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    What's Up with All the Rocket Launchers Showing Up at Gun Buyback Events?

    Written by

    Adam Clark Estes

    Do you keep a rocket launcher at home? Probably not, because rocket launchers are built for war — see above — and last I checked, the United States was not being invaded by North Koreans or Iranians or even Frenchmen. So why would anybody want a rocket launcher? Because they're pretty badass mantle pieces. Duh.

    In recent weeks, a series of gun buyback programs have been going on across the country. While some of them are annual occurrences, many were inspired by last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As such, the turnout at the gun buyback events has been especially stellar. So stellar that authorities have been getting a little more than they bargained for. They've been getting rocket launchers.

    Two of the Army-green, cannon-shaped weapons showed up at a Los Angeles buyback event last month. Another appeared at an event in Seattle earlier this week, and just yesterday, yet another popped up in New Jersey. They were all exchanged for $100 to $250 in cash or gift cards.

    This is great news in a way. All of those wacky weapons aficionados who were using them for either a badass door stop (best-case scenario) or to intimidate the neighbors (worst-case scenario) are finally coming around to the fact that they do not need a rocket launcher in their arsenal.

    It was futile to begin with, though. From the photos of the gun buyback events, it looks like the model rocket launcher people are bringing in is the AT-4. These are standard issue U.S. military weapons, easily acquired by a current or former infantryman or anybody with money — a few hundred bucks will do. The AT-4s are scary-looking, and when loaded, they can blow up tanks. But they cannot be reloaded, and the best I can tell, the ones turned in at the gun buyback events had already been fired.

    So you can stop freaking out about the threat of random Americans with rocket launchers — or at least freak out a little less. The rocket launchers showing up at gun buyback shows are basically just giant fiberglass tubes. Anybody who wanted to weaponize one of them would have just as much luck going to Home Depot, buying a length of PVC pipe and stuffing a projectile inside what amounts to a really dangerous potato gun.

    Come to think of it, a used rocket launcher would make an excellent potato gun. And whenever you're not using it to scare your neighbors, it could be that very violent-looking mantle piece you've always wanted.

    Image via Flickr