BRADENTON — A winding line of gun-toting residents stood outside the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday afternoon for a shot to sell their guns.
“Honestly, I think the wrong people are standing in line,” said Leo Blackman, 34, of Bradenton, as he waited with six guns and a box of ammo. “Everyone standing here is calm and orderly. We’re not the ones they are worried about having a gun.”
He had been waiting for nearly two hours.
The sheriff’s office had lines form after running out of money three times during the buy back, which lasted from 4 to 7 p.m.
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“We had no idea it would be this much,” said Steube, who was on the phone trying to find more money.
The buy back went through $10,000 within the half first hour, according to officials.
The sheriff’s office is using money directly from the budget to pay gun owners for their working firearms — $100 for rifles and $50 for handguns, Steube said.
A majority of the guns turned in were rifles.
“I don’t feel safe selling to anyone. I know what’s going to happen to them by bringing them here,” said Blackman, standing with five rifles propped against him. “The department is not going to let anybody have them.”
The last gun buy back the sheriff’s office held was in May and lasted about five hours with a total of 77 firearms turned in, Steube said.
On Saturday, an estimated 400 guns were turned in to the sheriff’s office, said Lt. Rick Wells on Saturday night as deputies continued to sort through guns, searching for serial numbers. The guns were bought no questions asked.
With about an hour and half still to go, the sheriff’s office had a long line of gunmen after they had already gone through nearly $20,000. Deputies attempted to cash a sheriff’s office check at Amscot with no success.
For the last hour, deputies issued vouchers for about $15,000 in guns to owners to redeem Monday.
Some criminal studies have suggested gun buy backs are ineffective in reducing gun violence.
“I’ve never believed in this, but the public outcry was, ‘We want one,’” Steube said in light of the recent homicides involving teens and guns.
He could only think of one scenario where a gun may be kept off the streets from a buy back.
“These people who have three firearms for 40 years and decided to bring them in,” he said.
“There are three guns that won’t be stolen in a burglary. ... A majority of the guns here are not the guns of choice on the street.”
The sheriff’s office had four sawed off shot guns turned in.
All of the guns were entered into a system to check to see if they were stolen.
Several people standing in line said they brought their guns in because they saw it as a way to get the best bang for their buck.
“The economy I would say is the No. 1 thing,” said Kelly Merritt, 45, of Bradenton. standing with a 20-gauge shotgun. “The money — and in case some one breaks into my house, they can’t do any harm with it.”
Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.