Monday, May 9, 2011

How to make a gun buyback really work

L.A. had another gun buyback recently.  Residents turned in a few hundred guns in exchange for a $100 or $200 gift certificate, depending on how scary their gun looked. 

The police interviewed in the story made the bizarre claim that the program will save lives because they can never be used in a crime and they're getting guns "off the streets."  But the fact that people willingly turned the guns in shows that they didn't intend to use them in crime anyways, and I see no evidence that these guns were on the streets as opposed to people's closets.  These were not the community guns stored under a brick in the courtyard of the projects. 

A gun buyback will never reduce crime - gun related or otherwise - because the people who turn in guns are self-selected.  The people who sell back guns are not the people we're worried about.  No rational criminal would surrender his gun any more than a carpenter would surrender his tool belt.  The only way a gun buyback could possibly work would be to send the police to known gang members, and make them an offer they couldn't refuse. 

The gun buybacks satisfy two goals of the shrinking gun movement: to give the appearance of doing something, and reducing the supply of guns. 

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