Getting Guns Off the Streets:
A recent slew of devastating mass shootings have sparked national outcry and reinvigorated a heated debate over gun violence in America. Faced with increased pressure to respond and take action to reduce gun violence, communities are turning to “Gun Buyback” programs–with gusto- in an effort to take guns, especially those with the capacity for mass casualty, off the streets.
Since the shootings in Connecticut a few weeks ago, dozens of cities across the US are launching buy-back programs in hope that these efforts will prevent future gun-violence . In all over 30 gun buy-back events have been held nation-wide in the weeks since the gruesome Connecticut massacre. Many are being hailed a ‘successes’ by officials who tout record numbers of firearms being turned in to authorities. Just a few weeks ago, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa touted that law enforcement agents had collected 2,037 firearms at the city’s recent buy-back event–the most since it started its buy-back program in 2009.
Off the Streets or Out of the Attic?
While a dumpsters full of firearms looks impressive, experts dismiss the effectiveness of gun buybacks in reducing crime because these events typically attract people less likely to commit violent crimes and guns least likely to be used in a crime. According to studies most gun-related crimes are typically committed by young men with newer firearms, while gun-buyback events typically attract an older crowd turning older guns that are often not in good working condition: hunting rifles or old revolvers from someone’s attic.
Do Buybacks Make a Dent?
Here are a few stats just to have an idea of the enormity of firearms in circulation vs. those collected by buybacks:
- The federal government estimates that there are currently over 310 million firearms in circulation within the US, nearly one for every man, woman and child
- In the buybacks since Sandy Hook, an estimated 10,000+ guns have been collected
- Studies suggest that a 10% reduction in U.S. households with guns would result in only a 3% reduction in homicides
- The guns collected by LA in their latest buy-back event, sadly account for only one day’s worth of gun sales in the state of California (2,000 firearms are bought and sold every day in the state).
An Expensive PR Stunt?
Images of police officers taking back guns looks good on the evening news but with thousands spent by local governments to buy back guns and little evidence to prove that buybacks directly reduce gun violence, a gun buyback can come off as an expensive PR stunt. But doesn’t have to. While gun buybacks may not directly reduce reduce gun violence, they can be used to heighten awareness and rally the community, especially when accompanied by a grassroots outreach campaign that works with gang prevention and intervention agencies, community and religious leaders. A comprehensive outreach effort serves not only to encourage participation in neighborhoods suffering from high levels of gun violence, but also to educate communities about the risks and dangers of gun and gang violence.
What do You Say?
Do you think gun-buybacks are effective? A waste of money? PR stunts? How is your community helping to combat gun violence/crime? Share your insights and best practices in the comments section below: