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


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.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.


Recently on All Over Albany

An opinion on blood plasma centers, methadone clinics, a large logo, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million... (more)

Exploring Washington County

The rural, rolling hills of Washington County are just about an hour northeast of Albany on a scenic ride along Route 40. The county is... (more)

Morning Blend

Next Albany police chief + Kathy Sheehan has appointed Eric Hawkins to be the next Albany police chief. He's currently the police chief in Southfield,... (more)

The Cornplanter pipe tomahawk

We got a chance this week to stop in the State Museum and see an interesting artifact that's newly on display, Cornplanter's Pipe Tomahawk. The... (more)

Stuff to do this weekend

We're in the thick of the summer now. Long days, lemonade, blueberries, ice cream, and a bounty of stuff to do. We collected a few... (more)

Recent Comments

... The theft itself of this important Native American artifact is an important part of its story. It's really a miracle that almost 70 years later that the Cornplanter pipe tomahawk ended up back at the State Museum, instead of remaining in someone's secret, private collection acquired illicitly, or even worse, not cared for professionally and therefore damaged, destroyed, or lost forever.

Exploring Washington County

...has 2 comments, most recently from Katie

Scanning that New York State Department of Health report that argues the case for legalizing recreational marijuana

...has 12 comments, most recently from Megan m

The Cornplanter pipe tomahawk

...has 2 comments, most recently from Ed

Morning Blend for Jul 20

...has 1 comment, most recently from Amy

Local places to buy head scarves?

...has 2 comments, most recently from Summer