Buyback Sleight-of-Hand

According to Wikipedia, a gun buyback is “instituted to purchase privately owned firearms. The goal … is to reduce the number of firearms owned by civilians and provide a process whereby civilians can sell their privately owned firearms to the government without risk of prosecution.” The idea is that taking guns from citizens reduces crime, suicides by gun and firearms accidents. Detroit even came up with a clever slogan: “Cash for Caliber.”

Buybacks have been tried around the world and are inevitably reported in nauseous language: “Indications are that the buyback was successful” (Argentina) or a buyback will “provide a process whereby…”

Vague reports like “indications” have no meaning, and “provide a process whereby” is Orwellian bureaucrat-speak.

The “effect on decreasing violent crime and reducing firearm mortality is unknown,” researchers wrote after the 1992 buyback in Seattle, Washington. From Maryland in 1974, “The city’s already high gun homicide and assault rates actually increased during the program, for which police officials offered no explanation.”

Supposedly, guns purchased with public funds are destroyed. Most likely, any gun that isn’t functionally inoperable becomes the quiet property of some city official. (If I were a manufacturer, I’d set up a sales booth across the street from a gun buyback.)

Protesters hold signs while participating in Seattle's 2018

The 2018 “March for Our Lives” in Seattle. All citizens want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable. Gun buybacks, however, are foolish and ineffective. [Note to Darlene, who sold a 9mm to the Baltimore Police Dept. for about $200 so she could buy “a better weapon:” Sell through a dealer or at a gun show or via a private sale; you’ll get more for your trouble! Photo courtesy of Ryan1783 from wikimedia (cropped for effect)

Several years ago, I found a gun in the street, a Browning Buck Mark .22, unloaded and like new. I couldn’t believe my luck. On reflection, it occurred to me that the gun may have been used in a crime, and if it were ever checked, “I found it” might not work as a solid defense. So I called the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department. A deputy dropped by the house and took the gun. If no one claimed it, he’d return it to me. I took him at his word, didn’t ask for a receipt and never heard from the Sheriff again. Maybe somebody claimed it, or maybe it was like a buyback without getting paid.

Last month, The Washington Times reported, “The Baltimore Police Department collected more than 500 firearms Monday as part of a buyback program that pays residents anywhere between $25 to $500 for their unwanted weapons and high-capacity magazines. Mayor Catherine Pugh said the buyback is aimed at getting dangerous weapons off the streets, but at least one woman said she’s using the program to buy a bigger, better gun.”

Darlene told Fox News that she sold her 9mm in order to “upgrade to a better weapon.”

I’m for getting firearms out of the hands of criminals, but gun buybacks are ineffective, even silly. A 2013 story in USA Today, picked up from The Cincinnati Enquirer, said: “Researchers who have evaluated gun-control strategies say buybacks — despite their popularity — are among the least effective ways to reduce gun violence. They say targeted police patrols, intervention efforts with known criminals and, to a lesser extent, tougher gun laws all work better than buybacks.”

Of course, the media uses the same language that described the Argentina buyback — “They say” and “to a lesser extent” and “researchers” and “unnamed sources.” What the media refuses to understand is that the very best solution to gun violence is an aroused, informed citizenry working in cooperation with law enforcement and dedicated to training for self-defense — citizens like Darlene, who might now be carrying a “better weapon.”