With shootings up nearly 300% in New York City compared to the same week last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio has to do something to show that he’s serious about cracking down on violent criminals. As it turns out, the mayor’s offered up several unserious proposals that he says will “end gun violence now,” but aren’t likely to have any impact at all on the city’s violent offenders.
Let’s start with de Blasio’s idea to hold gun “buybacks” across the city. Now, these aren’t really buybacks, because the city didn’t sell these guns in the first place. They’re compensated confiscation programs; turn in your gun, legally owned or not, and get a small stipend in return. These events are the perfect “do something” proposal for anti-gun politicians, because it allows them to say they’re taking action, even though there’s no evidence that the voluntary confiscation programs actually do any good. Even the anti-gun editorial board of the Baltimore Sun said as much in 2018.
Gun buyback programs are a strategy that Baltimore and cities across the country have tried many times before (here, most recently in 2012), despite consistent research that has shown these programs are not that effective. In fact, researchers stopped studying the issue years ago because evidence of the futility of the programs was so overwhelming. They do little to reduce the number of shootings or to get guns out of the hands of criminals intent on settling a score, defending their drug territory or protecting themselves from rival gangs and retaliatory shootings. That’s true whether the buyback programs are anonymous or not. Studies have found that the people that turn in the guns more than likely weren’t going to commit a crime with their firearms and that many of the exchanged guns don’t even work. And they don’t get that many firearms off the street relative to the 300 million or so thought to be owned by private citizens across the country.