photo courtesy

Recently, the Stone Creek Church in Urbana, IL coordinated a gun “exchange” program in Champaign-Urbana, IL with the help of the Urbana Police Department.

The event was held Saturday, August 4th, 2012 from 10-2.

Members of Stone Creek Church, along with church leadership began discussion of holding a gun buyback early this year, under the mistaken belief that they could reach out to young criminals in Champaign-Urbana to get them to surrender their illegally held guns to save lives.

The effort was given a boost among the well-intentioned, but misguided, folks when there were a couple of shootings in Urbana late this spring, including one committed by a 14-year-old future rocket surgeon who shot his toddler nephew in the face as part of a “gun safety demonstration”.

Or that’s the story he offered up to police.

Turns out he stole the pistol from another friend or relative of the family from Rantoul and had been keeping it hidden in his bedroom where the toddler found it.

Back to the church:  They launched an ad campaign and got the local newspaper to write a glowing pre-event article.  They claimed they would offer residents of Champaign County to “exchange” guns for pre-paid $50 “gift” cards, no questions asked.

Urbana Police Chief Pat Connelly, left, and the Stone Creek youth pastor Tony Austria.  Photo courtesy News-Gazette.

Originally billed as a “no questions asked” event, the final product was anything but.

The first three people to show up before the event opened were asked by the pastor of the Stone Creek Church if they were friends of John Boch, the president of Guns Save Life, a regional gun rights organization that just weeks before sold five dozen guns and some blank guns and starter pistols to the do-gooders by Lake Michigan for $6240. Guns Save Life later used much of that money to buy ammunition to teach young people about the fun and excitement of shooting sports and gun safety.

One of the first people at the Champaign gun exchange reported rudeness and bizarre behavior from the Stone Creek church’s youth pastor, Tony Austria.

Also, an NRA member was turned away merely for being the member of a gun organization.  That NRA member, Leonard Wilson, who lives mere blocks from the church, had donated to Stone Creek Church projects twice in the past, but has since told us that they won’t be getting one red cent from him again.

At the event, the local newspaper claimed that over 100 guns were collected and Austria claimed the event a big success based upon this:

About halfway through Saturday’s event, Austria had already declared it a success. He had just taken a call from a man who was encouraging his friends to turn in their guns, but they were too scared to bring them to police themselves.”We know that they’re going to be used for illegal purposes,” Austria said.

The local news radio station, WDWS, tweeted that 104 guns were collected, based upon an UrbanaPD tweet.

Trust but verify.

Guns Save Life sent off a Freedom of Information Act request to the Urbana Police Department asking for a list of guns received at the gun turn-in.

According to the Urbana Police FOIA response, only 31 guns were logged in.


So, where are those other guns?

We’re making some phone calls and will be mailing letters to the other agencies that participated.

33 guns would be more in line with our reports that only five or six guns were taken in during the first half-hour of the event.

UPDATE:  August 28.  3:26pm.  In talking with the Champaign Co. Sheriff’s Office, it would seem that the guns were divided up among participating agencies.

FOIA bombs have been released.