Sam Adams [above left], the scandal-plagued mayor of Portland, Oregon, is touting the ‘success’ of his recent anti-gun efforts. TTAG has reported on his antics previously. Last weekend’s gun turn-in orchestrated by Ceasefire Oregon, prevented immeasurable carnage by removing 243 rusted .22 rifles and break-open shotguns from the attics and garages of Fat Old White Guys who gladly snatched the $50 Fred Meyers gift certificates being handed out. Fred Meyers, for those of you in drier climes, is a regional grocery/department-store chain which sells everything you can think of except guns or ammunition. Bummer.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with safely disposing of worthless non-functional firepower while depleting the coffers of misguided anti-gunners at the same time. Hell, I’ve done it myself and spent the proceeds on more gun gear. (Thanks, California!)
But Mayor Sam “I didn’t have any improper relationship with that underage intern…okay I lied, but you already voted for me” Adams’ isn’t stopping there.
His latest media blitz trumpets the success of his “Illegal Gun Task Force.” Comprised of one Portland Police Bureau Sergeant and four officers, this unit was created six months ago with the goal of “getting illegal guns off the streets” or some such bureaucratese BS. In the six months of its existence, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the task force succeeded in confiscating exactly sixty-two guns. Only one-fourth were recovered stolen guns.
We know that the gun buy-back cost the city at least twelve grand (243 guns at fifty bucks each.) Now let’s crunch the numbers on the Illegal Gun Task Force: 62 guns divided by five cops, divided by 25 weeks equals…wait for it….zero point four-nine-six guns per cop per week. Half a gun per week, for each cop on the team. Breathtaking.
And how much have the citizens of Stumptown paid for this dramatic increase in public safety? Let’s crunch more numbers: Portland police earn an average of $70,000 a year after four years on the job (before overtime) and we can easily add another $30,000 a year to that for the cost of administration and benefits. And we don’t even know how many non-uniformed staff and office personnel are assigned to the Task Force.
Being cautious, that makes a cool quarter-mil (five cops, no secretaries, half a year) for these six months of task force ‘successes’, at a cost of four thousand and thirty-two dollars per gun.
It’s hard to cheer for the clowns at Ceasefire Oregon, but at least they only blew fifty bucks for each single-shot Savage .410 they recycled.
I think the cost analysis is flawed. When two officers and an EMT show up at a car accident to check the passengers, direct traffic, and write the report, a fabulous cost basis for the response could no doubt be constructed — one out of all proportion to the actual property damage or other possible valuations. Police and other essential services can’t be valued at unit cost. Should the police respond to a $40,000 bank robbery but not to a $40 carryout robbery?
Magoo, your argument is flawed. If two police officers and an EMT show up at a car accident, there is a real person who is actually in need. If someone turns in a gun, there is no actual victim being saved. In other words, had the gun not been turned in, it isn’t certain that the gun would have been used criminally. In fact, the ratio of guns that are used in crimes to all guns that exist is tiny, so removing any gun from any situation other than an actual crime has negligible value. Whatever the cost of either emergency responders or a voluntary gun turn-in, the return on investment is better with the two officers and the EMT from your example, because they are, for 100% certain, doing something helpful.
And yes, you can value police and other essential services at unit cost. This is exactly what governments do in order to decide where tax dollars go. Even the seemingly intangible value of police deterring crime by driving through a neighborhood has been analyzed, quantified and given a value in dollars. My father used to work in Portland’s financial planning department, deciding where Portlanders’ tax dollars go, and I can tell you for certain that the city does value police and other essential services at unit cost.
Gun control (and turn-ins), statistically, factually, and measurably so, really are what you do instead of something effective.
“Ak, ak Magoo, by George you’ve done it again!”, Jim Bachus. By that I mean you’ve missed the point of Chris’ piece entirely. Queuing MikeB in 3…2…1…
If so, you failed to mention the point. You’re just blabbering, no offense.
None taken, Magoo. Your subsequent writing further illustrates that you’ve missed the point of Chris’ piece. Finite public resources should be applied where they will derive the greatest benefit to the public. Silly gun buy-backs and the associated grandstanding by their proponents isn’t a good utilization of those scarce resources. Do you get it now? Gun control, it’s what you do instead of something that will make a real difference.
Where’d Magoo ma-go? I was anticipating his next witty rejoinder.
essential services can’t be valued at unit cost
The game is in the semantics of “essential.” An EMT helping a car accident victim versus a LEO taking some old gun out of circulation. Is one act more essential than the other? In my mind, yes. A too loose definition of “essential” leads to just throwing the taxpayer’s money around without reasonable good results. Sounds like politics as usual.
Bingo, you nailed this one. In no way can the “Illegal Gun Task Force” be considered essential. Useless seems like a better fitting adjective.
By “essential” I simply mean as described by local governments. Police is termed an essential service even though much of what they do is not essential and may have no law enforcement value, strictly speaking: supplying directions, assisting stranded motorists, etc.
This also applies to the essential component of the services: when a two-man squad car spends one entire shift on patrol with zero interventions and arrests, does that mean that the cost of one cruiser + two officers + logistical support is a total financial writeoff? Of course not. It may well mean only effective police work. So no: you can’t quantify law enforcement on a unit cost basis. When you do go down that road, you end up with bad police policy, including stuff like ticket and arrest quotas.
Here is the essential question: what is the value, in dollars or other measure, in taking an illegal or unwanted firearm off the street? If it prevents one robbery or homicide, the value is relatively high. But if that’s not your perspective, there is no value. So this whole approach of attaching a supposed dollar value to a recovered firearm is just another way of restating existing preconceptions. It doesn’t go anywhere or illumimate anything.
Magoo – I can’t tell if you are disputing the math just for the argument, or jumping in to support public service entities. Or both. Wasn’t the blog’s purpose to highlight the cost inefficiency for buying crappy guns? Guns that, IMO, probably aren’t the real street threat…
From Ceasefire Oregon’s web site, one of the reasons to turn in a firearm:
“You understand that a gun in the home is much more likely to kill or injure a family member or friend than it is to protect you. “
Ceasefire Oregon might be able to save more lives by spending their donations on safety training…
oh man, i got a piece of crap hi point carbine they can have for 4 grand, sounds fair right?
Neither. I was addressing the fallacy of attempting to quantify the value of law enforcement on a unit-cost basis.
You noted: “From Ceasefire Oregon’s web site, one of the reasons to turn in a firearm: “You understand that a gun in the home is much more likely to kill or injure a family member or friend than it is to protect you. “
Statistically, that’s indisputable. This is why I support turn-in and buy-back programs, and it makes no sense to me that gun loons would oppose them. These are unwanted guns — guns that lack loving gun parents to look after and care for them and keep them out of trouble. Owning a gun is a serious responsibility. People who don’t want to own guns should not own guns, any more than people who don’t want pets should have pets. Nothing good can come from it.
I want to believe that all of us at TTAG are good and loving gun parents. Well, these are very bad, bad gun parents and they shouldn’t have guns. Look at these poor guns. It breaks your heart, really.
No matter how you spin it, there is a cost associated with running these programs. At some point the “value” isn’t there.
I’ve never been hit with the butt of a nonfunctional .22 rifle, but I bet it hurts as much as being hit with a functional baseball bat. I wonder how much Ceasefire Oregon would pay for my old Rawlings bat?
You have to go beyond the simple statistics and consider demographics. Here in north Arlington Virginia there is little chance that someone will either need to defend himself with his gun or injury or kill someone in his household. Upper middle class househoulds are generally responsible gun owners. Now if you move across the river to southeast DC where the socio-economic factors are more adverse in terms of crime, shooting your latest ‘ho in a fit of jealous anger is just something that happens then the Ceasefire Oregon statement is probably true.
Murder and mayhem is very localized in the United States. Most of us our safer on the street and in their homes then then the average Londoner. Crime mostly takes place among minorities living the economic wastelands created by unchallenged Democratic Party rule. Changing the culture of places like Detroit will save more lives then taking 50 year old non functioning firearms off the streets.
tdiinva, I agree with you 110 percent about the concentration of violent crime. You are preaching to the choir and amen, brother. However, it’s not relevant here for me. These programs are effective in drawing in firearms from all backgrounds, based on what I’ve read.
Magoo, Dude!, seriously!, WTF?
“I want to believe that all of us at TTAG are good and loving gun parents. Well, these are very bad, bad gun parents and they shouldn’t have guns. Look at these poor guns. It breaks your heart, really.”
Guns are tools, utilitarian inanimate objects. Anthropomorphizing guns in such a manner in the above quote just strikes me as disturbingly peculiar. You’re being funny, right?
Magoo has a valid point: it’s not always fair to point to the unit cost of essential public safety services. If a small town fire department only responds to two house fires in a year and saves a one life and a half-million in property damage, is this worth the fire department’s $2 million annual budget? Absolutely.
That’s why we have fire departments.
But Magoo misses the main point. If a big city fire department has a special five-man “Pet Rescue Squad” with a $1 million annual budget that does nothing but rescue dogs and cats and hamsters from house fires, AND IT ONLY RESCUES 62 PETS IN SIX MONTHS (most of whom would have been rescued anyway) this is clearly a colossal mis-allocation of resources.
This money could be spent in so many better places. How about drug treatment for offenders to prevent recidivism? Better probation services? More resources for the gang task force, car theft task force, methamphetamine lab task force?
When a mayor is going to blow $1 million a year on a politics-only pet project, he better produce some actual results. This ‘task force’ is an embarrassment.
I guess it all depends how the 62 firearms are assessed. If a quarter of them were indeed determined to be stolen, that’s not such a horrible deal. Also, if we are allowed to presume that snagging one to three of these firearms averted a homicide or other major crime, that’s a good deal too. These crimes can be incredibly expensive to investigate and prosecute. Also, it’s reasonable to expect (if not demand) that as the experience base of the program increases, its performance will naturally improve. If it doesn’t, that’s one great argument for pulling the plug.
I don’t see how removing a small number of firearms from the street will stop a crime. Does each firearm have a quota of crimes to commit? Last I heard it was the person that commited the crime, not the gun. If gun X is no longer on the street, the bad guy will use gun Y instead. The crime still gets commited, just using a different gun.
Correction – there are several Fred Meyers in OR that sell guns. The Freddies in Newberg, OR sells rifles, shotguns, handguns, ammo, and various accessories. The Newberg Freddies is also more than willing to order anything that they don’t stock but can get via their catalog. I’ve bought two pistols there. Can’t speak for any of the other gun toting Freddies in OR.
The Newberg Freddies started selling guns about the time that the Joe’s in Sherwood closed. Smart move on Freddies part because they picked up all that business. Hope it lasts.
The Newberg, Bi-Mart also sells rifles and shotguns, but NO handguns. Bi-Marts ammo prices typically run better then Freddies.
Here is a list of Fred Meyers that sell guns:
Fred Meyer #030
Fred Meyer Stores, Inc
325 Fifth Street
Brookings, OR 97415
Fred Meyer #021
Fred Meyer Stores Inc
61535 S Highway 97
Bend, OR 97702
Fred Meyer #462
Fred Meyer Stores Inc
51501 S Columbia River Hwy
Scappoose, OR 97056
Fred Meyer #218
Fred Meyer Stores Inc
695 Highway 101
Warrenton, OR 97146
Fred Meyer #220
Fred Meyer Stores Inc
3300 Portland Rd Suite #100
Newberg, OR 97132
Thanks for the tip! I’m familiar with the Freddy’s in the Portland/Vancouver area, none of which sell guns. I’m pleased as punch that other (read: more rural) Freddy’s do.
Another couple of points that are missed in discussions of these Buy Backs in 1) the guns are not traced to at least solve a crime or return a gun to its owners, in fact most are forbidden to do so and all that does is give the gangsters a good place to get rid of a gun and 2) any guns that DO have a value should be auctioned off to law abidding gun owners to help offset the costs. Add these are not jsut old junk broken guns, at one of the previous events in Portland, a man bought a 45 ACP revolver, M1917 I think. (only link I could find: http://www.ak47.net/forums/topic.html?b=8&f=36&t=435239&page=1)
Seizing 62 guns will prevent a homicide and a few violent crimes? Hardly. In 2009 the FBI states the violent crime rate at 429 per 100,000 population. The FBI also estimates the number of guns in America at approximately 100,000 per 100,000 population. Comparing the two numbers gives you about 1 violent crime for every 200 guns. So Portland prevented about one-third of a violent crime by taking 64 guns off the street. It will only take these five cops another entire year at that rate, to statisticly prevent a single violent crime.
Hooray for Portland!
$4,032 per gun? I hope they were all customized Wilson 1911s. Otherwise, Portland got screwed-over worse than when the Blazers passed on Michael Jordan to draft Sam Bowie.
Gun nuts who think this program is just about “disarming stupid liberals” are dead wrong. Actually, this program is a great way to disarm smart conservatives like my mom, who recently became a grandmother. Her deceased husband left her with an old remmington .22 and a shotgun in her garage, and why would she need it? She doesn’t hunt, would never even try to defend herself if someone invaded her home, and she doesn’t have a small penis to compensate for. With grandkids running around the guns are just a liability waiting to hurt someone. She might as well turn them in and get $50, because they aren’t worth much more than that.