WTVM Editorial 04/13/22: Gun Buybacks and Crime
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - When local police offer gift cards or cash in exchange for guns, many people think it’s a great idea, and that streets will be safer with fewer guns in circulation.
But the reality of gun buyback programs is more complicated than that.
Unfortunately, gun buybacks rarely succeed in capturing illegal weapons used in violent crimes.
The common sense reason is simply that criminals won’t surrender their guns.
Studies since the 1990′s show that many people who respond to gun buyback programs give back guns that are not the type used most often in violent crime.
Guns offered up to police are not the semi-automatic handguns used almost universally in gun crimes and mass shootings.
The guns turned in are usually revolvers or sometimes rifles…often it’s a gun someone inherited or it may be an older, unreliable weapon.
2021 data from the National Incident Based Reporting System shows no decrease in firearm-related crime of greater than 1.3 percent during the year following a gun buyback.
In addition, that same study shows that 50% of participants in gun buyback programs have another firearm at home they don’t surrender.
Of course, that’s not to say gun buybacks like the Columbus Police Department’s effort last week are completely ineffective.
The programs do raise awareness about crime, guns in general and the need to responsibly secure firearms.
Buyback programs can persuade citizens to bring in guns they don’t want around the house anymore because they could fall into the hands of children.
Getting just one gun away from a child who might discover and carelessly fire it, is a wonderful reason to turn in a gun - and one of the best reasons for a buyback program.
But expecting large numbers of illegal guns that have been actually used in shootings to be rounded up in gun buyback programs is unrealistic.
It just doesn’t happen.
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