2A Advocates Win Partial Victory Over Rhode Island "Buyback"

A gun turn-in program in two Rhode Island cities took place this past weekend despite a court challenge by Second Amendment activists, but the pro-gun group that brought the lawsuit is still claiming victory after the cities of Providence and Central Falls announced a major change to the compensated confiscation program.

Originally, officials in the towns had declared that all stolen firearms that were turned over to police would be destroyed rather than returned to their rightful owners. The Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition objected to the decision and filed litigation seeking to block the turn-in program from taking place.

On Friday, a judge denied an injunction that would have stopped the so-called buyback, but not before the organizers agreed to change their policy.

After the brief hearing before Superior Court Judge Melissa Long, the gun rights group’s attorney and President Frank Saccoccio said his organization got what it wanted.

“They said on record the stolen guns wouldn’t be destroyed,” Saccoccio said. “We lost the battle but we won the war.”

Saccoccio was referring to statements from the Central Falls and Providence attorneys who told the court their respective police departments would do their best to return any stolen weapons to their rightful owners.

The two cities are offering $200 Visa gift cards for handguns, $100 gift cards for rifles and shotguns and $500 if the firearms are stolen. Initial statements about the Saturday morning buyback indicated the weapons would be destroyed after they were purchased.

Almost 400 firearms were collected in Providence and Central Falls, including at least eight guns that had previously been reported as stolen. While Providence’s mayor is touting the number of guns collected, at least one city council member is skeptical that the “buyback” will make a difference.

“If someone can convince me why [amnesty is] going to reduce gun violence in our city, then I could potentially change my mind, but at the moment, I do not support the amnesty piece because there are 130 open homicide cases in the City of Providence,” Providence city council member David Salvatore said.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza spent most of the day at The DiVinci Center helping with the buyback and counting the total number of guns at the end.

This isn’t going to help. In fact, there’s virtually no evidence that “buybacks” do anything to reduce violent crime, suicides, or accidents involving firearms. Ultimately, these gun turn-in events are another supply-side solution to a demand-side problem; the number of guns available for criminals to steal or acquire on the black market is far higher than the number of violent criminals in Providence itself.
Trying to ban or buy their way to safety by going after guns rather than the individuals who are using them in the commission of violent crime is a fool’s errand, but at least those who had their guns stolen will have the opportunity to get their guns back rather than seeing them destroyed. The “gun buyback” is still a waste of time and money, in my opinion, but as long as Providence and Central Falls are true to their word and work to return stolen firearms to their rightful owners, it won’t be a violation of constitutional rights as well.