By Shawn Graber
Last summer, I saved a Mossberg 500A 12-gauge shotgun from the gaping maw of state-assisted eviceration. A city here in Iowa was offering “CA$H 4 TEH EVIL BOOMSTICKS” with high hopes that the noble City Council would rescue the local citizens from getting shot by their malevolent, unattented firearms. The local police department had raised $1,700 by panhandling at local businesses, and the funds were used to purchase $100 grocery gift cards which would be traded for surrendered firearms. You did the math correctly . . .
The police department, over 12 months of fundraising, accumulated enough dough to purchase 17 evil terrorist assault guns from the trembling populace. The local chapter of First Responders matched the $1,700 already raised in a last-minute gambit to rid the streets of violent bloodshed for a total of $3,400. The 128,000 residents would be able to sleep easier knowing 34 guns had been melted down, never to haunt the alleyways and unlit parking lots of their fair city.
A few of my friends and I ran up to the community center to offer cash for the guns being surrendered. Many of the attendants preferred cash over the $100 Hy-Vee gift cards, but admitted their wares were worth much less than $100. One grizzled farmer cackled and said, “Heh, I’d NEVER give anything of value to the government! But this old shotgun doesn’t function anymore, so I’ll get some groceries out of it.”
Rusted .22 caliber bolt-action rifles, muzzle loaders, shotguns, BB-guns…I even saw a pair of tiny revolvers that shot little mace caplets. They were made back in the 1970’s when someone thought it would be a good idea to sell a mace delivery system that LOOKED like a functioning handgun, because what could go wrong with that?
Soon, the police academy ran out of gift cards. They continued to accept surrendered firearms but offered nothing in return. This made our offers of cash for decent firearms even more appealing.
The local news crew showed up to document the heroic efforts of the city while murmuring about the Merchants of Death trying to purchase guns for cash out on the sidewalk. Oh yes, my friends and I, along with several other enterprising purchasers, were standing out on the sidewalk because the officers made it extremely clear that we were not allowed on the public property of the community center. As soon as a vehicle exited the street and entered the parking lot, they were exposed to our insidious cash-based temptations.
A minivan pulled up to the parking lot as I hailed it with my most charming, non-Freddy Kreuger-esque smile. I informed the man that the gift cards had all been taken, but if he was willing to show me the firearm he brought, I’d offer him cash for it. He made noises of agreement, but rolled down his window and motioned to the nearby police officer.
“Is it legal for me to sell a gun to this guy?” The driver asked, motioning toward me. “I don’t like it,” the officer growled, “But there’s nothing I can do about it.”
The driver hopped out of his van and opened up the hatch, revealing a beautiful Mossberg 500A 12-gauge shotgun wrapped in towels. I checked the action of the pump, which was buttery smooth. The wood was well-maintained and the barrel was free of rust. I peeled out my driver’s licence, my concealed carry permit, and five crisp Jacksons to present to the driver. He checked my documents, grabbed the cash, shook my hand, and drove off.
Amongst the riff-raff of rust and decay, there were a few nice firearms. Our group rescued several of those from their grim fate but we were unable to save them all. The few gems that slipped through our hands linger in my memory like that monster trout that slipped off my hook back when I was 15. The nice GLOCK handgun that got smelted comes to mind.
I wish I could tell that man in the minivan all the joy his shotgun has brought me, all the clay pigeons that have met their demise staring down its business end. This past winter, I used that beautiful Mossberg to harvest a large corn-stealing white-tail doe, the meat (and jerky) of which has kept me well-fed. I’ve owned the gun for a little over a year now, but I know I’ll someday show it to my future grandchildren and tell them all about the $100 shotgun.