Letitia James salutes buybacks, but misses something

AP Photo/Hans Pennink

Gun buybacks are popular among many elected officials. They allow them to look like they’re doing something about violent crime without having to actually do anything.


They just throw some money at the problem, allow some people to turn in some guns, get a gift card for something, and politicians get to stand there and pat themselves on the back.

A prime example of this is New York’s anti-gun Attorney General Letitia James.

She’s very happy with the results of a recent buyback in New York.

Thousands of guns — including numerous assault-style rifles and “ghost guns” — were surrendered in a single day over the weekend across the state of New York in exchange for gift cards, according to the state attorney general.

Describing it as a “landmark event,” New York State Attorney General Letitia James, whose office hosted and coordinated Saturday’s program, said more than 3,000 guns were surrendered at nine buyback locations throughout the state, including two in New York City.

In Syracuse, New York, where police crime statistics show a 133% jump in homicides in the first four months of this year compared to the same time frame last year, 751 firearms were turned over by community residents.

“Gun violence has caused so many avoidable tragedies and robbed us of so many innocent New Yorkers,” James said in a statement. “Every gun that we removed out of Syracuse homes and off the streets is a potential tragedy averted and another step in protecting communities throughout New York state.”


Except, it’s not.

There’s little to no evidence that gun buybacks work at all. While we’ve seen buybacks happen year after year for decades now, the violent crime rate doesn’t seem to be impacted at all.

But I get that someone like James wouldn’t take my word for it. After all, I’m heavily biased in this particular debate, so it’s in my interests to argue that these things don’t accomplish anything. In her place, I wouldn’t take my word for it either.

What about The Trace’s word, though?

The anti-gun reporting organization takes the exact opposite position on gun control and guns in general that I do. They’d be more inclined to support buybacks than I do. Yet, they report something different.

The most rigorous studies of gun buyback programs have found little empirical evidence to suggest that they reduce shootings, homicides, or suicides by any significant degree in either the short- or long-term.

So while James can sit there and bloviate about how all these guns taken in represent a potential crime thwarted, she has to be aware what she’s saying is absolute nonsense.


There’s no evidence buybacks do anything except waste money and allow politicians to look like they’re dealing with violent crime without them having to actually deal with violent crime.

That’s right up James’s alley, to be sure, but it doesn’t help the good, innocent people of New York and it doesn’t do anything to make life more difficult for the criminal underclass of the state, either.

Buybacks don’t work. Stop pretending they do.

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