Gun “Buy Back” Programs Continue, Despite Being Ineffective

Plenty of politicians and anti-gunners love gun turn-ins, often incorrectly called “buy backs.”  (As one GunLink Forum user says, “How can you buy something you never owned ‘back’, using other people’s money?”)  Misnomer or otherwise, the facts point to these programs being largely ineffective wastes of money, often at the expense of taxpayers.

For example, a recent Chicago Tribune OpEd  states that six such events conducted over the past six years have yielded over 23,000 weapons turned in.  One highly touted event alone claimed to remove over 4,000 weapons from the streets, (despite nearly all of them not being “on the streets” in the first place and nearly 700 being fakes or replicas anyway).  For some, this makes little difference.  As New Haven, Connecticuit, Assistant Police Chief Tobin Hensgen says in regard to gun turn-in events: “Even an unusable gun can be used to scare or intimidate.”  Perhaps when the knife “buy back” events start up, we can make a little money with some rulers and silver spray paint.

Despite some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and the popular turn-in events, murders and other violent crimes in the Windy City consistently remain among the highest in the nation.  Then-mayor Richard Daley was quoted by the Chicago Tribune in another article from 2010 saying “We have just too many guns in our society.  When someone has access to a gun, they use it.”

What Daley clearly means by “use it” is “use it in a criminal manner,” which simply isn’t true.  Gun owners are, in the grand scheme of things, nearly universally law abiding folks.  In fact, it almost seems as if gun ownership rates are inversely proportional to crime rates with gun ownership recently at an all time high and violent crime at a 35 year low.   Recent numbers for crime keep going down while NICS checks for gun sales keep going up, up, up.

Further, Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck noted in 1996 that the demographics of the majority of turn-in participants did not match the demographics of those committing gun crime.  “We’re not naive in thinking crime weapons are going be turned in,” said Wilmington Police Chief Michael Szczerba, discussing turn-in programs. “There will be very few crime guns turned in, if any at all.”  Even Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis acknowledges that “those voluntarily turning in their weapons are likely not the ones behind neighborhood violence that has devastated some communities.”

What these types of programs manage to accomplish (other than making sure that no trace of a budget is left on the table) is to allow anti-gunners, politicians and those who are misinformed or would rather use emotion than logic to pretend that they are doing something useful.  Despite what the experts (and statistics) say, some are sticking to their guns, as it were.  “By removing as many guns from our streets as possible through this Gun Buy Back Program, we are taking a step in the right direction,” says Senator Martin Malave Dilan (D-Bushwick).  “We want to get as many guns off the street as possible,” Camden, NJ, Mayor Dana L. Redd said of a late 2011 turn-in event. “We want to make Camden a safer city…We need the residents’ participation.”  The mother of a teen killed by a stray bullet in Chicago said that, for parents, each weapon turned in represents a life, referring to the haul from a local event: “That could be 3,000 lives that the city of Chicago will not have to bury.”  As tragic as the story of this mother or other victims of violent crimes may be, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for feel-good measures that don’t reduce crime doesn’t do any good for anyone (perhaps with the exception of providing stump speech “hey, we’re trying” fodder).

In some places, representatives are doing something about it.  Only recently, Deleware defeated SB204 by a 13-8 margin to end a government sponsored program which squandered over $100,000 of the budged $200,000 while not producing any measurable reduction in violent crime.

Logic and facts surely won’t stop proponents of those who want to use someone else’s money to “buy back” something that wasn’t theirs in the first place, so these programs will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future.  But, hey, we all know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, right?


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