The Pink Gun Surprise

For as long as anyone can seemingly remember, police and other officials have been looking for ways to get rid of illegal guns. About fifty years ago, gun turn-in amnesties became an increasingly common one of those tools. The idea is simple: there are plenty of people who, through innocent means or due to bad decisions earlier in life, own guns that they shouldn’t. Getting rid of that gun would be an admission that you own the illicit item, so the owners of those guns hold onto them. Gun amnesty programs allow these firearms owners to get rid of those guns without fear of criminal penalties.

In 2020, the Czech Republic passed an amendment to its Weapons Act that created a nationwide gun amnesty program. On January 30, 2021, the state police announced that the program had begun. If you had an illegal gun you could turn it in, no questions asked. And if you had a weapon of questionable legality, no problem: you could bring it into a police department and, if it were legal or had issues you could remedy, you could take it back home (once you made any necessary changes to the weapon). 

To help gain attention for the new public safety program, the police took to social media, sharing a fun video they made. That video, seen here, is about 43 seconds long and features a gun owner rolling up to a police car and two officers and handing over the weapon. The weapon, though, isn’t a rifle or handgun or anything like that. It’s a Soviet-era tank. Ridiculous, yes, but sometimes, social media videos need to be ridiculous in order to cut through all of the other posts out there.

But in April of 2021, something changed. The video, it turned out, wasn’t all that ridiculous. Here’s a picture of one of the weapons someone tried to turn in.

Yes, that’s a Soviet-era tank, just like the video jokingly referenced. Except this tank is pink.

On April 7, 2021, the police tweeted out the picture above with a note of surprise: “when we shot the video for the weapon amnesty, in which we used exaggeration in the form of a surrendered tank, we had no idea that this inspired the public.” But it did, indeed, turn up such a weapon. 

The tank’s owner — who also turned a self-propelled artillery gun — was a “collector of historic weaponry,” according to Prague Morning. But he wasn’t looking to just give the police a free tank. Rather, he wanted to make sure he had properly neutered their ability to create mass destruction. Per Prague Morning, he had come close enough: “The police said that the menacing guns were harmless but still found some inconsistencies in their deactivation with the current rules. The man was given time to fix those issues so that he could keep the military vehicles in his garage.”

(And, in case you were wondering, “no explanation was given as to why this particular tank had been painted pink,” per War History Online.)

The tank owner still, therefore, owns the tank. But if he or anyone else wants to turn in weapons, they still can; the amnesty program runs through the end of July.

Today’s Long Read: “The Complete Story of the River Oaks Tank” (Texas Monthly, 11 minutes, October 2017). A history buff buys himself a fully-working tank and parks it in front of his house. The problem? He lives in an area with a homeowners’ association, and the HOA doesn’t like the tank. But the HOA can’t do much about it: “since there was nothing specifically in the by-laws forbidding the storage of military vehicles in front of River Oaks homes, the HOA resorted to whatever they could throw at Buzbee. They claimed that the tank impeded traffic (it’s a lightly-traveled four-lane street), that it was a “safety issue” (perhaps somebody could have fallen off of it?), and a catch-all allegation that Cheyenne caused neighbors to have unspecified ‘serious concerns.'” So the tank owner doubled-down, and took his case to the press.

From the Archives: Tanks for the Info: How math beat tanks in World War II.