GRAND CROSSING — A gun rights group plans to use its profits from a Chicago Police “gun buyback” event to send children aged 10 to 16 to a shooting camp hosted by the National Rifle Association.
The group, Guns Save Life, brought home “thousands of dollars to use” for the camp after trading in guns at the June 2 event at New Life Covenant Church in Grand Crossing, said John Boch, the executive director of Guns Save Life. Boch, of Downstate Bloomington, was able to trade in two guns for $100 each, and he said other group members who went to the buyback were also able to trade in guns for money.
Gun turn-ins are joint efforts between the Chicago Police Department and community organizations and are intended to be used to “get guns off the street,” said Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago Police spokesman. Community members can bring in guns and give them to the police in exchange for $100.
The guns Boch turns in at the events are “mostly scrap,” he said: They’re usually old and unusable, but even the newer ones that the Guns Save Life members turned in were all “broken down, all non-firing, missing parts and pieces.” Some appeared to have been through fires or rusted beyond use, he said.
“They had no effective value in the grand scheme of things,” Boch said. “We went up there to trade our unwanted firearms for perfectly good cash to send young people to a National Rifle Association summer gun camp to teach them about the safe and effective use of firearms.”
The Police Department can accept all guns during the event, Guglielmi said. They collected more than 420 guns during the June 2 trade-in.
Glen Brooks Jr., a Chicago Police director who organized the June 2 trade-in, said they still accept every gun someone has if a person comes to the events — but they no longer offer $100 cards for each gun to people who bring “a lot of weapons where they no longer had monetary value.”
Instead, they’ll offer the person a limited number of $100 cards, Brooks said. Before the change, people came in with “literally crates full of guns” and it depleted the stock of cards at the events, he said.
“The intent of this program is to allow individuals to get rid of those unused, unwanted guns which may be in the house,” Brooks said. “Our intent is for the safety of the community moreso than a business transaction.”
That’s because gun dealers and collectors were coming to the trade-ins with “a lot of weapons where they no longer had monetary value,”
“I will let the trauma and heartwrenching stories from the families of gun violence victims stand as our comments as to why we need to do more with illegal access to guns in Chicago and elsewhere,” Guglielmi said.
Boch said his organization’s members have gone to buybacks in and around the city for years. He estimates they’ve made about $12,000 from various buybacks over the years, and he dismissed the trade-in events as “symbolism over substance.”
“These aren’t guns that gangbangers are out shooting with, that criminals are out using to rob people with,” Boch said. “These are just junk guns, or unwanted guns, as they say, and there’s no real purpose to this.”
Almost all of that money the group gets from the buybacks goes to buying ammunition for the children’s gun camp, buying guns to give away to kids’ parents at the camp or for scholarships to send kids to the camp, Boch said.
The camp, called the Youth Shooting Camp, is “designed to give the student advanced shooting skills that emphasize safety,” according to its website. The site says the Bloomington camp is recommended for children 10 to 16 years old. Boch said kids who attend learn how to shoot “everything from shotguns to rifles to handguns to muzzleloaders.”
“It’s a great time for everybody involved, and the kids go away being experts in safety,” Boch said.
Though Boch was able to give away two guns at the June 2 event, he said he attempted to turn in 11. He said a police sergeant stopped him and told him the event was “not for outsiders” and the department would only accept two guns from him.
After exchanging the two guns — and keeping the other nine — Boch tried to take a photo of guns on a table as he walked out, he said. That’s when the sergeant stopped him and told Boch not to come back to future events, Boch said.
Chicago Police did not immediately comment on what happened at the event.