IF YOU GO
• What: Gun auction
• Where: Bid To Buy Auction, 730 Tennessee Ave., Etowah, Tenn.
• When: 10 a.m. today
ETOWAH, Tenn. -- Hundreds of people stood in line Friday to preview today's big gun auction.
More than 400 guns, plus some crossbows, go on auction this morning, compliments of the McMinn County Sheriff's Department.
Each person in a line that wrapped around the corner of Bid To Buy Auction on Tennessee Avenue and crowded into the store had his own story.
Jim Barnett pulled a battered police report from his pocket.
"I'm trying to find 13 (guns) that's been gone since 1998,'' he explained.
Inside, he walked along the tables and glass cases filled with guns, looking for the ones he said were taken from his house. There were no matching serial numbers, he said later.
At each glass case, an auction company employee removed guns and handed them to anyone wanting a closer look. Around the open tables, Sheriff Joe Guy and others from his office stood by to answer questions.
"I'm not looking for anything in particular but I like the older ones,'' said Larry Faulkner, from neighboring Monroe County. What he saw at the preview would determine if he comes back today to bid, he said.
"I think this is great,'' said Doug Lowe, of McMinn County, looking at the crowd waiting for the doors to be unlocked at 4 p.m.
The idea of raising money by auctioning hundreds of guns to support the sheriff's department is fine with him. It's money he won't have to pay in taxes.
"It's probably a good idea,'' agreed David Plemmons, who said he lives in East Etowah. "They were just collecting dust anyway.''
Plemmons doesn't call himself a collector.
"That's somebody willing to pay more than I will,'' he said. But he does like to target-shoot.
Auction company owner John Bohanner said he's ready for a big crowd today.
"We've got a lot of extra chairs,'' Bohanner said. "I'm afraid it's going to be bigger than what the building holds.''
During the week, calls came in from as far away as Pennsylvania. The company website, with photos of each gun, had more than 56,000 hits in two days.
"It's a tight budget time,'' said Guy, surrounded by prospective buyers. The auction will pay for t equipment and create storage room space, he said.
It's the McMinn department's gun auction in more than 20 years.
"I'm just looking for a little gun,'' said Jo Swatzell as she waited near the back of the line. "My husband passed away.''
In March 2010, the Tennessee Legislature passed a law that bans police departments from destroying guns confiscated for crimes.
So some of the guns on the auction block today are vintage weapons.
"You would normally never see some of these in an auction, because they would be melted down,'' Bohanner said. "I guess whoever was over there (at the sheriff's department) just couldn't see destroying them.''
Today's buyers must pass a background check before getting their guns. It takes about 10 minutes, Bohanner said, and he has four computers ready for the work.
Guy said all the guns have been cleared by the legal system and were not used directly in a crime but were confiscated or seized.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...