PLANO, Texas – In the wake of last week's shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, Bob Wieland says more people are turning to him and handing over their guns.
“I’ve had a lot more phone calls and made a lot more runs in the past week,” said Wieland, who runs a small gun disposal service from his Plano home. “They’re saying, ‘oh my gosh… I would hate for somebody to come and take it and go on a shooting spree. The news is getting people’s attention.”
People call him to come to collect their unwanted firearms and entrust him to figure out what to do with them. He doesn’t charge to retrieve the weapons; instead he makes money either selling them to gun dealers or offering the parts to wholesalers. He says he offers them first to law enforcement and has even placed some in museums.
“They don’t feel it’s safe. They’re afraid it might be stolen. They don’t want an accident to happen,” he said. “We’ll come in and very gently remove it safely, confidentially.”
Wieland started the service a year ago, called Gatling Gun Removal, after realizing many of his friends and neighbors eventually faced a perplexing question: What do you do with a gun you no longer want? Many of his clients inherit them or simply become too old or frail to fire them.
“After a certain age, certain sports appeal to you –– maybe bingo –– more than tramping through the woods hunting,” he said.
Lee Smith, 64, handed her guns over to Wieland a year ago after her husband died. He left behind a pistol and several hunting rifles she had no use for.
“I’m not a hunter,” she said, and the pistol, in particular, worried her. “It was extremely unsafe, and I was very nervous about having it around.”
Instead she points to her two large dogs as the only protection she needs.
“I feel safer with a dog,” she said. “He’s much better protection than a gun because he lets me know what’s happening.”
Online gun forums are filled with questions of how to dispose of old firearms. The options vary. People can sell them or donate them.
Police departments, including Plano, will gladly send an officer to a home to pick up unused weapons. But the department only collects about ten guns a year, all of which are eventually destroyed.
“It’s a service we offer because a lot of people don’t know what to do with it,” Plano officer David Tilley said. “We don’t want the guns to get into the wrong hands.”
Neither does Wieland, who said he never sells the weapons to the general public and keeps them secured in a storage facility.
“People say find a good home for it,” he said. “Kind of like if they can't take care of a dog, they don’t want to take it to the pound and have it destroyed.”