Blowing 50 Grand in 48 Hours

There is a lesson to be learned from this:

NEWARK -- After just two days of operation, a gun buyback program in Newark was shut down today because it ran out of money.

"I didn’t expect this quick turnaround," Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow said.

Newark police at a news conference today said they collected 339 weapons during a two-day gun buyback program held this week.

The 339 firearms collected in the 48 hours depleted the $50,000 in funds that were available for the program. The last time Newark held this program, in 2005, it collected 489 weapons over a 2 1/2-month period...
In the past two years, leaders in large US cities including Miami, Oakland, and San Francisco have become smitten with the idea of buying guns from citizens to make communities safer. Gun buyback programs offer residents cash (and in some amnesty) for pistols, rifles, and shotguns turned into police.

These events offer some politicians and police executives the chance to host a feel-good show and reassure others that their community is much safer now that dangerous firearms have been removed from the street.

So, what is wrong with gun buyback initiatives?

Repeated empirical studies have shown that this approach has little if any effect on violent crime rates.

In his seminal work entitled PREVENTING CRIME: WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN'T, WHAT'S PROMISING, criminologist Dr. Lawrence Sherman said this:

…Gun buyback programs are based on two hypotheses. One is that the more guns in a community, the more gun violence there is. There is substantial evidence to support that claim (Reiss and Roth, 1993).

The second hypothesis, however, is not supported by the evidence. That hypothesis is that offering cash for guns in a city will reduce the number of incidents in which guns are used in crime in that city....

There are several reasons why buyback programs may fail to reduce gun violence:

• they often attract guns from areas far from the program city

• they may attract guns that are kept locked up at home, rather than being carried on the street

• potential gun offenders may use the cash from the buyback program to buy a new and potentially more lethal firearm; the buyback cash value for their old gun may exceed market value substantially.

The enormous expense of these programs is instructive.

When St. Louis invested $250,000 in gun buybacks in 1994, the same funds could have been used to match 250 children with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Those 250 children would then have enjoyed about half the risk of becoming drug users, at least for the first year (Tierney and Grossman with Resch, 1995). But the opportunity cost of the programs never entered into the debate.

Given their high cost and weak theoretical rationale, however, there seems little reason to invest in further testing of the idea...
The issue is not whether one opposes or supports gun control, but rather recognizing that funds are being spent on flawed initiatives.

Hey officials in Newark: please do some research into what works in reducing violent crime, invest your federal and local funds in strategies and programs with proven track records, and let your officers go back to policing.

If you do this, I am certain you'll be able to better invest the $50,000 spent in 48 hours instead of being concerned with grandma’s 1861 .58 caliber Enfield muzzleloader mounted above her fireplace.


angelcel said...

Yes it does seem to be a well-intentioned but simplistic approach. If you carry a gun you're unlikely to be tempted to hand it in for cash (except to buy another) because the reasons you had it in the first place are still there.

Back to the drawing board...

J. J. in Phila said...

About the only usefulness in this program is the person that says, "I'll return my gun, get the money and buy more crack."

Only a criminal completely stoned would return a gun under this program.

It might be better to actually teach gun safety in the schools.

Javajune said...

I don't think this approach retrieves the guns that really should be off the street. Thanks for visiting me and leaving a comment behind.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
We've tried this program overseas, too, and it's just a dismal failure. I thought it had died a while ago, but then . . .

Thanks for posting,
Ann T.

JennyMac said...

I wish before initiating "new" programs which are actually NOT new and merely recycled programs from other cities to determine lack of success there would likely lead to lack of success in Newark.

And AMEN it is not about whether you oppose the issue but whether it is being handled well.

Anonymous said...

Striking contrast Slam, but sadly a part of government.

One office spends Fifty grand to buy and remove guns, while another invests Fifty grand into one individual's" education, only to have him kill and maime.

Who knows what it will cost to sort out what went wrong. (Like we dont know)

Dan said...

A simpler approach - spent the dollars rigging all guns sold to explode on a Russian roulette algorithm - the number of guns used for anything will decrease. {*grin*}

I have to agree that buy back programs don't get the guns used in crimes - at best they pull in guns that appear in accidents.

mrs. fuzz said...

This was interesting. I hadn't thought of this aspect and I have read of other cities doing this. I, of course, pictured all the criminals lined up down the street to turn in their guns so that they could have money to buy food and clothing for their families. I live a sheltered life. :)

Binky Bink said...

This is interesting. I doubt there's really any criminal actually returning their guns, considering most of their weapons are obtained illegally. This program could help prevent violence in a way that kids and teenagers will no longer have easy access to their parents' guns... but that's assuming that most violence stems from kids and/or teenagers using the guns they find at home to commit violence. And let's face it, it's not. Maybe a better idea would be teaching the right values to children so they won't grow up as criminals or find themselves in a life of crime? Just a thought...