Two communities in Washington State have announced “gun buybacks” in an effort to reduce the number of firearms “on the street” but there is research suggesting such efforts really don’t accomplish much.
Efforts in both communities are offering Visa gift cards in exchange for unwanted firearms, and following a long-standing tradition with such events, these will be “no questions asked” affairs, according to the Everett Herald.
The first event is Dec. 10 at the Mukilteo Police Department, while a “Guns for Gift Cards” event will be held in Everett.
However, according to the Journalists Resource, “Early research on gun buybacks, mostly from the 1990s, largely finds these programs ineffective at curbing gun violence. Recent research frames gun buybacks in a somewhat mixed but more favorable light.”
The article added, “On their own, buybacks might not be effective if the goal is to use them to directly reduce violent crime. But research shows buybacks can help if they’re part of a broader effort to reduce gun violence. They can also influence public perception of how authorities are dealing with gun violence and serve as opportunities to educate communities about gun violence reduction strategies, according to researchers.”
Second Amendment activists have long contended such buybacks, which offer anonymity to the participants, might be used to get rid of firearms used in crimes. The result may be to get a gun out of circulation, but a possible criminal goes free.
An article published by Pew in August acknowledged gun buybacks have been conducted “since at least the 1970s, and they are broadly popular.”
“But while many communities include buybacks in their overall gun violence prevention strategies, most research shows these events are ineffective at reducing homicides and suicides,” the Pew article said.
The story quoted Keith Taylor, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.
“It’s a waste of resources if the entities that are sponsoring believe that it’s going to have a positive effect on reducing crime,” Taylor said. “But if the purpose is to provide a means for individuals to get rid of weapons from their households that they don’t want to have anymore, it absolutely is a good option.”
In Mukilteo, people who turn in handguns will receive $50 and for long guns they get $100, according to the Mukilteo Beacon.
“Firearms exchanged through this program that are not stolen or linked to other crimes will be melted down as part of the Mukilteo Police Department’s annual firearm destruction process,” the newspaper said.
In Everett, people who turn in an inoperable firearm or receiver will get a $25 gift card, $100 for rifles or shotguns, $200 for handguns and $300 for a semi-auto rifle, the Everett Herald said. According to the Herald, “Federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act are footing the bill for Everett’s project. In Mukilteo, the buyback is part of $7,000 approved by Mukilteo City Council as part of its annual budget. About half will go to pay for gun safety classes for residents.”
(A version of this story also appears in TheGunMag.com)