Baltimore buyback accomplishes nothing despite 362 guns

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The city of Baltimore has had a violent crime problem for quite some time. Like many other places with such issues, there are those who are so desperate to do something that they’re not that picky about what that something is.


It just needs to be something they can spin enough to convince people they’re addressing the problem.

That’s why we have gun buybacks. Yes, I can hear the comments now, “It’s not a buyback if they never owned the guns in the first place.” That’s a valid point, but it’s neither here nor there. What matters is that we all understand what the term “buyback” means.

It means giving people a small bit of money in exchange for a firearm of some description so that it will be destroyed, generally with no questions asked as to the origin of the gun.

And Baltimore recently had one, where everyone is really excited about getting 362 firearms off the streets.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department’s Community Peace Building and Resource Fair held a gun buyback event last weekend and successfully recovered 362 firearms.

The event was organized by Fr. Mike Murphy, pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery in Baltimore’s Irvington neighborhood. Fr. Murphy grew up in Edmondson Village and says this event is a vital springboard for further action toward peacebuilding in that neighborhood and all over Baltimore City.

It was a great success,” he said. “We didn’t set a specific goal and prayed we would be able to buy back as much as our funding could take us, and that happened. From before we even began there were cars lined up around the block. It was a very positive day and the peacebuilding fair offered so many community resources.

“We thank the community members, those donors of funds to make those gun buybacks and we thank the elected officials who came and spoke and offered their support to bring peace and end violence,” Murphy continued. “Today gives people hope. It’s not about pointing fingers and laying blame. It’s about hope for people who live in challenging conditions and we can be a better city. This is the beginning of building a better platform for peace.”


I’m sorry, but no it’s not.

There have been numerous studies about gun buyback events and whether or not they reduce violent crime. The general consensus is that they don’t. The only one I’m aware of that showed anything positive about them was a study that argued they might work in conjunction with other interventions.

Since then, though, plenty of research shows that buybacks don’t make communities safer.

What they do, though, is allow politicians and other community leaders to act as if they’re addressing a city’s violent crime problem without, you know, addressing the city’s violent crime problem.

But the idea is easy to sell to people. This concept that if they buy the guns and destroy them then those guns won’t be available for criminals to use sounds like something that would make sense.

In theory, this could work if you could get enough people to turn in guns so as to leave a community pretty much bereft of firearms across the board. The thing is, criminals don’t generally turn their guns in for the paltry sums offered at buybacks. They want to hold onto them because they’re sort of the tools of the trade for them.

Plus, a lot are worried about being shot by a rival, so that plays a factor, too.

So those people aren’t getting rid of their guns no matter what. Then you have the fact that most gun owners aren’t giving up their guns for a $50 gift card or whatever this buyback offered.


As a result, despite 362 guns being taken off the street, don’t expect to see the violent crime rate dip in Baltimore. After all, 362 guns against nearly 600,000 people isn’t all that impressive.

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