ROMEOVILLE – Some of the guns had spent years in the backs of closets, or they’d been tossed in old desks or gathering dust in the attic. One rifle had been hung over a mantle. Some of the firearms were junk held together with tape, while others were freshly oiled and ready to take to the range.
Whatever the condition, Romeoville police handed over $60 cash for each one brought in Saturday morning.
“Police departments do this nationwide to keep unwanted guns off the streets,” Sgt. Chris Burne said. “When criminals break into houses, [it’s common] to come across guns in the closet people forgot about that will end up being used on the street.”
Police bought 70 firearms in the first two hours of Saturday’s event – about the same amount of rifles and shotguns as handguns, Officer Gary Augustine said.
Residents were met at the station entrance by an officer who checked to make sure the barrels were clear of live rounds. Police wrote down a weapon’s description and serial number before placing it in a plastic tub to be locked in the property room. Any serial number that comes up in the law enforcement database will be sent to the state crime lab or investigating agency.
The turn-in was “no questions asked,” but many people told police how they’d gotten the guns. Burne said a large majority come from deceased owners whose relatives want to get rid of them.
“This is a gun my dad had for years. What am I going to do with it? I hate guns,” Ron Stark told Burne and Augustine. “Sixty bucks is good in my pocket.”
The guns not sent for investigation will be melted down. Several tiny derringers, a revolver with a trigger lock and a sidearm that could’ve dated from frontier days, sat tagged on a desk in the property room.
“We get some that are 50 years old and we get some that are two years old. A lot of World War II weapons,” Burne said. “We’re cops. We like guns and some of these are really nice [collector’s items], but they all get melted down.”
Police paid for up to three guns from each person, but would accept more. They also took ammunition and BB guns that were brought in.
One woman said it was “an awkward feeling” to walk up to a police station with an armful of rifles.
Saturday was the third time in the past 10 years Romeoville police had a gun buyback. Burne said the department would like to make it an annual event.