Peoria Gun Buyback Runs Out of Money…Twice

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Image by Boch

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Do-gooders in Peoria, Illinois were offering $200 per gun in a gun buyback event on Saturday that was scheduled to run from 10:00a to 3:00p. Organizers offered even more for guns they viewed as especially icky at four locations across the city. In promotional materials, they billed it as an event designed to “TAKE BACK OUR STREETS.”

The old expression “if it plays in Peoria” panned out just as one would expect. Scores and more turned out, bringing their scrap iron to trade for perfectly good cash money as the holiday season gets under way. I drove over with three guns to raise some more cash for Guns Save Life‘s support of youth shooting programs.

At the First Baptist Church location, I was the second or third person in line. The first guy nicked them for $2200 at 10:00 sharp. At that point, they pretty much paused the event there at 10:01 as that left them with only had $300 in VISA cards. That’s right: they ran out of cash one minute after starting.

To my relief, police promised more cards were on the way if we wanted to wait 20 minutes. Sure, why not?  I had managed to get fully inside, while outdoors the wind chill felt not far above single digits.

As you probably imagined, if “taking back our streets” was the goal, the event was a total farce.

Image by Boch.

Peoria and vicinity have experienced a rash of shootings and homicides. However the demographic turning in clunkers (and a couple foolishly surrendering decent guns) for cash don’t fit that of your usual gang violence suspect.

In fact, one person arrived in a bus for disabled folks. Last time I checked, very few disabled, gray-haired old ladies are shooting up Peoria. Or anywhere else. Then again, I don’t hang in the places where the bullets fly, so what do I know?

Image by Boch.

The older fellow behind me had a .357 K-frame revolver and about 100-rounds of Winchester white box .38 Specials. Before he went in, he told another man that he didn’t “need” a .357 and worried it would shoot through his apartment and into the one next to it.

The temptation to offer him a couple of hundred bucks for the gun was very strong, but I didn’t want to alienate our hosts. I should’ve offered to take his ammo though.

Gracious and kind hosts and nice cops

The people at the church were the most gracious hosts I’ve ever experienced at a “buyback” event and I’ve probably done at least a dozen or more over the years. They were awesome and kind, doing everything they could to accommodate folks on a very cold and windy day outside.

The Peoria cops were largely super-courteous, bordering on downright friendly. Early on, I pulled one of the plainclothes cops aside and asked him for a favor.

“Sure,” he said.

I mentioned that they had parked illegally out front. At first I could read his facial expression as “mind your own business.” Then I tried again. “You know, it just reflects kind of poorly on your department, that’s all.”

Instantly I could see the wheels turning. He reconsidered and acknowledged my point. He then tried to explain that they were bringing stuff inside. “I know. It’s okay. I watched you. I’m not here to give you a hard time or file a complaint.”

He promptly went out and moved the unmarked Explorer. Kudos to him.

The two cops who worked the event were conscientious and courteous. In a time when getting and retaining good cops is increasingly hard, these guys were a credit to their department and the city of Peoria.

Only the lieutenant running the event, who brought the second batch of $100 cards, was a little less than all of that. How so? He deemed one of my three guns — a giant Lorcin double-stack chrome pistola — “non-functional” and kept it without saying anything, paying me nothing for it.

They handed me a stack of pre-paid cards, saying nothing about the one rejected as a “non-functioning” piece. I didn’t realize until I was outside in the car that they only paid me for two of the three guns. That was, in part, my own fault for a failure to “trust but verify.”  It still felt a little like unlawful conversion… or Illinois’ fancy description of theft.

The same lieutenant tried the “We’ll just keep these, okay” at another location earlier in the morning for a compatriot of mine. My friend assertively demanded back the guns they weren’t paying for. The ones Peoria PD didn’t want to accept, including two functioning .50 caliber muzzle-loaders, were returned. Good on them.

My friend did well. Image via Boch, used with permission

The only other instance I saw involved a woman (on the left in the above shot). She had a SKS rifle, complete with folding bayonet, with some sort of Chinese sight mounted on the receiver.

Lt. Unlawful Conversion adamantly refused to give her the “assault weapon” price because it didn’t have a detachable magazine. I left before that one was resolved, but she surely could have gotten more than $200 for it at most gun shops. Especially since a quick search shows common ones selling for $500 to $1000 sans the sight. Then again, she was wearing a mask so maybe she didn’t know what it was worth.

And the good lieutenant might not have had $500 in cards to give her, as just before they asked for my “guns” they said they were about out of cards…a second time. They said that when they ran out of cards the second time, they would take anything that people wanted to surrender without compensation. Good luck with that.

On the whole, grabbing another $400 for youth shooting programs made it a morning well-spent and worth the $29.08 in gas. Yeah, they nicked us for a gun but honestly, we’ve slipped a few non-guns under the wire at Chicago’s events often enough in years past (shh! don’t tell anyone) so I’m not going to bark too loudly about it.

Why did we have so few this time? We had just taken our entire stock of clunkers up to Chicago about a month ago. Because of some changes in Illinois law, we’re easing ourselves out of the gun buyback game, so to speak. It’s been fun, but we want to quit while we’re ahead.

Word has it that the City of Peoria has a whole raft of these $100 pre-paid cards left. Given that they expire in April 2023, that suggests they’ll return with another event before then to get rid of the last of the cards. Assuming organizers didn’t relent and break them out for people who showed up at Saturday’s event.

Again, given the demographic of a bunch of old white guy law-abiding gun owners turning in their junk, officials might have decided to send buyback hopefuls home. The do-gooder crowd might have opted to try again later, hoping against hope they might actually get some of the younger crowd to come in next time.

But good luck with that. Pro-tip for them: the last place gang bangers want to hang out is anywhere near five-oh, even if the event is no-questions-asked. Unless, of course, the sponsors of the buyback want to offer real money for gear that actually poses a threat.

If they want to offer $2000 for GLOCKs with switches, they might actually get some high school kids to turn out. Maybe.

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