Springfield expected may 150 guns would be turned in at its $100-per-firearm buyback on Saturday. But it got more than 500, and now must come up with the extra $35,000.
Springfield officials were caught off guard Saturday when residents turned out in droves — some waiting in line an hour and a half or more — to exchange unwanted firearms for $100 debit cards.
Mayor Tim Davlin said that because he had figured police would collect 100 guns at most in the buyback program, authorities had only 150 debit cards on hand.
But police collected 526 guns from people who either no longer wanted them around the house or wanted debit cards. Because of the large turnout, dozens of people walked away with rain checks and a guarantee that they could collect their debit cards later.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in my wildest dreams I never thought we would have this many guns come in,” Davlin said Monday morning.
“Most importantly, I think what we did was we took a lot of guns off the streets of the city of Springfield. This is just unbelievable. Some of these could have fallen into the wrong hands.”
About 55 percent of the collected firearms were rifles or shotguns; 45 percent were handguns. Four of guns were discovered to be antiques and will be donated to museums.
Serial numbers will be checked on all the guns. Any that had been reported stolen will be returned to the rightful owners, if possible. Any believed to have been used to commit crimes will be booked into evidence.
City police will keep any gun that is usable for training.
Everything else, regardless of its value, will be taken to a foundry in Peoria and destroyed.
Police collected all sorts of guns, ranging from handguns and military weapons to sawed-off shotguns. At least two had bayonets on them. Some were rusty, and others were in their original boxes.
One man turned in his father’s old gun collection, which had 36 weapons. He received five debit cards on the spot and a rain check for the rest. Another person turned in a Winchester Model 1897 12-gauge shotgun, which police estimate is worth about $800.
“As you can see, almost all of them look like they’re in working condition. Some of them are pretty beat up and have been lying around the house. This is what a burglar is going to go in and look for in a home and use to commit some sort of a crime,” Davlin said.
Illinois National Bank made cash contribution to the program and waived the fees associated with buying the debit cards. The city sought donations from additional businesses late last week and now is on the hook to pay for the remainder of the promised debit cards.
Davlin said he will submit an ordinance for emergency passage at the next city council meeting under which the cards will be paid for through a combination of drug forfeiture money and community development block grant funds.
The Springfield Police Department will distribute debit cards at the loading dock behind Municipal Center East, 800 E. Monroe St., on Nov. 12, which is when Veterans Day will be officially observed. People given receipts for their guns Saturday must have those receipts to receive their debit cards.
People with receipts marked with numbers under 400 are asked to arrive between 9 and 11 a.m. Those with receipts marked 400 and above should arrive between 1 and 3 p.m.
An alternate date to pick up debit cards is Tuesday, Nov. 13, between 10 a.m. and noon at the same location. People who can’t make either date will have to make arrangements with the police department.
Vehicles should approach the building east on Monroe, turn right onto Ninth Street, then turn right into the alley behind the municipal center.
No new weapons will be collected at that time.
Davlin said he is unsure if the city will sponsor another buyback program in the future.