On the one hand, I suppose it’s good to see New York politicians for once propose a gun control measure that doesn’t directly infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. Still, that doesn’t make the idea itself particularly valuable. Instead, it sounds like New York City may soon be defunding the police by making the NYPD pay for regularly-scheduled gun “buybacks” that don’t do anything to reduce crime, suicides, or accidents involving firearms.
The idea for the monthly compensated confiscation events comes from council members Rafael Salamanca Jr. and Carlina Rivera, who have both supported redirecting police funding to social services in the past. But a “gun buyback” isn’t a social service like job training, after-school programs, or even midnight basketball. It’s a soundbite solution that allows politicians to claim they’re “doing something” about violent crime, and in this case, anti-gun progressives get the added bonus of using funds meant for law enforcement to collect and destroy guns that have been collecting dust in someone’s attic or closet.
Their main approach is to make sure these programs are required to happen every month citywide and that compensation for those who participate must come from the NYPD’s budget.
In an exclusive interview with News 12, Rivera says we are still seeing an increase in violence: “We know that guns are ending up especially in the hands of young people, and we’ve seen increased acts of violence. We know that this sort of program with other broader efforts to reduce violence and bring in programming and services has proven to be effective.”
Proven to be effective? I’d love to see Rivera’s evidence, because I’m not aware of any research supporting the idea that gun “buybacks” have a positive impact on violent crime. Even the RAND Corporation, which is hardly a pro-gun outfit, politely describes these programs as “small, feasible interventions” before admitting they’re “unlikely to measurably reduce firearm violence, even if they do prevent some incidents.”
Research on buyback effectiveness is limited, but the findings to date are not promising. Furthermore, the intended impacts are implausible because too few firearms are turned in to gun buybacks, at least as currently implemented. Given these limitations, policymakers and community groups should consider whether the scarce resources allocated to gun buybacks—even if these resources are minimal—might be better spent on more-promising violence prevention efforts.
Under the terms of the legislation proposed by Salamanca and Rivera, working and non-functional firearms would be eligible for cash prizes or gift cards, along with 3D-printed firearms; somewhat surprising given that New York Attorney General Letitia James had to exempt printed guns from her own buyback programs last fall after a New Yorker collected more than $20,000 in state funds for guns that he had on a $200 printer. I guess Salamanca and Rivera don’t have a problem with money flowing to entrepreneurial citizens like him as long as the cash is coming from the NYPD.
Almost everyone is eligible to participate in the proposed “buybacks” as well; with the bizarre and ironic exception of current and retired law enforcement officers, who for some reason are specifically barred from receiving monetary compensation for turning in any firearms or gun parts. Given that guns and gun parts can be turned in anonymously, however, that seems like a restriction that’s going to be virtually impossible to enforce if this idiotic plan is actually enacted.
I’d love to say that the chances of this proposal going anywhere are slim, but this is New York City we’re talking about. While some council members will balk at making the NYPD pay for the buybacks this is largely the same council that trimmed hundreds of millions of dollars from the department’s operating funds in recent years. The money spent by the NYPD on monthly “buybacks” would be a drop in the bucket compared to the budget slashing that’s already taken place, so this will probably come down to political, not fiscal, calculations.
I’d say that increases the odds that this dumb idea will be approved, even if there are some minor changes made along the way. I wouldn’t fire up my 3D printer just yet, but enterprising individuals could soon be earning some serious coin by making their own guns to turn in to the NYPD, no questions asked.