Guns Save Life and their honcho John Boch have made plenty of news in the last few weeks. And a few waves, too. They’re the group that raked in thousands by hauling a load of busted junkers up north to Mogadishu on Lake Michigan, all to fund an NRA gun camp for kids. But not everyone was amused. So when the Champaign-Urbana area – that’s Guns Save Life’s back yard – held their own buyback yesterday (final tally: 104 guns collected), they were braced for a repeat performance. Here’s John’s account of one participant’s experience . . .
The former Urbana, Illinois Assembly of God Church, now known as Stonecreek Church, sponsored a gun buyback in Champaign on Saturday, August 4th. Instead of the ‘no questions asked’ policy that was advertised, one family who turned in guns found a cumbersome, contentious experience complete with lots of questions and a healthy dose of rudeness and intimidation.
Darren Lucas of Rankin, Illinois said he arrived bright and early with four guns in tow. Accompanied by his wife, the two were taken aback at the inquisitive atmosphere right out of the gate, especially in an atmosphere with so many police officers around.
“It’s supposed to be a ‘no questions asked’ event, but the first thing out of their mouth was ‘Are you friends with John Boch?’,” Lucas said. “How is that relevant to this?” Lucas said he asked the man he believed to be the church’s pastor, Gary Grogan. “We don’t want to waste our money on friends of John Boch,” the pastor replied. “You know, we don’t have to accept your guns.”
“‘No pertinent questions would be a better description of their policy,” Lucas laughed when describing the inquisitive process of turning his guns in. It took Lucas nearly a half hour to surrender three of his guns and get paid for them.
“They wanted to know what kind of guns I had, what caliber and so forth,” Lucas recalled. The intimidation began when they wouldn’t accept his rusty old .22 rifle that was missing pieces and parts for a $50 card. Lucas asked for it back and they reluctantly returned it.
Then, after providing him a brochure, they offered him only two pre-paid credit cards for the three guns they accepted. When Lucas asked where the third card was, another church pastor, Terry Austria, rudely said they would only give a maximum of two cards per person.
“Here’s my wife. There are two of us. If you’re not going to pay me for it, give me a gun back,” Lucas told Austria. Austria rudely refused and told Lucas to talk with the police officer if he wanted to retrieve his gun.
After five or ten minutes of back and forth, the church’s representatives found they weren’t going to intimidate the Lucas family out of that third card. Pastor Austria, “with tears in his eyes” passed the third card over, asking “What are you doing here?”
“It was so bizarre,” Lucas recalled.
In the first half-hour of the four hour event, Mr. Lucas said he estimated the sponsors took less than a half-dozen guns from the first three people there. “There were probably eight cars behind us,” he said when they left at 10:30. This would suggest the event’s sponsors were going to fall well-short of their target of 400 guns collected.
Other observations from Mr. Lucas: They asked each of the first three people present if they were friends with John Boch and quizzed them about the make, model and caliber of the guns they were turning in.
Approximately ten police officers were present from various departments as part of this event, hardly making it anonymous for any known local criminals who might have taken advantage of the offer.
The Urbana police officer taking the guns wasn’t as familiar with handling the ancient Iver-Johnson break-open revolvers as he might have been. Lastly, the Urbana Police Department is taking custody of the turned in guns and the Urbana Police Chief Pat Connelly has pledged that all guns will be destroyed, without exception. Lucas said the guns he turned in were certainly far from range-worthy. “These were junk,” he said. “Pure and simple.”
Unlike the earlier Chicago buyback, Guns Save Life declined to participate in the Champaign buyback due to the low prices offered by the sponsors.