Chicago's gun buyback helps group pay for youth shooting camp
Downstate group collects more than $6,200 in gift cards for old, damaged weapons
Last weekend, members of a downstate group drove to Chicago, handed in about 60 weapons as part of the city's trade-in program and walked out with more than $6,200 in gift cards.
While the city gun buyback program is meant to reduce the amount of deadly weapons in Chicago, the guns traded in were rusted, damaged and, according to the group, pretty much useless.
Police said the pro-gun group is taking advantage of a program intended to take firearms off the street. Officials from Guns Save Life, based in Champaign County, countered that they are putting the money to good use — to purchase ammunition and firearms for a youth program that teaches gun safety and marksmanship. The group also traded in a handful of BB guns and starter pistols.
"We just took advantage of Chicago's induced, artificial market on rusty junk," said John Boch, the group's president.
The city collected 5,500 weapons at city churches June 23, with police handing out a $100 gift card per firearm and a $10 gift card for a BB gun or replica with the hope of reducing shootings, all while Chicago is grappling with an increase in violence since last year.
Guns Save Life has done the same thing twice before, and most of the weapons are of little value and are collecting dust in the closet of a group member or family member. Boch said the guns were so beaten and worn that one of them, a shotgun, broke while being inspected by an officer. The group did not get a gift card for it.
"Some of them are about 100 years old," he said. "They are rusty. Some have been in fires. It's just junk."
A few of the guns did work, Boch said, but they were damaged or could malfunction and would be dangerous to use.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, which was not involved in the Guns Save Life effort, applauded the concept.
"I'm sure these kids are going to have a great time with Chicago's money," he said. Pearson added that he thinks the city program, which has a "no questions asked" policy, is a dumping ground for criminals trying to ditch guns used in crimes. Police destroy the guns they collect.