Across the country, various groups announce they will hold gun buybacks. Throughout the year, I find out about some of them and generally mock them to some degree.
I’m not alone.
To start with, the term “buyback” is ridiculous. It implies the party buying the guns somehow had them first in some way. Otherwise, how could they buy them back? They’re gun turn-in programs that give a stipend or something else in exchange for the firearm, but no one is actually buying anything back.
Then there’s the fact that anyone with half a brain knows these programs are never going to work. People who use their guns for nefarious purposes aren’t going to turn in a firearm unless it’s in an attempt to dump one used in a crime. If that happens, they’ll get another gun before the day is out, if they hadn’t already. It doesn’t actually take guns off the street.
In fact, as Guns.com reported last week, most of the guns Baltimore took off the street were junk pistols that people couldn’t actually sell on their own.
Miracles, however, really do happen.
It seems that The Balitmore Sun‘s editorial board has come to the same realization most of us did years ago.
City officials are turning to an old standby in the effort to knock down an incessant homicide rate on track to surpass 300 killings for the fourth year in a row — paying people for their guns. They will dole out $25 to $500 to people as part of a gun buyback program announced last week, and at an opportune time to entice people looking for some extra cash during the holiday shopping season.
But the program is likely to be a large waste of time, money and resources.
Gun buyback programs are a strategy that Baltimore and cities across the country have tried many times before (here, most recently in 2012), despite consistent research that has shown these programs are not that effective. In fact, researchers stopped studying the issue years ago because evidence of the futility of the programs was so overwhelming. They do little to reduce the number of shootings or to get guns out of the hands of criminals intent on settling a score, defending their drug territory or protecting themselves from rival gangs and retaliatory shootings. That’s true whether the buyback programs are anonymous or not. Studies have found that the people that turn in the guns more than likely weren’t going to commit a crime with their firearms and that many of the exchanged guns don’t even work. And they don’t get that many firearms off the street relative to the 300 million or so thought to be owned by private citizens across the country. Baltimore police collected 580 at the Shake and Bake skating rink and recreation complex on the first day of it three-day program, and 511 more on the second day. The last event is tomorrow.
Too often these buyback initiatives result in a pile of old guns from people’s basements. Revolvers, pistols and rifles are more the norm than assault weapons, for which Baltimore is offering $200. And we’d bet big money the city won’t collect too many, if any, fully automatic weapons, which they will pay $500 to confiscate.
No, they probably won’t.
The thinking, as the editorial notes, is that they’ll get lawful owners to turn in unused guns so they won’t end up stolen. There are a lot of problems with that thinking, however. The biggest is the belief that criminals will want just any gun. Look at the Guns.com post and look at all the junk that was turned in at Baltimore’s buyback. Even a non-gun person can look at some of those firearms and tell they’re not worth having. Why would a criminal see it and think, “Gimme!” anyway?
Further, it’s not necessarily the unused gun that gets stolen. The old, unused gun sitting in the basement may be more difficult for the criminal to actually find. The Glock in the nightstand and the AR-15 in the closet, however, are far easier to locate. Why? Because they’re used regularly and thus close at hand.
It’s good to see the editorial board at The Baltimore Sun making this stand. While I’m sure they and I disagree on how to end violence in general, it’s good to see them at least expressing skepticism over how effective a sacred cow of the anti-gunners actually is and to challenge supporters of buybacks to produce actual results. They can’t because they don’t exist, which means it’s time to stop wasting money on this nonsense and try something else.