snafu at the next location netted us two cards that our members told them we weren’t entitled to, but the sponsors insisted we take them. In the end, we brought back $6140 worth of gift cards.
At the third location, one of the detectives was much friendlier and said that he saw an old Civil War-era revolver come through and thought it really sad. “And it wasn’t a replica,” the detective said, apparently knowing his stuff. We reckon any moron selling a $10,000 gun for $100 gets exactly what he deserves. Mostly though, what they got was junk turned in by predominately older folks.
John Sutter talked about his experience, saying he was a little nervous at first but really enjoyed participating in what he termed “a big adventure. Yeah, we were out of place,” he said. “But it was fun.”
Sutter said there was no parking at their third stop so they just parked in the street and began unloading the uncased rifles and shotguns out of the back of the truck. Then they carried them towards the church where they thought buyback was being held. That’ss when some nearby cops hollered at them, “Boys! You’re on the wrong side of the street!”
They then carried their rusted iron (or loot, depending on your perspective) back across a busy street to the proper church. They laugh about it now. “Where else could you walk across a busy street with an armload of uncased guns in Chicago?”
In the end, Guns Save Life netted about $5000 to be used for upcoming youth shooting events, thanks to the hard work and donations from dozens of our members. We’ll be using most of the proceeds to buy ammunition for the annual Darnall’s NRA Youth Shooting Camp held each summer in Bloomington, IL at Darnall’s GunWorks and Ranges, and to buy some of the guns they give away to participants.
The camp – the longest running NRA Youth Shooting Camp in the nation – hosts about 100 kids ages 9-16 each year over four days and three nights. The kids who attend learn basic firearm safety along with shooting fundamentals and get some practical experience with a variety of disciplines including rifles, pistols, black powder, cowboy action, air rifle, trap, archery, hunting safety and education and more. Instruction, often at an Olympic level of quality, is provided by long-time experienced NRA certified instructors and shooting coaches.
At the conclusion of the camp, awards are presented and as many as twenty guns are given away to the young participants.
Guns Save Life has been a strong supporter of this youth camp for over ten years now, and is frequently the event’s single largest sponsor. GSL purchases most, if not all of the ammo used each year – tens of thousands of rimfire rounds and thousands of shot shells. And to help things run smoothly, dozens of our active members donate their time either as instructors or volunteers.
I’m proud to be president of this fine organization and couldn’t be happier about what our members accomplished in Chicago on Saturday. We collected these guns in anticipation of this foolish event orchestrated by big city gun bigots, executed our plan to sell them and used the gift cards to help teach tomorrow’s gun owners safe and responsible use of firearms.
So thank you Mayor Emanuel. We hope you’ll do it again next year. For the children, of course.