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.


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.