COSTLY: What One County Is Willing to Spend on Their Gun Buy Back Program Is Crazy

It seems yet another county is hoping to solve its gun violence problem with gift cards.

Prince George’s County in Maryland is reportedly looking to expand its gun buyback program, which was launched back in 2012. The effort is likely in response to the still fairly recent mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“We want to do everything we can to stop gun violence before it starts,” Corporal Harry Bond, Prince George’s County Police spokesman, tells The Diamondback.

The last buyback event, which was held on November 18th, brought in 161 firearms. For those 161 guns, the county ended up paying out more than $19,600 in gift cards.

According to the program’s sponsors, though – including the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, the Zion Church of Landover and the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center – the cost is worth it.

“The impact of gun violence is not just seen through homicides and people who have lost their lives in connection to guns, but also people who have been victims of other gun-related crimes like robberies and assaults,” James Marshall, pastor of the Zion Church, tells The Diamondback. “We believe doing this program will incentivize people to make sure all the guns in the county are being managed safely.”

“We would love to see more people participate in the program and continue to get the word out about it,” he adds. “Even if it’s just raising awareness that unwanted guns are typically not cared for in a safe way or letting more people know that they don’t have to just live with guns in their houses.”

At least Marshall recognizes that most of the firearms being brought in during buybacks are simply unwanted rather than illegally-owned weapons willingly being turned over by criminals.

Don Kettl, a public policy professor the University of Maryland, also seems to acknowledge this fact and the “limited impact” buybacks have on gun violence. However, to him, that “limited impact” is enough reason to host more of these events.

“Given the supply of guns out there and the political climate, the impact is often only a drop in the bucket,” Kettl tells The Diamondback. “But it’s a bucket where any drop can really make a difference.”

We’ve heard this logic before: if even one gun was taken out of the hands of a criminal then the buyback was a success. 

However, there are a lot more effective – and less costly ways – to get firearms off the streets and out of criminals’ hands. The Brady Campaign labeled Maryland one of the least gun-friendly states in 2015; why don’t we start with enforcing existing laws first.