Hopes That Buyback Will Heal Community In Vain At Best

Gun buybacks are kind of ridiculous. The idea sort of makes sense, though. The idea that you can offer people money in exchange for their guns, no questions asked, sounds like something that might work. After all, if gun crime is about poverty, selling their guns would help with that, right?

Of course, it doesn’t work that way. There’s no real evidence that buybacks do anything to reduce crime or prevent shootings. If anything, they can make cases harder to solve since a buyback is a fine way to dump a firearm and it not come back to bite you in the rear.

In a community that was rocked by a mass shooting, though, the hope is that it’ll give them something more than that.

As South County begins to heal from shootings that killed five people and upended the quiet communities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill, officials are hosting a gun buyback on Saturday to get more weapons off the streets — and give a measure of relief to residents who feel helpless in the face of gun violence.

On a first-come, first-served basis, people can exchange up to five weapons for cash in the area’s first buyback in 25 years, for which the Santa Clara County District Attorney and local police departments have pegged $50,000.

“This is just a small part of the way that the community can continue to heal, by getting rid of these unwanted firearms,” said Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco at press conference Tuesday. “The community still wants to help and still wants to do something.”

The memory of gun violence is still raw in South County, where two deadly shootings reverberated through an otherwise quiet, mostly rural area within the last six months. On June 25, 60-year-old Steven Leet shot and killed two co-workers, 59-year-old Brian Light and 38-year-old Xavier Souto, at the Ford Store in Morgan Hill. Leet shot and killed himself.

Just four weeks later, 19-year-old Santino Legan snuck into the historic Gilroy Garlic Festival with a semi-automatic rifle and opened fire into a packed crowd. Through 39 rounds of bullets, Legan killed 6-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and 25-year-old Trevor Irby and wounded 17 others. Legan shot and killed himself during a gun battle with police.

The incidents prompted a groundswell of pain and a lawsuit from five Gilroy victims — plus heightened awareness in the community that unwanted weapons may land in the laps of criminals and kids.

The problem is that there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that a buyback a year ago would have prevented either of those tragedies. As noted previously, buybacks haven’t been shown to accomplish much of anything. Ever.

Hopes that this will somehow heal the community aren’t grounded in reality. Instead, they’re the equivalent of yelling at the volcano because it once erupted. You can do it, but don’t expect it to do any good in the long run and if you do, you’re an idiot.

The truth is, if you want to address violence, you have to address it beyond the weapons themselves. You need to address the causes of that violence in and of itself. That’s something people who put on buybacks rarely, if ever, bother to do.

Too bad, too, because it’s something that might actually work.