A Reader Reports from the Hartford CT Gun Buyback

Jesse Buchanan writes:

I was standing out in the cold on Saturday afternoon offering cash for guns, and I wasn’t having much luck. I was crashing someone else’s party ‑ it was a gun buy-back program in Hartford, Connecticut sponsored by some hospitals, non-profits and the local police. The newspaper had advertised that there’d be a $25 Walmart gift card for any working long guns turned in ‑ I figured if there’s going to be people getting fleeced, I want to be holding the shears. What would people say to $40 in cash on the spot? . . .

I’d read about a buy back in Michigan where someone turned in a Mauser. They got a gift card and then the irreplaceable antique that had survived at least one world war was melted down. Gun buy-backs as crime-reduction policy are irrelevant to me. I just can’t stand the colossal waste of sending good, or sort-of-good, or even redeemable guns to a furnace.

The going rate in Hartford was a $75 for pistols, revolvers and “assault weapons” (illegal in Connecticut). I passed up everyone walking into the Community Renewal Center with small bags ‑ you need paperwork for private sales of pistols and I don’t have my permit.

I arrived in time to see two older men walking back to their cars with a limp soft case. They said they got $25 for their gun, “pretty good.” I didn’t ask if they’d bother to check the going rate on gunbroker.com for whatever it is they just dumped for change.

Traffic is slow but fairly steady. It takes about 15 minutes for people to go in and come out. The Community Renewal Center is in a predominantly black neighborhood of Hartford but the demographic is almost exclusively older whites.

One man hustled towards the door with a backpack and from the sidewalk I asked him if he’s got any long guns to turn in. He said no, and I kept pacing.

A car pulls in with two men, who head for the trunk and start to pull out something about three feet long wrapped in a black garbage bag.

I ask if one of them if he’s going to the buy back, and tell him they’re giving out $25 gift cards for long guns. I’ll give him $40 cash.

“I can’t do that. I want this gun to go where it should go,” he said.

Okay, I’ll be here if you change your mind.

About two minutes later four police came out the door, two uniformed and two in plainclothes. They made a beeline for me.

I can’t say I wasn’t expecting this.

“We’re going to have to ask you to not do this here. You’re making people feel uncomfortable, asking to buy their guns.”

“Is it illegal?”

“This is a non-profit, this is a positive thing. We don’t want anything that would reflect badly on it. I’m asking you to go somewhere else, please.

“Alright.”

I could have said a lot of things ‑ it’s a public sidewalk, there’s no law against private sales of long guns, it’s a free country ‑ but two thoughts occurred to me. The police really don’t want me there at their program and they’re going to ruin any chances of me actually making a sale. If I demand to stay, they’ll hover or ratchet up the pressure and tow my car or something. The officer was polite, and he let me have an out that gave him what he wanted without putting the squeeze on me. No sense in pushing my luck.

That was a tactical decision. More fundamentally, I misjudged my audience. The people bringing guns aren’t looking for fast cash. They don’t care that they could get more money elsewhere, or right on the sidewalk from me with my stack of twentys. They believe in these programs, they want to see these guns destroyed.

Losing out economically, the waste of destroying valuable property, doesn’t bother them. They think they’re making the streets safer by turning in uncle Tony’s bolt-action .22, even though the people running these programs know that’s a myth. These things are just a feel-goods for community activists.

I won’t be back again next year. It’s frustrating to think of objects you appreciate and enjoy being destroyed needlessly. But you can’t reason with the unreasonable, especially when they think they’re riding the world of evil one Saturday night special at a time.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

52 Responses to A Reader Reports from the Hartford CT Gun Buyback

  1. avatarMatt in FL says:

    It’s interesting to hear from someone who’s actually tried what so many talk about. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for you and you were somewhat disillusioned by what you found (the attitudes, not the guns).

    I do know someone who turned in a gun at a buyback once. I don’t specifically know what kind of gun it was, beyond that it was a handgun in apparent working order. When I asked why they didn’t offer it to me, or someone else they knew that was into guns, the response was, “I just wanted it gone. I despise guns.” I suppose I can appreciate the first part of that, and I don’t even know where to begin in responding to the second part.

    • avatarChas says:

      And I believe this to be the mindset of the gun haters/banners: “I despise guns, therefore I don’t want anyone to have them”.

      • avatarBob says:

        They get a highly charged emotional reaction to a violent act done with a gun, so thinking of any sort goes right out window.

        It usually is not possible to get them to start thinking rationally about the subject because the emotions run too strong.

  2. avatarCrazed Java says:

    It sucks, but you made the right call. You’re not going to win the short-term battle with the police. Anyone can whine about how unfair it is, but you’re still going to end up losing that battle. Police in general do not like their authority questioned and even if it is a request they still expect you to comply. I’m actually surprised they were polite about it as an opening gambit.

    • avatarBob says:

      Cops despise people who dare challenge their authority. They will make up a charge at the drop of a hat and arrest you. “Disorderly conduct”, “resisting arrest”, they have a handful of catch-all charges they use to make an arrest just for the sake of making an arrest.

      What gets me is how many times they charge people with just one charge: “resisting arrest”. No other charge. What was the charge they were resisting? There was none, it was just a way to make a bullshit arrest.

  3. avatarMichael B. says:

    Head South, Jesse Buchanan. Head South. Or West.

  4. avatarSanchanim says:

    Imagine if you stopped some guy with a perfect M1 heading in, I probably would have offered him $1000 on the spot. I mean that is a piece of history, you could say it would go to a museum. Which if you consider your gun vault a venue for gun history than you would exactly be fibbing now would you. :-)

  5. avatarIn Memphis says:

    Thank you Jesse for sharing this experience. No offense but I am rather happy I dont live in Connecticut anymore. Come to Tennessee and you can have your share of long guns and whatever else you want! I got my Glock early this year with three 13 round magazines. Now Im about to pay off my AR-15 that dosnt have stupid restrictions on it like bullet buttons, fixed stocks only, no bayonet lug.

  6. avatarST says:

    An anti-gun stepdad in my past responded to my teenage interest in airsoft guns by banning them. I therefore bought more anyway and hid them. One day he caught hip to my stash location and tossed about $800 worth of Tokyo Marui GBB hardware into the Des Plaines river. The reason wasn’t because I disobeyed his rule but because in his words “firearms are evil ,so if you want to own a gun you’d better join the police department or hit the street corner like all the rest of them gang bangers.Real men don’t own weapons”.

    To this day I get emotional when I see people discuss their dad’s gun collection. I wish I grew up with an enlightened father figure like that.

    • avatarjwm says:

      Now that was child abuse. All joking aside ST, it was his house and his rules. But now that you’re grown and calling the shots you can collect your own guns to hand down to a child.

      I hope that my kids will remember me fondly when they’re at the range teaching thier grandkids how to shoot.

      • avatarMichael B. says:

        It was destruction of another’s legally owned property. Making adolescent ST sell the stuff would’ve made sense. Destroying it was out of line and I bet fostered a great deal of hatred.

        And we don’t know whether it was his house or not. Could’ve been ST’s mom’s house.

        • avatarST says:

          My stepdad’s purpose in pulling that stunt was to convince me that a proper black citizen in Illinois should associate guns with evil.

          Today I own an AK and am an NRA member. Repudiating his BS anti-gun victimhood programming is the greatest revenge I can think of for his actions.

          That is all.

    • avatarChris says:

      Everyone has a right to their own opinions and beliefs. But some opinions and beliefs are absolutely stupid and should be called out as such.

      • avatardan says:

        Well, yes.but what about the child that rejects his upbringing and embraces utopian urban ideals such as gun control?

    • avatarإبليس says:

      I’d love to see who exactly fit the “real men” bill in his eyes.

  7. avatarMark says:

    Sorry it went badly. I read about a group that offered $10 more than the police for firearms to give away to “financially challenged” people who wanted them for protection and had success with keeping a lot of firearms from destruction. Cops weren’t pleased, but left them alone.

  8. avatarMister Fleas says:

    “I ask if one of them if he’s going to the buy back, and tell him they’re giving out $25 gift cards for long guns. I’ll give him $40 cash.
    ‘I can’t do that. I want this gun to go where it should go,’ he said.”

    “The people bringing guns aren’t looking for fast cash. They don’t care that they could get more money elsewhere, or right on the sidewalk from me with my stack of twentys. They believe in these programs, they want to see these guns destroyed.”

    The author met some of Aristole’s natural slaves.

  9. avatarMister Fleas says:

    Maybe, if this tried again, go in a large group. A group would be harder to intimidate than an individual.

  10. avatarFelix says:

    Maybe play up the historical angle, that historical guns are kept for that value alone, never shot, and especially rifles are never used in crimes.

  11. avatarbill says:

    Or they have a gun they need the “no questions asked” no ballistics performed straight to the smelter option.

  12. avatarAngel says:

    I’m not really surprised at what happened. I figured that the people that take guns in are either completely against guns or know that the gun has been in a crime and want them melted. Neither of the two people can be reasoned with so why bother. Any other people besides those two are obviously stupid and I rather not deal with them. Seriously!?!? $25 gift card?!?!

  13. avatarChris says:

    This kind of mindless waste wrapped in a self-righteous nonsensical excuse is exactly why the US from government to individual is in debt and can’t figure out how to get back to real productivity.

  14. avatarIsaac says:

    I tried the same thing at a buy back run by Ceasefire Oregon up here in the Portland area. Managed to snag a Makarov and a Frommer Stop, $200 for both guns. Only reason I got them was that the buy back program ran out of gift cards. :)

  15. avatarRokurota says:

    Nice how the newscast didn’t even try to get the other side on tape. “If just one person is saved by a defensive gun use, it will have been worth it.” That’s what I’d like to hear.

  16. avatarRokurota says:

    Anyone notice the “buybacks?” Glock 19. Nickel-plated 1911. S&W 686. Colt Python. Some folks got robbed.

  17. avatarTricky says:

    I sold a gun to a buyback once. I got $50 cash for a totally corroded non-functioning H&R revolver in .32S&W I found under a barn. I went and bought some ammo with the proceeds. :)

  18. avatarChris says:

    Wonder if Hartford has a budget shortfall? Resell those guns down south and make some money.

  19. avatarTj says:

    They probably thought this guy was a cop running some kind of setup. These guys dont know its legal to buy a long gun in the open, they probably just assume something about it is illegal. They probably bought the gun in a brown paper bag in some ghetto basement.

  20. avatarshawmutt says:

    This post reminded me that I have to start the process to get my non-resident ccw permit for my visit to CT in the summer. I hope they’ve moved a bit farther with 2nd Amendment rights, when I left over a decade ago it wasn’t pretty.

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      I left almost 2 years ago and never bothered to give that money grubbing state anything so I could get a gun that I have the constitutional right to own.

      Anyways, Im surprised they offer a non-resident permit but no reciprocity?

      Last I checked they were CC only and you best be able to prove you had absoloutley no other option (if you use your gun). Also dont print or youre in trouble. Not sure about ten years ago so I cant say what changed.

      Goodluck

  21. avatarIn Memphis says:

    I remember when I was in elementry school we went on a tour of our state capitol (Im from Connecticut). I remember clearly somewhere attatched to the capitol building was a “firearms museum” of sort.

    I wonder if thoes stupid hipocrytes still have them on display or gave up their collection also. Its been at least 20 years since I have seen it.

    Maybe they should burn down the old Colt building too. They dont deserve to be proud of that history. It has been converted in to apartments, they could tell the tenants they feard evil ghost guns would posess them and cause violence.

  22. avatarSteve (CT) says:

    There’s a report over on arfcom that somebody turned in an Stg 44. Don’t know if it was one of the new .22′s or perhaps a replica. It would be a shame otherwise.

    http://www.ar15.com/forums/t_8_26/503381_CT__Gun_buyback_event_to_be_held_in_New_Haven.html

  23. avatarelnonio says:

    A few alternatives to going up to people and point blank asking them to sell you their guns (that’s bound to get people nervous)

    A, set up a “lemonade stand” type sign, with a list of the firearms you are willing to buy, and an actual dollar amount. Let them come to you, not the other way around. Seeing the prices, you are bound to get some “well, how much would you give me for this?” Bring cash, you are bound to get something on your list :)

    B, same as above, but present yourself as doing some empirical research on gun buy-backs, and ask all your questions, and discreetly pass information back. Again, the idea is to let them come to you. Bring cash…

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      elnonio: I had exactly this thought yesterday, and meant to throw up a comment then, but forgot. I think a table with a sign would have a much lower “weird factor” than approaching them in person. Many people still might bypass you for fear of “doing something wrong,” but at least it wouldn’t have that creep factor.

    • avatarg says:

      The stealth “B” option sounds good to me.

      “Yeah, I’m doing RESEARCH on gun buybacks. That Colt Python you’re turning in for $50? How about I give you $100 for it instead? IT’S FOR THE GOOD OF SCIENCE.”

  24. avatardom says:

    Maybe I should just have my own gun buyback. A few ads in the local paper, a stack of walmart gift cards, and I am good to go.

  25. avatarTony says:

    Doesn’t Walmart sell guns and ammo?

  26. avatarMykque says:

    I went to a gun buyback once. They were giving away a card worth a free video rental a day. I figure I got $400 worth of free movies for a broken $25.00 Jennings.

  27. avatarNick4Liberty says:

    The rumor about the STG 44 is true. It was an original that the woman’s father brought back from WWII not a replica or GSG .22. Had original Nazi markings and everything. Worth 30-40k!! The Hartford police gave it back to the woman to sell it for more than just a Walmart gift card. That would have made my year to get that piece of history! I was actually going to go to the buy back and try to buy some long guns as well but said screw it because I didn’t know how the cops would react and I didn’t want any chance of getting arrested and having my guns taken or being denied my pistol permit since I am in the process of trying to get it now.

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