The Albany gun buyback: buyer's remorse?

gun encased in concrete

This one shouldn't be a problem.

A new program in Albany will be "buying back" guns in an effort to rid the city of "community" guns like the one that was allegedly involved in Kathina Thomas' death. Here's how it works: you show up with a gun (unloaded, we hope), hand it over, they give you a $150 gift card for the mall, then the guns get turned over to the Albany County DA.

Sounds like a plan, right? Unfortunately, gun buybacks don't appear to work.

A handful of cities have tried these programs and the results have been inconclusive at best. A 2004 report from the National Academies concluded that there isn't any evidence indicating these programs actually work. Researchers reported that a buyback program in Seattle "failed to reduce significantly the frequency of firearm injuries, deaths, or crimes" (translation: probably didn't work). A Milwaukee program netted guns -- just not the kind usually used in crimes. Boston has given the idea a spin twice now, apparently with little success. And a recent gun buyback program in Oakland ended up as a way for gun dealers to turn a profit.

So, what's the problem? That National Academies report called the theory behind these programs "badly flawed." Here's how Alex Tabbarok, an economist at George Mason (and one of the Marginal Revolution guys) explained the problem:

Imagine that instead of guns, the Oakland police decided, for whatever strange reason, to buy back sneakers. The idea of a gun buyback is to reduce the supply of guns in Oakland. Do you think that a sneaker buyback program would reduce the number of people wearing sneakers in Oakland? Of course not.

All that would happen is that people would reach into the back of their closet and sell the police a bunch of old, tired, stinky sneakers.

A different economist has theorized that these buy back programs might actually increase the supply of guns.

So, is this all a waste of time? The evidence points toward "probably." But these programs do focus attention on gun violence. And as a wonk told the Boston Globe in 2006, buybacks help promote "shared responsibility for the gun issue" in the community.

Maybe there's a way to do that without a gift card to the mall.

photo: Flickr user code poet, used under a CC license

Comments

I'm not surprised people won't turn over their guns. While $150 may seem like a nice chunk, it's nothing when you're talking about protecting yourself, your family, your friends, your turf.

I don't know the equivalent, but I certainly wouldn't turnover something I saw as essential to my daily life - my livelihood- for $150. Heck, I wouldn't turn said item over for $1,500. It would have to be more into the $15,000 range so I could get out of certain areas of downtown- and stay out.

These buy back programs are controversial. They give you 150 dollar gift cards in exchange for your gun. Here's one problem. They sell guns at the very mall where these gift cards are redeemable (Dicks Sporting Goods in Crossgates Mall). What a program. Turn in your old gun and we'll give you a gift card to go buy a new one. That will do a lot to reduce the violence....Second, many old single shot 22s and the bolt action shotguns only sell for about 75 dollars. It would be very easy for any hunter or collector to go to the gun store, buy a bunch of these weapons, and then sell them back to the city for a profit. That will cost the city money, but it won't take weapons off the street. These programs sound great and the media/politicians love them, but they are not all that they are cracked up to be.

I think the idea is a good one, get the people who want to turn in the guns to do so, I can understand that not all will not turn them in, 150$ is a low price and some argue that you can get a gun for less than that, but those aren't the types of guns that they are accepting at the buyback. The program is buying back handguns, and you can't get any handguns, legally or illegally for $150, old single shot 22s and shotguns taht can be had for less than $100 are not being accepted. My question is what is being done about the guns that are being turned in? Are they being turned over to the police/DA or are they being sold to dealers to re-fund the program? It would make sense to have any legal ones sold by legal dealers to citizens who can legally own them (some seen on the news are classified as assault pistols and are illegal in NY alltogether) This way money can be put back into the program without having the taxpayers pay for it by way of government grants.

Dave, usually the guns bought back are destroyed. Tossed into shredders or smelters.
What really sucks is that every time I see a picture of a buyback there are Colt Pythons, Lugers, etc. Guns worth like 2,000$+ and loaded with historical value that will be destroyed. It's a darn shame. Some people need to look up the value of their piece before they hand it over.

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