Image by Boch.

Decatur, Illinois held a much-publicized gun buyback last week. While the event took place on April 2nd, it turned out to be a late April Fool’s joke for well over 100 pepople still in line after the event’s staff ran out of cash for a second time in just over an hour.

We reported on the “Community Day of Peace” event a couple of weeks ago and the generous amounts being offered to “buy back” firearms in the central Illinois city.

While the event’s organizers went back on their pledge to buy magazines over market prices, they did follow through on the other aspects of the event including buying pistols for $225 each. At least they did for the first 75 minutes of the scheduled four-hour extravaganza.

The event was billed to run from 2:00p to 6:00p. It began with a sparsely attended “march” by fewer than thirty people, escorted by police.

Image by Boch.

At the church that hosted the event, organizers had free food, drinks and music. Under a big tent, there were informational booths that were pretty much ignored by most.

Image by Boch.

Once the marchers arrived at the parking lot, a number of people spoke, lamenting so-called “gun violence” in the Decatur community. I didn’t hear a single word mentioned about gang violence.

Meanwhile, gun owners seeking to take advantage of Decatur’s largesse (reportedly provided by billionaire Warren Buffet’s middle son Howard Buffet) poured in left and right.  Before the official 2:00pm start time, nearly 200 people stood in a line that snaked upwards of two blocks around the property and through the vacant lot used for parking next door.

Unfortunately, things ground to a halt twenty minutes into the event as organizers quickly ran out of cash after not even two dozen people converted their “unwanted” guns for big bucks. Initially, the sponsors floated the idea of issuing IOUs, but at about 2:45, they received a fat bank bag of more brand new, crisp $50 bills and the fun resumed.

Image by Boch.

When I got inside with my bag of goodies, I was met by a very kind, professional and affable gent who knew his way around firearms. The couple ahead of me had five guns.  The police brass stood around watching, and griped, “and they wonder why we ran out of money so soon,” apparently referring to the initial pause after they ran out of cash the first time.

Interestingly, before entering, the male half of the couple ahead of me joked that his lovely bride shouldn’t show them the NRA logo tattooed just above her butt. He teased her that event sponsors might turn them (and their guns) away if they knew they were bitter clingers. I didn’t get to see that tat, but thought it amusing nevertheless.

Meanwhile, I brought five handguns, including a non-firing .22 Derringer, two break-top .32s and a pair of well-worn, obsolete Kel-tecs that nobody wanted to buy used for $140 each a few months ago. The guy checking me in took all of them without question, but turned down a genuine “ghost gun”…a bare-bones AR receiver that a ghost gun machine had butchered. I mentioned it was a genuine “ghost gun” and he just chuckled. “I know. I get it and understand. But they’re not gonna pay ya for it.”

Fair enough. I brought it back home.

As he checked over my junk, the young guy and his girlfriend behind me opened his Daniel Defense-branded AR carrying case. Inside he had 13 almost broken-down beaters. The police brass who had just bemoaned the guy with five guns groaned aloud. More than once.

After hemming and hawing for a few minutes, they took them all. The young guy in his 20s had at least a couple of .25s, several .32s and a bunch of other stuff that I’m sure he collected from his friends. He left with $2,925 in a plain white envelope. Enough for at least a couple of boxes of 50-round 9mm FMJs.

I learned a lot even before getting inside. I had retired cops all around me standing in line to participate. Some even admitted to turning in guns they “took off” bad guys during their policing days in the 70s and 80s. Maybe they were just bragging or maybe they were selling their “throw down” pieces. Who knows? Either way, these weren’t guns used by or headed for the contemporary criminal community.

Others had come from as far south as Effingham and St. Louis to the south and the Chicago suburbs to the north. I met at least three FFLs and a few other people who worked at gun shops.

While Alexandria Occasional Cortex might have looked at the crowd and seen a bunch of deplorables, I have to say that the Community Church of God in Decatur was easily the safest place in Macon County that afternoon.

And that’s not counting the scores of cops from three or four jurisdictions present in some capacity or another. There were at least six or eight cops in the money room where they took us, one at a time to receive our Grants, Jacksons and assorted other presidents.

To the LEOs’ credit, they didn’t eyeball me and my 2-year-old twin boys like we were planning an Oceans 11 heist. Even though like most in line, I was armed with (loaded) guns I wasn’t “selling” back.

Approximately twenty minutes after I left, at about 3:15, or after less than an hour of actively taking guns, the sponsors ran out of cash for good. At that point, they closed down the “buy back” aspect of the event and sent scores of people who were waiting in a block-and-a-half long line away disappointed.

The Decatur Herald and Review happily spun the narrative presented by the local police:

Sydnee Sturdivant was one of many looking to safely get rid of unwanted firearms.

Looking out for those in the city where she was born and raised, the 27-year-old Decatur resident saw Friday’s Decatur Community Day of Peace as a step in the right direction.

“I just think it’s important that we try to get the guns off the streets,” Sturdivant said. “I’m thankful they’re doing something like this to at least show the community they’re trying to do something.”
Decatur’s Community Day of Peace on Friday started at 2 p.m. and was scheduled to last until around 6 p.m.

Anyone could turn in an unloaded gun for cash, no questions asked, and the transaction wouldn’t require identification. Around 3:30 p.m. a line circling the Community Church of God’s parking lot began to dissipate as the $40,000 donated to the buyback event was nearly spent. 
Decatur Police Chief Jim Getz said the turnout was beyond what event organizers had expected. An estimated 230 semi-automatic pistols and shotguns and several rifles had been purchased, Getz said as the event drew to a close.

“As the event drew to a close?” Really?

In the days ahead of the event, the Decatur Police told people who called that they were going to have “plenty of cash” to buy back guns. In the end, they ran out of money before they filled even a quarter of the demand.

Hopefully they will do this again soon.

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