The city of Boston resurrected its gun buyback program in 2014 in an effort to get illegal, stolen or homemade guns off the streets. And that year, they got quite a few people to turn in guns. The grand total last year was more than 400 guns. The vast majority were so old and in such bad shape that they probably weren’t usable anyway, and most were probably worth far less than the gift cards the city traded them for.
But this year, when the city closed the books on the second annual “Your Piece for Piece” program (which, I admit, is a pretty catchy title), they didn’t have nearly as many guns to report. They got one. Yes, you read that right. One gun.
It just underscores the ridiculousness of gun buyback programs. The idea is to get criminals to turn in guns they came by illegally. The cities that run these buybacks say they won’t prosecute the people who turn the guns in, unless they have been directly involved in a serious crime. But people who get guns illegally know that if they voluntarily hand over their guns, they’re going to be scrutinized by the police. They’re not going to put themselves in that situation.
The only people who take advantage of it are people who probably own the guns legally in the first place. And as was shown in Boston last year, the guns they turn in aren’t worth anything, anyway. Why not trade a broken-down, rusty old hunk of junk for a $200 Target or Visa gift card? Especially when you know you’re not going to get even $5 for it if you try to sell it, and even then, you’ll have to wade through tons of political red tape to make it legal.
It just doesn’t make any sense. The criminals aren’t going to give up their guns, even if they can score a free credit card out of the deal. Drug dealers don’t take plastic. If the cities think they can make this work, they’re going to have to give away cash. And they might as well pair it with a drug buyback program, while they’re at it. That program would be just about as effective.
The lesson in this is to hold onto your guns, because the criminals are.