Donors from 48 states and 4 other countries chip in to help.
When the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the Sanford, Florida police department to keep possession George Zimmerman's personal property after he was found not guilty, including his firearm, Buckeye Firearms Foundation started a fund to replace the gun.
"We consider this an outrageous abuse of power to score political points at the expense of an American citizen," said Jim Irvine, President of Buckeye Firearms Foundation.
"Mr. Zimmerman was tried in a court of law and found not guilty. And now all evidence should be returned to the rightful owner, including his firearm."
The Foundation announced the Zimmerman Second Amendment Fund on Friday, July 19, 2013, expecting to bring in one or two thousand dollars.
"We didn't need that much," said Irvine, "just enough to buy a quality firearm, holster, flashlight, ammo, and any accessories Mr. Zimmerman may need. But the story went national and we raised far more than we expected."
Buckeye Firearms Foundation closed the fund to donations on Tuesday morning, July 23, 2013, with a total of $12,657.48 (after Paypal transaction fees, net $12,150.37).
Dean Rieck, Communications Director for the organization, said he was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support. "We received 774 donations from 48 states, plus Australia, Lithuania, New South Wales, and Switzerland. Donations ranged from $1 to $100, with the average being $16.35.
"For privacy and security reasons," continued Rieck, "we've decided to send Mr. Zimmerman a check rather than try to arrange a meeting or transfer gear directly. We spoke with his attorney, Mark O'Mara, who agreed to provide evidence that Mr. Zimmerman receives the check.
"We also agreed to provide evidence that we were passing along 100% of the donations received. O'Mara was thrilled that we were being so transparent. He told us 'lots of cranks' are raising money in Zimmerman's name and not sending the funds to him."
Here is the letter to accompany the check:
July 23, 2013
Mark M. O’Mara Esq.
O’Mara Law Group
1416 Concord Street
Orlando, Florida 32803
Re: Donation for George Zimmerman to replace his gun, gear, ammo and anything else he needs.
Thank you for returning my call. As we discussed, enclosed you will find a check from Buckeye Firearms Foundation, Inc., payable to George Zimmerman, in the amount of $12,150.37. This check represents 100% of the net donations Buckeye received from all donors, and as you can see from the enclosed spreadsheet, the only expense Buckeye Firearms Foundation, Inc. deducted was actual bank fees charged to receive these donations. Buckeye feels it is important to show that all of the donations we received were passed on to Mr. Zimmerman; Buckeye Firearms Foundation, Inc. did not gain any money from this fundraiser.
Total of $12,657.48
Average donation $16.35
Donors from 48 states and Lithuania, New South Wales, Australia, and Switzerland
As Buckeye Firearms Foundation, Inc. advertised this as a fundraiser to help Mr. Zimmerman replace his gun, holster, ammo and gear, it is our request that this donation be used to pay for any guns, ammunition, gear, ballistic vests, tactical training or home security systems which Mr. Zimmerman, in his sole opinion, believes are appropriate to protect himself and his family, including his parents. Self-defense is a personal decision, and we leave Mr. Zimmerman complete discretion on what gear, guns, products and services will protect him and his family.
Buckeye Firearms Foundation, Inc. is an IRS 501(C)(3) organization and we have to file 990s each year, and as we solicited these donations specifically for Mr. Zimmerman to use to defend himself and family, I would greatly appreciate it if you can provide us some verification that Mr. Zimmerman received these funds, so that we can show our generous donors that we used all the donations for our stated purposes.
Keep up your great work.
Ken Hanson Esq.
Buckeye Firearms Foundation Inc.
This isn't the first time Buckeye Firearms Foundation has helped someone after authorities refused to return a firearm.
In 2007, Cleveland resident Damon Wells legally defended himself against two teens who were on probation for aggravated robbery. The attackers got convicted, but Mr. Wells couldn't get his gun back. The organization worked behind the scenes and, months later, authorities finally returned his firearm.
Fast forward a few more months and Mr. Wells was riding as a passenger in a car that got pulled over. Police charged him with possession of an "unregistered" handgun even after the Ohio Supreme Court told the City of Cleveland that they could not enforce this sort of gun control law.
The Foundation's legal counsel appeared in Cleveland Municipal Court to go to bat for Mr. Wells and have his charges dismissed and went on to file suit against the City of Cleveland, winning the case and setting a legal precedent for cities throughout Ohio.