When the city of Seattle hosted its first gun buyback in over two decades last year, the police department exchanged $80,000 for used firearms. This year, however, department staff will find competition from gun buyers and collectors also in attendance.
Gun buybacks are events hosted by police departments, local governments, and other organizations that encourage gun owners to relinquish their unused, abandoned, or otherwise unwanted firearms. In return, they are offered cash, gift cards, and other incentives. Some support these events in the hopes that more guns taken off the streets will mean less crime, but others criticize buybacks as a waste of money that will do little to reduce violence. Often organizers will pay only a fraction of what the firearm being brought in is worth, something that has drawn in a crowd that organizers were not aiming for. Gun collectors can now be commonly seen at buybacks, and they are making brisk trades by offering better prices than buyback staffers.
One such scene was the recent buyback held in Atlanta, Georgia. Led by the efforts of the NAACP, the buyback handed out $44,000 in return for handguns, rifles, and shotguns. Along with lines of those looking to trade in a firearm for cash vouchers were also gun collectors such as David Daum, who was there for a much different purpose.
“I personally just collect, restore. My personal preference is antique firearms,” Daum told WSB-TV. “Being a collector, especially trying to keep some of the historical firearms from being melted down and destroyed.”
Enthusiasts like Daum bartered with those in line for rare or valuable guns. With the buyback offering as little as $10 for a rifle, collectors had little competition.
Such was the case for Schuyler Taylor, who recently attended a buyback in Seattle. The young enthusiast says he attends these events to keep antique firearms from being destroyed.
“My goal was to go down there and see if I could find something that I felt should be preserved instead of it going into a melting pot,” Taylor told Fox News. “Many of the people who come to the buybacks to trade in are often naïve. They don’t realize that they have an heirloom.”
Rare guns ending up at a buyback are hardly unheard of. Last month the annual Los Angeles buyback program netted over 817 firearms, including a German-made StG 44 assault rifle made towards the end of the Second World War.
Not everyone is pleased by the presence of gun collectors at buybacks, however. Event organizers and police departments often frown on these private transactions, saying that the collectors cause a ruckus and distraction.
Some firearm collectors’ organizations also hold a dim opinion of those who angle for good deals at a buyback.
“They are usually called ‘door hawks,’ or ‘parking lot hawks,’ and they are usually at gun shows, too,” said National Automatic Pistol Collectors Association president Tom Knox. “They are looked down upon in the collector community.”
Knox claims this is because these collectors often underpay naïve gun owners and then resell the firearms for a much higher price. Regardless, many still support private purchases at buybacks because it reminds gun owners that diligent research should always go into selling what could be a family heirloom.
Image courtesy Seattle Police Department