California Prosecutor Claims "Buybacks" Reduce Suicide By 80-Percent

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

The typical defense of a gun “buyback” program goes something like this: By getting guns off the street, we reduce the chances that they could be used in a crime, a suicide, or an accident. So even if we can’t prove that these gun collection efforts reduce crime, if we take just one gun away then we can make a difference.


It’s mindless pablum, of course, but it allows the politicians who support these “buybacks” to pat themselves on the back and claim that they’re doing some good, which in turn typically leads to some positive press in the local media. One public official in California, however, is taking that argument and building on it with some pretty outlandish claims about an upcoming compensated confiscation effort on the Left Coast.

Gun buybacks are not a waste of time, because they not only reduce the inventory of guns that can ultimately be used in crimes, but also reduce the potential that guns can be used to accidentally kill loved ones or perpetrate the heart-breaking tragedy of suicide.

In fact, data suggests that buybacks have led to a drop in the firearm suicide rates of almost 80%.

The guns that are turned in are operable or can easily become operable. In fact in the past, working assault rifles have been turned in, and we expect some additional ones will be turned in on Aug. 21.

That’s Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley promoting an upcoming “buyback” at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, where folks can get a $200 gift card for turning in an “assault weapon,” or a $100 gift card for handing over any other firearm.


I’m very curious about Dudley’s assertion that these compensated confiscation events have reduced firearm suicides by 80%, because I’ve never come across any data that suggests there’s even a modest reduction in firearm-related suicides after a “buyback” event has been held.

It took me awhile, but I believe I found the “data” that Dudley cited. Unfortunately for her, the study that Dudley appears to be referring to didn’t look at “buybacks” in the United States, but rather the Australian gun “buyback” of 1997, when gun owners were forced to hand over millions of firearms or face criminal penalties. In other words, it was more of a gun ban and confiscation than a “buyback” as we know them here in the States.

In addition, a more recent study by the RAND Corporation found that firearm-related suicides were already declining in Australia before the 1997 gun confiscation, which suggests that the “buyback” probably didn’t have as much of an impact on the firearm-related suicide rates as Dudley claims. More importantly, the number of non-firearm suicides increased substantially after Australia’s gun ban, which in turn led to an overall increase in suicides.


I have no idea if Dudley is unaware of any of this, or if she simply doesn’t care. Either way, she’s not being honest with her constituents when she claims that the upcoming “buyback” offers the potential to reduce gun-related suicides by 80%. The truth is that there’s simply no evidence that swapping guns for gift cards has any effect on murders, shootings, suicides, or accidents involving firearms. In her op-ed, Dudley called these events “community policing at its finest,” when in reality they’re just public relations efforts for anti-gun politicians like herself.

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