While doing some research on the academic findings on the futility of gun “buybacks”, I found this statement from the “Freakonomics” web site: “When it comes to gun buybacks, both the theory and the data could not be clearer in showing that they don’t work. The only guns that get turned in are ones that people put little value on anyway. There is no impact on crime.” This bit of wisdom dates from from 2009. And it’s not particularly unusual . . .
Academic studies are in agreement that gun “buybacks” do nothing to reduce crime, and that police resources used for them could be better spent elsewhere.
But some say that energy could be better put to use in other ways. Alex Tabarrok, research director of the nonpartisan Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., said investing in buyback programs makes little sense when study after study shows they don’t work.
A few researchers believe buybacks may even do some harm: A 1999 article in the Law and Order journal found that some people sold guns to police during buybacks and then used the money to buy new guns.
It’s ironic that the quote above equates buying “new guns” with harm. It reinforces my theory that the only significant effect of the gun buybacks is “to send a message”, that is, for political propaganda. The message is clear: guns are bad and should be turned in to the police. The very term “buyback” is misleading. The guns were never owned by the people doing the buying, so they cannot be “bought back”. It implies that all guns are only legitimately owned by the government.
That theory does a good job of explaining why buyback proponents become so incensed when it’s suggested that guns taken in during the events be sold to responsible parties, either licensed dealers or individuals who undergo background checks. And suggesting that the proceeds would be used for charity or public benefit doesn’t seem to satisfy them.
Selling the guns would appear to reinforce what those promoting the buybacks want – government oversight of those who purchase guns. But for some reason they don’t see it that way.
Selling the guns sends a different message, one they’re not interested in furthering: guns are valuable resources that many people find useful.
Buybacks, which I prefer to describe as turn-in events, are on the decline. Much of this is due to the increase in private buyers who show up, money in hand, asserting their rights and spoiling the message of “all your guns are belong to us”. The only places where buybacks are flourishing are those states that have effectively banned private sales of firearms, such as New Jersey and California.
Even those promoting a disarmed population are distancing themselves from buybacks. This email message from Washington Ceasefire president Ralph Fascitelli was unearthed in a freedom of information request in Washington State:
“I wish you guys would … have talked to us/CeaseFire about this before moving forward,” Fascitelli said in an email to King County Executive Dow Constantine and a Mayor’s Office staffer. “The overwhelming research shows that buybacks generally don’t work well and are a waste of resources and are mocked by the NRA.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.