Managing Editor of Special Editions Ken Iglehart attended the Klein's ShopRite gun buy-back in Northeast Baltimore. Here's what he observed:
People streaming to the gun buy-back in the city’s Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood Saturday probably figured they’d be in and out in a few minutes with their $100 Klein’s ShopRite grocery gift card in hand. So many weren’t really dressed for a long wait.
But as the line into St. Paul Baptist Church grew to a block long, it was clear this would take a while—people waited over an hour to get up to the table in the (thankfully warm) church staffed by Northeastern District police officers.
“I didn’t dress for this,” said one 60-something woman, as she stomped her feet to keep warm, clutching a box with her deceased husband’s silver snub-nosed revolver in it (she brought the ammo, too). “But I don’t need this thing—I need to get rid of it.”
And, despite the cold and the long wait, no one left the line. In fact, if ShopRite—which worked with Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the Baltimore Police Department to arrange the event—was going to plan a buy-back, it couldn’t have picked a more powerful moment to do so than the day after the massacre of small children at the Sandy Hook Elementary school by a loner with stolen weapons. And as the line—it seemed to be predominantly middle-aged and older—and the media began to descend on the proceedings, it was clearly thoughts of that horrific massacre that kept the shivering line from giving up.
“I’ve been to a few of the gun buy-backs that [Baltimore attorney] Warren Brown has held over the years,” said one elderly man dragging a hunting rifle along in the line, barrel safely toward the ground. “But I’ve never seen a crowd like this.”
Granted, the event was not well organized: Directions to the buy-back in pre-event promotions were vague, and though it was supposed to be a “no questions asked," police slowed the progress of the line by insisting to record the serial "number of each weapon (something they easily could have done at the end of the day). And some of the weapons were ancient and did not carry legible numbers, delaying the process further while a police academy cadet struggled to find the weapon’s I.D.
The range of weapons was wide: Women were generally turning in revolvers and semi-automatic handguns, while the men more often toted shotguns and rifles—some brought two or three weapons. Among the items headed for the smelter were a couple of 1800s percussion-cap weapons, including one corroded hunk of metal that looked like it had just been dug up at Gettysburg. And then there was at least one non-firearm, too: (“Sorry, ma’am,” one SWAT team officer said while checking for loaded weapons at the door. “I’m not sure ShopRite will give you a gift card for a BB gun”).
In the end, though, the Connecticut tragedy—talk of which went on all along the line—meant no defectors from the shivering calling: Over 460 guns were turned in by the end of the event.
Said one elderly woman in the line, “I just want to get this out of the house. And you can’t throw these things in the trash—This could be stolen. And look what can happen. Just horrific.”
“Unfortunately,” added a man standing behind her with a hunting rifle, “There’s probably no criminals or maniacs in this line.” -Ken Iglehart