Cleveland patrol officer Dennis Batnik carefully tags a gun turned in by a citizen during a police buy back program conducted in 2010. On Saturday police bought back 298 handguns, which will be melted in a furnace at steel company ArcelorMittal. THomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer
As Cleveland cops exchanged gift cards and sports tickets for guns Saturday, they watched as a cadre of young men stood nearby and offered cash for weapons.
And it was all legal.
They not only had the audacity to feed off a police safety initiative, one of the few in the country, but showed up with copies of the Ohio Revised Code that condoned their conduct, police said.
"Isn't that something?," said Police Chief Michael McGrath who was at the gun buyback, outside Public Safety Central at East 21st Street and Payne Avenue. "Here we're trying to save lives and they're right in our face, trying to buy guns cheap so they can sell them at a profit."
As long as these self-described "private collectors" are not impeding traffic they are well within their rights, because of legislation promoted by the National Rifle Association.
"In our state an individual can sell a firearm to another without any background check or record of sale," explained Marty Flask, Cleveland safety director.
Like "Nope," who gave that one word answer when asked his name.
"Nope" was standing on the curb near the buyback holding up the lid of a cardboard box that sported the sign: CASH FOR FIREARMS.
Next to him on the street a line of orange cones funneled traffic to the tent where police offered $100 gift cards, tickets to a Cleveland Cavaliers and Lake Erie Monsters game and a chance to win $1,000.
It was 11:30 a.m. Nope showed up late. Five young men had left about five minutes ago after working the corner since 8:30 a.m.
Nope said he was a graduate student in computer science. He described himself as a gun collector who had been shooting since he was eight years old.
Lt. Brandon Kutz strolled up.
"Got a vendor's license?" he asked Nope.
"Nope," Nope said.
Kutz told him to get rid of the sign. "Cross the street away from here I'm not gonna bother you," Kutz said and walked back to the tent.
Nope tore the sign off the box lid. Crumpled it. But stayed put. An older guy in a black leather jacket decked out with a NRA seal stood beside him.
He said his name was "No" when asked. Said he and Nope are not related. "Believe in the same thing," he said.
He said it did not involve the illegal sale of handguns to felons.
"That's right," Nope agreed. However, he acknowledged that he might sell a firearm if he didn't like it.
A car slowed and stopped beside him. The driver powered down the passenger window. "This where they doing the gun-back?," he asked.
Nope leaned in. "Drive around the block I'll make you a cash offer," he said.
"Get away from there, "Kutz yelled, waving the driver forward, walking fast up the sidewalk.
Nope and No left the area.
"Two worlds colliding," Kutz said, referring to people who want to turn in guns and people who want make money re-selling them. "Can't have that."
There were seven shootings overnight Friday, one fatal.
Thanks to the buyback on Saturday police said there are 298 fewer handguns on the streets.
But they don't know how many were sold outside their tent.