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Group turns tables on Chicago gun turn-in, uses money for gun camp

Some guns turned last weekend Chicago part gun turn program.  Phocourtesy Guns Save Life group

Some of the guns turned in last weekend in Chicago, part of the gun turn in program. Photo courtesy, Guns Save Life group

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Updated: August 2, 2012 10:25AM

A Downstate pro-gun group says it turned payouts from Chicago’s firearm buyback program last weekend into a fund-raiser for a youth summer camp — a National Rifle Association shooting camp, that is.

The city collected 5,500 guns last Saturday in the annual buyback. The city gave out $100 MasterCard gift cards for each gun and $10 cards for BB guns and replicas.

Sixty of the guns and several BB guns were turned in by the Champaign-based Guns Save Life. In return, the group received $6,240 in gift cards, said John Boch, president of the group.

Guns Save Life is known for the pro-gun signs the group posts along Interstate 57 between Chicago and Champaign. It also publishes a monthly gun journal.

Most of the money will go toward buying ammunition for an NRA youth camp in Bloomington. The rest will pay for four bolt-action rifles that will be given away to campers.

“This was rusty, non-firing junk that we turned in,” Boch said. “We are redirecting funds from people who would work against the private ownership of firearms to help introduce the next generation to shooting safely and responsibly.”

Despite the no-questions-asked policy of the buyback, police officials asked Guns Save Life members where they got their guns, Boch said. Still, the police officials allowed them to turn in their guns, he said.

Todd Vandermyde, the NRA’s chief lobbyist in Illinois, said Guns Save Life turned the tables on Chicago.

“I think it’s a very good example of the resourcefulness of the pro-gun side to take the initiative to turn something used by anti-gunners into a positive,” he said.

Vandermyde said he’s heard that gun-shop owners also have used the annual gun turn-in for profit.

Vandermyde said he was told one suburban gun dealer imported junk rifles for less than $50 each and received $100 gift cards for each of them.

“It’s comical,” he said.

But the city doesn’t think so.

“We host the gun turn-in event on an annual basis to encourage residents to turn in their guns so we can take guns off the street and it’s unfortunate that this group is abusing a program intended to increase the safety of our communities,” said Melissa Stratton, a police spokeswoman.

Boch said he doesn’t think the crooks who have pushed the number of Chicago’s homicides to 38 percent over last year’s total are the ones handing over their weapons.

“If you were a criminal, you would be a fool to go there with the police presence,” he said. “What criminal would turn in the tool he uses to do his trade for a $100 card?”

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