Bundled against the cold, people of all ages from all walks of life filed into the Unitarian Church of Evanston yesterday morning carrying shoe boxes, leather carrying cases, plastic tackle boxes, Dick's Sporting Goods Boxes, and Maggiano's "Let's Do Lunch" paper bags.
But instead of a new pair of shoes, fishing paraphernalia, or restaurant left-overs, visitors to the Evanston church were bringing in their weapons to exchange for $100 per gun in spending money.
Within two and a half hours, the Evanston Police Department had collected and processed 59 unloaded, functional guns--39 handguns and 20 long guns--which, after a mandatory two-year storage period, will be shipped to a facility that will shred them and recycle the metal.
"It's not a matter of turning in a gun to get money and buy another one," said EPD Commander Ryan Glew. "It's, I have this gun. I'm not using it. I don't want it. And this is a good opportunity to bring it in and take it out of circulation."
Fifty-nine guns ... each with their own story.
Evanston resident Susan Rex brought her father's hunting rifle, which she'd inherited and kept in her basement for years.
"I just wanted to make sure it ended its life in the right way," she said.
Eric, a real estate agent from Glenview brought in six pistols and two rifles and in turn received $800.
"My father had to move out of his house relatively recently and he had a bunch of guns that ended up in my garage. I figured that was a danger. I don't want to get robbed and then have those guns do some bad stuff, so I just wanted to get them out of my possession. I feel like they're going to be in a good spot rather than potentially be on the street."
Darius Major, a young man with two kids, brought in a shotgun he'd purchased. He'd heard about the gun buyback from Evanston outreach worker Nathan Martell Norman.
"I've had my FOID card for about three years and decided to have a gun in the house," Darius said, "But I don't feel like I need it any more."
He said that the birth of his son last December led him to this decision.
"I already had a child, I have a daughter, but something about having a son was different," he said. "I just didn't want him to see me with a gun or see it yet. I could maybe familiarize him with guns later, but not now."
Traci Armer Kurtzer, an Evanston physician and member of Moms Demand Action Evanston (MDA), organized the gun buyback, along with MDA member Carolyn Dykes Murray.
"This is a community event for conscientious gun owners who want to get rid of their guns so that they don't have to worry about them going out into circulation or stolen and used for illegal purposes," she said.
Evanston's first gun buyback was organized by Carolyn Murray in 2012. She was working on it with her son Justin Murray, who was 19, when he was shot and killed just two weeks before the event. Murray and her son researched what would make community members comfortable turning in their guns.
"You could always turn in your guns at the police department," she said, "but they'd get maybe two a year. A church represents a sanctuary and that made people feel safer."
Henry from Morton Grove brought in several guns. "I have no use for them and just wanted to get them out of the house," he said.
An ER doctor from Evanston who didn't want his name used, brought in a gun and ammunition. He'd received the gun as a gift in the 80s and used it a few times back then for trap shooting.
"But since I had kids, I've never used it," he said. "I have teenagers now. They don't know I have it. I don't want it or the ammunition around, and it's not something I want out in the world.
Recent shootings, he said, made him think about get rid of the gun.
"I kept it disassembled and put away in a box. I hadn't thought about it for years," he said. "But with what the NRA has been saying, taking guns out of the world is a good thing."
Mone Pensod and her husband came from Chicago to turn in his gun, which he'd had for 40 years. Mone said her husband used to use guns for target practice and had turned in two or three in the past.
But, she said, they only recently discovered this one under their bed.
Eunice Davis, a financial broker, came in from Rogers Park.
"I've had guns in my car for years," he said. "But there are people breaking into cars in my neighborhood, and I didn't want this gun to end up somewhere bad. I have a license to carry a gun, but when I moved here from the south side, I really didn't need to any more, so I just had it in a safe in the trunk. I didn't want to have someone break into the car and
Jeff Cullen turned in guns his siblings inherited from their grandpa.
"We don't have any use for and we just wanted to get them off the street so they don't get into the wrong hands," he said.
Evanston resident Ed Schaeffer said that among the rifles and shotguns his deceased father-in-law had, they found a handgun.
"We really wanted to get the handgun out of commission," he told me.
Tom, from Evanston, turned in two 22 rifles that he'd had for years.
"One of them was there when we moved into our house 45 years ago. The other was my wife's grandfather's," he said. "We were never gonna use it, so we wanted to get it off the street."
Bill, who lives across the road from the church, brought in his pistol, which he'd had since high school in 1954.
"My father was a deputy sheriff in a small rural town in Missouri and he had guns," Bill said. "He was a deer hunter. When I was in high school, he gave me this 22 pistol. He thought it was sleek and modern. I shot it once at the dump yard--shot some bottles with it, and that was it. It's been in this bag ever since. I've had it all these years. For $100, why not? Someone on the internet offered me $300 for it because it's a collector's item, but I didn't trust him or know where it would end up."
Traci Kurtzer was pleased with the results of yesterday's gun buyback.
"If even just one life is saved by having pulled in these 59 guns today from people's homes, or keeping from them being stolen or sold and used in crime, then it was well worth the $5,900 spent today and all the volunteers’ time," she said.
"Thanks to EPD for their willingness to hold this event. Thanks to the Unitarian Church of Evanston for opening their doors so graciously. Thanks to Moms Demand Action and Dear Evanston volunteers," she said.
"Most of all, a big thanks to all those who brought in their guns, shared some coffee and donuts with us, and spoke about why they were glad we held this event."
The $100 cash award for each gun that's turned in is provided by the Evanston Community Foundation's gun buyback fund. You can contribute to the fund here.