Guns Save Life loves Chicago’s gun buybacks. Three times in the past dozen years or so, the scrappy Illinois gun rights group has sold rusty junk to Chicago’s taxpayers, then used the proceeds to send young people to an NRA summer shooting camp. Saturday, Guns Save Life pulled it off again.
Yes, we took our junk deep into the heart of Rahm’s Paradise by the Lake and brought home perfectly good cash cards. Not only that, but a Chicago Police Department sergeant banned me from ever again participating in a gun buyback.
Six years ago, Guns Save Life scored a grand slam at Chicago’s then-annual “Don’t Kill A Dream, Save A Life” gun “turn-in” event. Not only did GSL bring home over $6,000, but the delicious irony of using a “buyback” to fund kids attending an National Rifle Association camp brought widespread international publicity to GSL. At the same time, it gave Mayor Emmanuel’s city-wide gun buyback events a major black eye.
In fact, GSL’s success in 2012 ended the program where the city spent upwards of a million dollars it didn’t have to “buy back” something the city never owned. What’s more, the Mayor and his minions claimed the buybacks rid the community of unwanted guns. Maybe so.
Yesterday, in a scaled back event with Chicago offering $100 per gun — no questions asked — GSL returned. While a supervisor refused to accept all eleven of the guns my pregnant bride and I offered to the program, other intrepid GSL members met with more success. All told, we came home with quite a haul. I’m still not done opening all of the envelopes.
As for the guns we “surrendered,” many looked like they dated from the Prohibition era. Or before. Even the ones that didn’t require a hammer to open the action may have looked good but they lacked functionality. Meanwhile, a few others fired now-obsolete cartridges back when they actually did work.
While most of the guns we gave them wouldn’t shoot, they would make great stick-up guns. At least until the user stuck up someone who’s carrying a real gun.
In the end, while we weren’t able to unload all sixty-plus guns we carted up to the Windy City, we did well. Very well.
What I saw
My wife and I showed up right at 10am, when the event opened. Already, dozens of folks stood in line. At the same time, Chicago police officers milled about in force. We felt very safe in a marginal neighborhood thanks to Chicago’s finest.
A couple of the officers had tac vests that identified them as being from the “Superintendent’s Office.” One gold star also sat inside. A neatly-dressed guy’s ID labelled him from the press relations or something similar. I avoided him.
Interestingly, this was the first Windy City buyback where at least a couple of cops looked skilled handling guns. In the past, oftentimes the officers looked as skilled at opening various actions as in solving a Rubik’s Cube.
After waiting outside for about twenty minutes (and being filmed by NBC5 Chicago), I finally got a peek inside. The cops had everyone sitting in a big room, waiting. And waiting.
The big guy with the brand new LA Police Gear Tactical Pants appeared to be in charge. His vest indicated that he too hailed from the Superintendent’s Office. (For what it’s worth, 5.11 pants may cost more, but they wear more comfortably. And your backup piece doesn’t bang against your knee if you carry it in the cargo pocket. Hence, my LAPG pants are now relegated to lawn mowing.)
Most guns turned in, and the people turning them in, were typically quite
old seasoned. Often the guns had as much rust as their owners had grey hair.
This time I saw some decent guns among the endless parade of revolvers people surrendered. One, a round-butt Smith & Wesson K-frame looked to be in really good shape, dropped off by a well-to-do looking African American woman.
Twenty minutes later, a Caucasian couple turned in a bolt-action centerfire rifle in good condition, a second scoped bolt gun, possibly a rimfire, and a semi-auto Browning Auto 5 (or a knockoff). Any one of those three guns would probably fetch $300 on consignment at any local gun shop.
At the same time, I saw a never-ending string of old revolvers, rusty .22 rifles and break-open, single-shot shotguns. Someone brought in a Bersa semi-auto in its box. One person brought about twenty pounds of ammo along with their two handguns.
And meet Sgt. Dickerson, the guy picking up a box full of guns. Sgt. Dickerson stopped the whole process when he overheard that I had eleven guns. He pulled me outside and said, and I quote, “This event is for the neighborhood, not outsiders.”
He didn’t know my name or where I lived. However, as a white person, I was in the minority in the lower income, African-American neighborhood.
He continued: “We’ll take two of those, but you’re gonna have to take the rest back to your car. Or you can take them all home with you.”
So I got my two $100 VISA cards. As I walked out, I stopped to take a photo of the table where they worked to identify make, model, caliber and serial numbers of the guns turned in. Sgt. Dickerson didn’t like that.
“YOU! Come with me!” he barked.
We walked outside. He explained that I could not take photos inside.
I replied: “But this is a public place and a public event. Nobody has a reasonable expectation of privacy here.”
“No, this is a private event and the people in there don’t want their pictures taken,” he gruffly shot back at me.
“So what about the TV cameras?” I asked calmly.
“They have permission! Look. You cannot come back to one of these ever again. Don’t ever let me catch you coming back again,” Sgt. Dickerson said sternly. I wondered if this is what black folks felt like back when cops explained their local Sundown laws to them.
The look on my face must have expressed my thoughts clearly, or Sgt. Dickerson had ESP. “Or what?” I thought.
After a pause, he continued: “If I catch you at one of these events again, you will be turned away.”
“You mean like last time when I got turned away because I was the wrong color?” I thought to myself.
I tried not to even grin. “Yes, sir,” I said solemnly. “Am I free to go?”
And he sent me on my way. He didn’t even ask for my name.
Minutes later, after collecting packets of envelopes from my fellow GSL members, the wife and I passed the front door. I slowed long enough to thank the officers out front and we drove home.
So, thank you Rahm. We enjoyed doing business with you and your minions. Better still, Mr. Mayor, you can feel good knowing you’re helping to educate the next generation of gun owners in the Prairie State.