Do Gun Buybacks Really Work?

Periodically, some cities offer a gun buyback program in an attempt to get as many guns off the streets as possible.  Cities such as Detroit, Cincinnati, Boston, San Diego and Los Angeles have tried this program.  This past week, Los Angeles offered a $200 grocery gift card for anyone turning in an automatic weapon and a $100 gift card for handguns, rifles and shotguns.

Generally, the police don’t ask any questions about the guns or where they came from and no arrests are made.  In LA this past week, they asked people to place the guns in the trunk of their cars, pull up to the buyback locations, open the trunk and allow the police to remove the gun.

The preliminary count in Los Angeles yielded around 1400 guns, 49 of which were assault weapons and 477 were handguns.  They generally hold their gun buybacks in May where they collected 1,673 guns earlier this year.

Officials in Los Angeles and other cities with buyback programs say the programs are a success and help to keep the streets safer, but are those claims true?

According to the National Research Council of the National Academies report (Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review) in 2004, the buyback programs’ effect on crime rates is negligible at best.  Their study showed that many of the guns turned in are old, inherited from previous owners or are in need of repair.  Very few of the guns were found to be used in crimes.

I recall listening to one news commentator a couple years ago talking about the gun buyback program and he asked the other person just how many criminals did they expect to turn their guns in?  He raised an issue that just prior to the one gun buyback, there was an increase in home break-ins and gun thefts and that many of those guns were recovered in the buyback program.  His conclusion was that the gun buyback program actually served to promote an increase in break-ins and thefts just so the criminals could get the money from the police without any questions being asked.  Therefore, it seems that gun buyback programs may make the streets safer (which is highly questionable), but it makes the home more dangerous and a more likely target of crime.

The only positive effect there is from gun buyback programs is that it makes the city officials look like they are doing something worthwhile to help prevent crime, even though they may actually be increasing crime.  Other than that, the programs are useless or negative and should be stopped before any more houses are burglarized for their guns.