New York gun "buyback" pays out more than $20K to "ghost gun" builder

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, FIle

Gun “buybacks” are a waste of time and money, at least in terms of reducing crime or suicides involving firearms. The politicians who put them on may get a public relations boost thanks to headlines touting the guns “taken off the street,” but that’s about the only benefit that these efforts have.

Unless, of course, you happen to own a 3D printer and the “buyback” in question is accepting home-build, unserialized “ghost guns”. In that case, you can apparently make some serious coin.

A man who identified himself only as “Kem” saw people tweeting about using 3D printers to make guns for the sole purpose of selling them for big bucks at gun buyback programs, like the one the New York State Attorney General’s Office held at the Utica Police Department last month. He got to work on a $200 3D printer he got for Christmas.

“I 3D-printed a bunch of lower receivers and frames for different kinds of firearms,” said Kem.

Then, he drove six hours to Utica.

“And he sees the tote and says, ‘how many firearms do you have?’ And I said, ‘110,’” said Kem.

This began a haggling and negotiating session with Attorney General’s Office staff that lasted all day long.

“And it ended with the guy and a lady from the budget office finally coming around with the 42 gift cards and counting them in front of me,” said Kem. “$21,000 in $500 gift cards.”

Not a bad haul, at least for the seller.

It appears that Kem was inspired by a similar compensated confiscation event in Houston, Texas where a gun owner turned in “dozens” of home-printed frames and receivers in exchange for gift cards. After that event, however, city officials were quick to publicly denounce the gun owner and declare that in the future “ghost guns” would not be accepted at future “buyback” events.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, on the other hand, apparently said nothing about Kem’s amazing haul, at least until the media started contacting her office.

“It’s shameful that this individual exploited a program that has successfully taken thousands of guns off the streets to protect our communities from gun violence. We have partnered with local police throughout the state to recover more than 3,500 guns, and one individual’s greedy behavior won’t tarnish our work to promote public safety. We have adjusted our policies to ensure that no one can exploit this program again for personal gain.

Have these gun owners really “exploited” gun buyback programs? Seems to me that they’re simply following the rules laid out by the organizers. And if the goal is to “get guns off the streets” then I don’t know why James or Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner are complaining. They still get to tout the fact that dozens of guns were handed over, and it’s not like gun “buybacks” make cities safer places even when folks aren’t making their own guns in order to turn them in for cash and prizes.

Actually, I do understand why anti-gun politicians like James are embarrassed here. The actions of guys like Kem make the uselessness of gun “buybacks” readily apparent to all but the most casual consumers of news.

“I’m sure handing over $21,000 in gift cards to some punk kid after getting a bunch of plastic junk was a rousing success,” laughed Kem. “Gun buybacks are a fantastic way of showing, number one, that your policies don’t work, and, number 2, you’re creating perverse demand. You’re causing people to show up to these events, and, they don’t actually reduce crime whatsoever.”

I don’t think Letitia James really cares whether or not these efforts lower crime rates as long as they raise her profile in a positive way, and I’m curious to see what changes she’s made to her “buyback” programs going forward. Will she ban the turn-in of home-built guns as the city of Houston has done, or will she limit the number of guns that can be exchanged for gift cards to try to stop guys like Kem from making some serious money off of them? I don’t think either route will make her compensated confiscation events any more worthwhile, and if she really wants to avoid avoid humiliating headlines in the future the best thing to do would be to simply scrap the “buybacks” entirely.