Another state has shelled out thousands in gift cards in an effort to get guns off the streets. On Saturday, December 16th, police departments across Worchester County in central Massachusetts held their 16th annual Goods for Guns buyback event.
According to the Telegram, police gave out grocery gift cards in exchange for unwanted firearms; $25 for rifles, $50 for pistols and $75 for automatic or semiautomatic weapons. The county reportedly brought in 219 guns, including replica and pellet guns. However, it is not clear how many semi-automatic and fully-automatic weapons were turned in, many of which are listed under the states “assault weapons” ban.
While 219 weapons may seem like a lot, it appears to be pretty standard for the program. Over the past 15 years, Goods for Guns has brought in more than 3,100 guns, which means they average about 200 a year.
The program was first brought to Massachusetts by Dr. Michael Hirsh, surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Medical Center at UMass Memorial Medical Center. Hirsh tells the Telegram that gun violence has been an important issue to him since his friend and colleague was shot and killed in New York City in 1981. Over a decade later, in 1994, Hirsh helped launch Goods for Guns in Pittsburgh.
In central Massachusetts, the program is sponsored by UMass Memorial, as well as the Worcester County District Attorney’s office. To encourage more residents to turn in firearms, the DA’s office temporarily suspended concealed carry laws on Saturday and promised anonymity for those who asked for it.
“You can use the gun buyback just like a drug take-back day,” Hirsh tells the Telegram. “We think this is giving people a way to rid themselves of these potentially menacing things in their home. We’re not saying the Second Amendment is bad, and we’re not saying you shouldn’t own a gun, just that you shouldn’t have an unsecured gun.”
If that was the case, then why not use that money spent on gift cards to hold free courses on gun safety and proper storage techniques? Or hand out gun locks and safes to the public?
An Ineffective Solution for Misplaced Concerns
As we’ve said time and time again here at Bearing Arms, buybacks rarely convince criminals to willingly turn in their illegal weapons. Instead, they result in law-abiding citizens handing over their legal firearms because they A) simply don’t want them and think they’ll get more money for them at these events or B) are scared into thinking they shouldn’t own guns at all.
Take for example two local residents who participated in this year’s buyback. They each tell the Telegram that they handed over their guns, because they feared they would end up in the wrong hands, either their grandchildren’s or a criminal’s who might steal them.
However, both of those concerns could’ve easily be erased. Do you have grandchildren coming over? Secure the firearm in safe, out of their sight and reach. Are you worried that criminals are going to break into your home and steal your guns? Again, secure your unused firearms in a safe, and keep one out and within reach, so that you can protect yourself and your property if someone tries to forcefully enter your home.
Unfortunately, you don’t see many states trying out firearm education before resorting to buybacks. Big cities and states continue to host these events even though they haven’t been proven effective in reducing violent crime.
This year, a few days after the 5th year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, big cities including in Boston, Massachusetts, Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island also hosted buybacks. Unsurprisingly, each of these states have also been rated by the Brady Foundation as some of the least gun friendly states in the country.
In Boston, the event, known as “Your Piece for Peace,” brought in 64 firearms. Those who turned in weapons received a $100 Visa gift card. While the city has even stricter gun laws than the rest of the state – including a wider ban on what it deems “assault weapons” – it has been struggling with increased gun violence this year. The buyback was likely an attempt to turn things around.
In Hartford, police collected 68 firearms, including three “assault rifles”; in New Haven they collected 138 firearms. Both programs offered $200 gift cards for “assault rifles,” $100 gift cards for a handguns and revolvers, and $25 gift cards for shotguns and rifles. Connecticut, like Massachusetts, also has an “assault weapons” ban, which was expanded in 2013. The gun control bill was one of many passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. Anti-gunners like to tout the success of these post-Newtown bills, noting decreased crime rates across the country. However, these laws likely have little to do with it.
While it is not yet know how many weapons were taken in in Providence, according to the Associated Press, only the first 100 people to hand in working handguns received gift cards. Thankfully, they also handed out free gun locks.
On the opposite coast in San Francisco, the community decided to go a completely different route and offered people cash for their firearms; $100 for a handguns and $200 for “assault weapons.” California, too, has an “assault weapons” ban. The buyback netted 271 guns, as well as one very unusual item. At least they didn’t collect any forks.