Hillsborough gun buy-back nets two rocket launchers and hundreds of other firearms
Update from HSCO, 7 Feb: "the final number of firearms collected at Operation Gun Swap was 2,808"
On Saturday the Hillsborough County Sheriffâs Office conducted a very popular gun buy-back program at five locations.
They collected hundreds of rifles and handguns and even a couple of rocket launchers and a flute that had been converted into a firearm.
WMNF spoke with Sheriffâs Captain Chad Chronister at their operations center in Ybor City midway through the event, while the line of cars with people who want to turn in their guns stretched for blocks.
"From what I can tell, so far, through our vouchers and our money that we've already doled out we're at at least a minimum of 1500 firearms that we've recovered from everyone who's wanted to get rid of a firearm so far today."
They're mostly rifles and handguns?
"It's been a crossbreed of firearms. It's been anything from a revolver to a more modern semi-automatic handgun, rifle, a semi-automatic shotgun, shotgun and then some of the more unique firearm that we received, 2 rocket launchers from different parts of the south and mid-county as well as a flute that was converted into a firing device."
I wanted to talk specifically about the rocket launcher. We see one here and how in the world could that get out on the streets?
"That's a good question. I can't really expound upon that too much. My personal opinion is somebody I believe was in the military maybe brought it back with them into the states and had it that way."
What will happen to these weapons?
"All the weapons will be destroyed. The rocket launchers, though, we'll ask the US military for more information about it and possibly return it to them if that's who it belongs to. We will certainly call the US Army. Both of them are Army issued and let the Army, make them aware that we've recovered 2 of their rocket launchers. Let them conduct their investigation, it'll be destroyed after that."
What can you say about the response that you've gotten today?
"The response has been overwhelming. Our sheriff, Sheriff Gee is ecstatic. His goal was to make sure there was an avenue for anyone in the Tampa Bay area to get rid any unwanted firearm and we've achieved that today. As you can see it's been overwhelming. We were supposed to open at 9 o'clock this morning, we opened a little after 8 because we saw the lines building and it's been continually a long line of at least a minimum of 100 to 150 vehicles at every location."
What do you make of the thought that some people were trying to buy the firearms outside and most people opted to take less money and turn them in to be destroyed?
"Yeah, I was asked that before about some competition with some private gun brokers surrounding some of the different locations. I don't think that they've been extremely successful at all. These people had plenty or ample opportunity to get rid of their firearms or sell them for more money, get their true value maybe for some of the nicer firearms but they want the firearms destroyed. These are firearms that they don't want to end up in a burglar's hand, a target of a burglar. They want to ensure it's not used in some type of accidental shooting. These people would rather wait an hour, an hour and a half in line to make sure the guns are destroyed and properly disposed of."
Finally my last question was about how much money was distributed or will be distributed and where did that money come from?
"We're probably looking at, we're on pace for 1500 firearms, if it continues it'll be around $200,000 and that comes from our seizure and corporate asset funds our recovered asset funds. No taxpayers money were used in this effort."
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