Montana Center Destroys Unwanted Guns—Trying To Make A Dent In 300 Million

Most of the center’s clients have been middle-aged people who inherit guns and don’t want them ending up in the wrong hands.


Published:

Bruce Seiler, who founded the National Center for Unwanted Weapons, destroys a Ruger at his center in Montana.

© Gabriel Furshong

Fifteen years ago, Mars Scott locked away a Ruger .357 revolver in a fireproof safe in his Missoula, Montana, law offices and tried not to think about where it had been. Months earlier, a young man had used the long black pistol to shoot its owner, another man in his 20s, who was also his friend. The victim’s grieving mother had no use for the weapon and turned to Scott for help disposing of it.

A Navy reservist and former NCIS agent, Scott became the reluctant owner of a crime gun, until he learned about a new organization, the National Center for Unwanted Firearms, where he sent it to be destroyed: “One less gun is a step in the right direction,” he says.

Based in Helena, Montana, NCUF was born of necessity to meet a growing demand for gun disposal in a country with nearly as many guns as people, a firearms industry that produces millions of low-priced weapons every year, and weekly school shootings.

In many parts of the country, gun owners can donate weapons to local police to be destroyed, discard them through buyback programs, or even turn them into garden tools. Bruce Seiler, who worked for the U.S. Secret Service from 1987 to 1992, founded NCUF to provide them another option, while addressing gun violence in the process.

He was more than happy to cut Scott’s Ruger in half: “There’s more than 300 million firearms in America,” he says. “There has to be more guns destroyed.”

As a Secret Service employee charged with assessing threats on the president’s life, Seiler was always mindful of how easily criminals could acquire guns. But as an armorer and ordnance specialist, he is also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. “I’m anti-gun violence and gun crime,” he says. “That’s my political affiliation.”

In 2006, he began developing the idea for an organization that could facilitate the safe transfer and disposal of firearms. Ten years later, he and his business partner, Chip Ayers, a former member of the Secret Service’s Counter Sniper Team, launched a website for NCUF, advertising options for people with unwanted guns: transfer them to a federally licensed dealer, repurpose them for use by law enforcement, preserve those with historical value, or simply destroy them.

The organization secured non-profit status a year ago and now operates from a large workshop on Seiler’s property. The center has helped clients transfer hundreds of guns to dealers with Federal Firearms Licenses (FFL), who are required to run background checks before any sale. Nationwide, a fifth of gun sales occur without background checks, and that number troubles Seiler.

“We’re not trying to take guns away or outlaw guns,” Seiler says, “but we can try to keep them from showing up in garage sales and newspaper ads.”

Most of the center’s clients have been middle-aged people who inherit unwanted guns and don’t want them ending up in the wrong hands.

The weapons his organization has acquired have either been turned over to law enforcement for repurposing, retained for their historical value or destroyed.

The first gun they destroyed was a cheap revolver, made of pot metal, which Seiler said was “more dangerous to the user than the intended victim.”

The center had acquired it and 11 other firearms from Robert Cogan, a retired college professor from Edinboro, Pennsylvania. “I didn’t want them anymore,” Cogan says emphatically, “and I didn’t want to sell them where they could be circulated again in the local market and could be misused.”

Seiler transferred 11 of the guns to an FFL dealer. He then broke the small revolver into three pieces, which he plans to mount in a shadow box in his home. Modern versions of cheap handguns like this one are “out there like tennis rackets and skis,” he says. “I’ll probably be destroying more.”

The number of guns in the U.S. is growing exponentially. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, firearms manufacturing increased 43 percent in the past five years. In 2015, the U.S. produced more than 9.3 million firearms and recent data show that gun exports are slowing while imports are picking up. In 2016, a record year for gun sales, more than 5.1 million firearms were imported, a 30 percent increase from 2015.

This explosion in production contributes to the problem of unwanted firearms, especially for law enforcement. “Across the country, police property rooms are bulging at the seams with firearms,” says Ray Reynolds, a retired police commander and founder of Gunbusters, a St. Louis-based company that also destroys guns. Since 2014, his business has expanded to four locations, and he’s destroyed more than 20,000 firearms for agencies across the country.

This surplus of firearms negatively affects both rural and urban agencies, but options for safe gun disposal vary significantly by state and jurisdiction.

The Seattle Police Department, for example, doesn’t re-sell guns. Instead, they melt them down at a local foundry. The number they’ve destroyed has increased from about 200 in 2014 to 1400 in 2016.

But that’s not an option for all law enforcement agencies. Police are restricted from destroying guns in 12 states, including Montana, which has the sixth highest rate of gun ownership in the country. “Taking firearms for us is a no-go because we’re stuck with them,” says Steve Hagen, Assistant Police Chief in Helena. “We can sell them, but there are a lot of issues with that as well.”

One of those issues is the possibility of a gun being seized as evidence in a criminal investigation after it had been sold by a law enforcement agency, a possibility that became reality in Washington state more than a dozen times since 2010, according to The Associated Press.

Looking ahead, Seiler hopes NCUF can help prevent such tragic outcomes, and he thinks an increase in gun destruction is an “inevitable” part of that work.

This certainly was on his mind recently as he prepared to destroy that Ruger .357 revolver that had taken a young man’s life. He removed its cylinder, placed the gun on a band saw in his shop and slid the crime weapon width-wise into a whirring blade. The gun, he remarked, could easily be resold for $500, but within minutes, it lay in pieces—worthless and harmless.

The irony was not lost on Seiler that at that very moment, across the country, gun manufacturers were busy producing new weapons that would replace it. “As we’re talking about it, they’re cranking them out,” he says. “There needs to be a junkyard for guns in America.”

Gabriel Furshong wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Gabriel writes from Helena, Mont. His writing has appeared in High Country News, In These Times, Dialogist, Natural Bridge and elsewhere.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
Two Simple Laws Could Solve America’s Epidemic Of Violence
Are Dead Children The Price Of Freedom?

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

September 22, 2018

A lazy void of course Moon period impacts early risers. By mid-morning the Moon enters sensitive Pisces. Midday lunar alignments with Uranus and Saturn gracefully boost ambitions. A sense of possibility can be entrancing. Creative individuals find their…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2018

With modern day mystic Rhys Thomas INSIGHT has one simple goal.  Give you a spiritual experience (an insight) that is so real that it changes your life forever. Insight is a totally...

Where:
DoubleTree Hotel
Milford, MA


Website »

More information

Kinetic Chain Release, moxibustion and past life regression at Leapin Lizards. Every third Sunday: 9/16/18 10/21/18 11/18/18 12/16/18 For information, call Leapin Lizards at (207)...

Where:
Leapin Lizards
449 Forest Ave
Portland, ME
View map »


Telephone: (207) 221-2363
Website »

More information

If you seek peace and happiness outside of yourself, this is a call to return home. What you think, you become, and what you seek is already within. This is a unique blend of practices for mind,...

Cost: $22 per class

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: SOHUM
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Break emotional patterns that keep you stuck in the pain of addictive habits. Heal mental trauma through physical practices involving movement, breath, and meditation.

Where:
Yoga at the Ashram
368 Village Street
Millis, MA  02054
View map »


Sponsor: Yoga At The Ashram
Telephone: (508) 376-4525
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

What better way to end a busy day than with a little bliss. We'll support your body right where it is today and help you to open your spine to find more movement and flexibility. Begin and end...

Cost: $18

Where:
Body Love Wellness Center
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation) is an innovative holistic curriculum addressing the current health crisis and epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Grades 3-5 Instructor: Peyton Pugmire Spend September at Sorcery School! Students will be “sorted” into houses of their own design, create personalized wands, pen and cast rhyming...

Cost: $145

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Sponsor: Creative Spirit
Telephone: 781-797-0389
Website »

More information

Daily practice for peace, healing, Christ mindedness, meditation, awakening.

Where:
Milton, MA


Telephone: 617-696-5685
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

September 21 - 23 Join us for our next three-day, two-night retreat. This retreat is for those 18+ who would like support while going through change. Surrounded by nature and like-minded new...

Cost: $625

Where:
Angels’ Rest Retreat Center
63 North County Road
Leyden, MA  01337
View map »


Sponsor: Kundalini Yoga Brattleboro
Telephone: 617-763-7014
Contact Name: Cindy Siri Bani Ludlam
Website »

More information

Join Medium Bonnie Page for a special evening of dinner and messages from your loved ones at the Old Mill Restaurant in Westminster, MA. Doors open at 5:30 pm, with buffet dinner from 6:00 -...

Where:
Old Mill
Route 2A
Westminster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us preparing for the upcoming autumnal equinox over the weekend ahead! We will be doing a special meditation celebration of the equinox. We will also be integrating our Tibetan and crystal...

Cost: $25 at the door; $20 pre-register

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles RD Unit #A
Our Yellow Banner is in Window
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Come experience the presence of love. Witness the healing power of mediumship as world renown top UK spiritual medium Dominic Boag from Scotland joins New England’s own spiritual medium...

Cost: $44

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Portsmouth
100 High Street
Portsmouth, NH  03801
View map »


Sponsor: Raylene Sousa Medium LLC
Telephone: 207-956-0220
Contact Name: Raylene Sousa
Website »

More information

September 21 - 23 and October 5 - 7, 2018 Integrate authentic relationships into your life and your teaching. Explore and understand how we form, sustain and honor relationships. Our success as...

Where:
Yoga at the Ashram
368 Village St
Millis, MA  02054
View map »


Telephone: (508) 376-4525
Website »

More information

Bee Kind Music Class with Carrie Rowan inspires a love to music in little ones. 10am on Fridays for 8 weeks at Playtown Express in Southboro. To register call (508) 480-0022 or...

Where:
Playtown Express
150 Cordaville Road
Southboro, MA
View map »


Telephone: 508-273-2610
Website »

More information

“For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.” — Sanskrit Proverb Join us for an evening of deep exploration and transformation using the healing...

Cost: $40 (limited hardship rates available)

Where:
Museum of Modern Renaissance
115 College Avenue
Somerville, MA  02144
View map »


Sponsor: HolotropicMA
Contact Name: Allen Howell M.Ed. LMHC
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

An integrative workshop in nutrition and hypnosis to help you transition to healthy eating habits. The workshop consists of 1 hour of nutritional guidance to a healthy eating plan followed by 1...

Cost: $199

Where:
NBA Business Center
145 Washington Street
Mind Balance Hypnosis
Norwell, MA  02061
View map »


Sponsor: Simplify Holistic Nutrition & Mind Balance Hypnosis
Telephone: 781-883-5951
Contact Name: Silke Heine, PhD
Website »

More information

Instructor:  Peyton Pugmire Ages 16+/Adult Like meditating with a paintbrush! Escape your stress and routine and re-connect with yourself, your heart and soul - one brushstroke at a...

Cost: $85

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Sponsor: Creative Spirit
Telephone: 781-797-0389
Website »

More information

September 22 - 23 Join us for seven wonderful modules, each one designed to help you on your personal healing and empowerment journey. You will enjoy both group discussion and personal...

Cost: $205 (early bird $175)

Where:
A private home, Old Orchard Beach
Address provided to confirmed participants
Old Orchard Beach, ME
View map »


Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Anzelc Huitt
Website »

More information

Celebrating The Autumnal Equinox Open House! We have a harvest full of readers and healers providing services at sampler rates! Join us to enjoy a fun fall afternoon time for yourself or to come...

Cost: 15 minutes for $25 or 3 -15 minutes for $60

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles RD Unit #A
Our Yellow Banner is in Window
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Reiki Master Teacher Libby Barnett, M.S.W., integrates her healing skills with past experience as a medical social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital. 38 years experience. Reiki...

Where:
Weston, MA


Telephone: 603-654-2787
Website »

More information

Your ideal life begins today with life-changing intuitive development training with internationally renowned medical intuitive and master healers/teachers Sue and Aaron Singleton. This...

Where:
, MA


Telephone: 978-834-0341
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags