Gun Buy Back Programs: An Ineffective Waste of Money

Various cities across the country, most notably Chicago, have run gun buy back programs. These programs offer citizens money in exchange for turning in guns. Such programs allow politicians to claim that they have “taken hundreds of guns off the street” that would have otherwise been used in crimes. In reality, these programs don’t do much (if anything) to stop crime, but do consume large sums of money that would be better spent actually fighting crime:

Criminals don’t turn in the guns they used or will use to commit crimes
The fatal flaw in the gun buy back programs is the untrue assumption that criminals will turn in guns that they have either used in crimes, or would use in the future. There are several reasons for why this is untrue. Firstly, criminals who have used a gun in a crime are generally afraid of turning in their gun, in case they police manage to tie the gun to the criminal and arrest them. Secondly, the guns that a criminal has were probably stolen or illegally purchased on the black market. The current illegal gun owner knows that that his gun may have been misused by the previous illegal owners, and if the current illegal owner turns it in, he may get pinned with the previous illegal owners’ crimes. Finally, a criminal who uses his gun to commit crimes relies upon his gun to make his illicit income. That criminal would no more give up his gun than a truck driver would give up his truck, or a lawyer would give up his law license. Regardless of which of the above reasons apply, criminals just don’t turn in their guns that were used or will be used in crimes – and the statistics don’t show a drop in crime after gun turn in or buy back events.

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The guns that are turned in are often non-functional
The guns recovered though the gun buy back programs are often non-functional, or as a Dr. Carl Bell, president and CEO of the Community Mental Health Council and Foundation stated “the guns they buy back don’t work in the first damn place.” That is because a functioning gun is worth more than the $100 or so that the police offer for it. Using the gun in just a single armed robbery, a criminal could easily gain more than $100 – and keep the gun too. A criminal who wants to get rid of a working gun could often sell it to another criminal for more than $100. Accordingly, the guns that are turned in are the non-functional guns; the guns that wore out due to and neglect and a lack of cleaning. Getting such guns “off the streets” doesn’t accomplish much if anything, given the nearly inexhaustible supply of working guns in this country, other countries, and on the black market.

The net result is wasted money
Gun buy back programs can easily cost upwards of a million dollars to organize, staff, pay for the bought back guns, and then pay to dispose of them. In exchange for that money, the police department gets a bunch of worn out, often non-functioning guns. That money could have instead been spent on actually stopping crime, but instead the anti-gun politicians and other similarly situated public figures prefer to use nearly-pointless gun buy back events as a way of gaining publicity for themselves.