Today I attended the gun buyback held in Tucson, which was initiated by a Tucson City Councilman and held on the second anniversary of the shooting here in Tucson of former member of Congress, Gabrielle Giffords.
The buyback was advertised as a “no questions asked” event and for every gun turned in the donor was to receive a $50 gift card from Safeway.
The buyback, though purportedly a “private, non-governmental” event, was manned by the Tucson Police Department and took place in the parking lot of the mid-town police substation. It had been reported prior to the event that none of the guns turned in would be destroyed, but rather would be sold pursuant to recently enacted legislation in Arizona mandating that “confiscated” guns not be destroyed. However, when I inquired of TPD officials on site I was told that the guns turned in would be immediately destroyed TODAY. Apparently, the position being taken is that the buyback was a private event whose organizers were surrendering the guns to the PD for destruction – thus no “confiscation” by the police took place. I suspect that this position is in fact valid given my understanding of the recent legislation.
Interesting as well was the fact that the event was not “no questions asked” as advertised. Participants were in fact asked for ID and to give contact information. I did note that one or two people declined to provide information and left with their firearms. There were a couple of issues with filed serial numbers and at least one short barreled shogun, but no arrests were made. It is worth noting that all Tucson PD personnel that I encountered were professional and personable and their demeanor throughout is a credit to the Department.
Prior to the event, a former State Senator publicized that he would attend the event and offered to purchase guns for an amount greater that the $50 gift cards being offered by the event organizer. This former Senator was in fact in attendance and I know of at least one firearm purchased by him. The Police Department put out a release that it would not interfere with any private sales or purchases of firearms, such being completely within the law in Arizona.
Many pro-gun citizens also attended the event and they to a large extent remained segregated at various positions on the premises (on request as opposed to demand by the TPD) from the actual gun donors. Many of these patriots held signs communicating their disagreement with the event. While the gun rights proponents with signs kept a respectful distance and otherwise comported themselves with respect, other citizens, such as myself, were permitted, without any intervention whatsoever, to roam the premises and witness the event, take pictures, and engage in conversation with whomever would engage with us. I did not see a single conversation that I could characterize as anything other than cordial, though a few persons there to turn in guns were defensive and/or short when any inquiry was made regarding whether they had or would consider a private sale of there firearm.
The event was advertised to take place between 9:00 am and 12 noon. I arrived at 9:00 to discover approximately 75 people in line to turn in guns. These people (and those to arrive later) were largely comprised of senior citizens. Throughout the event, I saw fewer than 20 persons turning in guns that I judged to be under 50 years of age.
As I walked the line for the next two hours, I saw very few guns that had any value in excess of the value of the $50 gift card being offered. Quite frankly, most of the guns were rusted, inoperable junk. I saw only three firearms that I would value in excess $400, two S&W revolvers and a single 4” blue Colt Python (pictured below). Most of the guns worth anything were comprised of .22 rifles, and all of those were of nominal value.
ALL of the long guns turned in are properly characterized as “sporting” rifles and shotguns. The vast majority of the handguns were of the cheap, small caliber, off brand variety. Many of the guns required great effort on the part of the TPD armorers to clear or disassemble due to lack of maintenance and, in a large number of cases, a great deal of rust. Most handguns were revolvers.
NOT A SINGLE so-called “assault weapon” was turned in. I saw absolutely NO high capacity magazines of any sort.
I remained at the event until after its advertised close at noon. By 11:30 am, there was not a single person left in line to turn in a gun. When I left, only 193 of the 200 available gift cards had been given out for firearms turned in. Upon inquiry, TPD personnel told me that only “2 or 3” people turned in guns without requesting a gift card.
In my humble assessment, this event accomplished nothing towards the stated goal of making the community safer. The vast majority of the guns turned in had been owned by senior citizens, many of them widows, who had been secreting the guns away under a bed or in the back of a closet for years never to be used at all. Let alone in the commission of any crime. Most of the rest were just junk being turned in by those seeking to take advantage of the “good feelings” being sought by the event organizers. In these cases, the organizers gave value for absolutely nothing in return.
It pained me to see the Colt Python go into the bin for destruction notwithstanding its owner having been offered literally hundreds of dollars so that it might be saved. The offers were to no avail as the owner claimed he was saving lives by turning it in. He could not explain how it was that he as the owner was going to permit that to happen if he retained the gun.
I did, however, myself, save one firearm from destruction today. An elderly woman approached me with an Uncle Mike’s long gun soft case and asked if I could tell her what she had as a couple of gentlemen had approached her about purchasing her gun. She wanted to know if she had value greater than what the buyback organizers were offering (smart woman). The rifle had been her husband’s. It turns out that she had a MINT Ruger 10/22 manufactured in 1965 along with two magazines and two vintage Outer’s and Hoppe’s cleaning kits that have never been used. Though at the time I did not realize that the rifle was made in only the second year of the manufacture of the 10/22 by Ruger, I offered to purchase the rifle for cash in an amount much greater value than the gift cards being offered by the buyback organizers. She left very happy and that rifle now resides in my safe.
Reported by VI-Shooter, Tucson 8 January, 2013