You have to be pretty clueless in this day and age to believe that gun “buybacks” are effective at, well, pretty much anything other than generating positive headlines for the politicians who promote them. Study after study has found that compensated confiscation efforts have no positive impact on violent crime or gun-involved injuries (either intentional or accidental), but that hasn’t stopped cities and counties across the country from hosting their own turn-in events. In recent years the influx of federal grants handed out as part of the American Rescue Plan has funded a lot of these events, but even if taxpayer dollars aren’t spent on these programs they’re still a waste of time and someone’s money.
Not long ago the San Antonio Police took part in a “buyback” organized by city council member John Courage; collecting nearly 1,000 firearms at a cost of $160,000. The editors of the San Antonio Express News admit these events are “ineffective”, but they still lavished praise on Courage for the effort.
At a cost of $160,000 in H-E-B gift cards, perhaps some Thanksgiving tables were more bountiful. One sign of the community interest in the buyback at the Alamodome is that after the gift cards were gone, Courage’s staff had to turn away about 200 vehicles.
Specifically, though, it’s unlikely the event will reduce gun violence or make a dent in gun-related fatalities here.
That 200 vehicles, many with gun owners wanting to sell multiple firearms, had to be turned away illustrates how prevalent guns are in the community. And, of course, people planning to use a gun for a crime aren’t likely to trade it for a gift card. This is the flaw in buyback programs.
If there is a silver lining, it’s that there are about 1,000 fewer guns that could be stolen or used in an accidental shooting.
Gun buyback programs in the United States have been around for decades, and they happen in other countries, too. But in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, buybacks are mandatory and national. In the U.S., buybacks are voluntary and local.
Uhhh, no. In those countries, the “buybacks” were mandatory because the firearms in question had been banned. These were confiscation efforts, albeit with a little bit of cash thrown around as an incentive to get people to cooperate. And honestly, if the San Antonio police had been in charge of a mandatory turn-in program, there probably would have been even fewer guns handed over than what actually took place earlier this month.
For the paper’s editors, however, a true confiscation event is something to be emulated. In fact, while they acknowledge that Courage’s “buyback” isn’t going to do anything of substance, they argue that cities like San Antonio have little choice but to waste money on ineffective events because of a lack of gun control at the state and federal levels.
This isn’t to criticize the San Antonio event or to make light of the efforts of Courage, who used $100,000 in discretionary funds for the event. Nor is it to discourage future buyback programs.
Courage is doing all he can within the confines of our system. Congress and state lawmakers have been unable to pass meaningful reforms, so City Council members, mayors and other local leaders are reduced to ineffective responses in an attempt to do something to reduce the national plague of gun violence.
So, yes, we are skeptical of the long-term impact of removing 933 guns from circulation in San Antonio. Still, if that means 933 fewer weapons reached for in anger or despair, 933 fewer weapons stolen and 933 fewer weapons touched by children, then there are 933 reasons to commend Courage’s buyback event.
But it won’t mean any of that, as the editors have already admitted, so why not criticize the event, discourage future “buyback” programs, or even chide Courage for not using those funds for more substantial anti-violence efforts? That $160,000 could have paid for another cop to patrol some of the city’s high-crime neighborhoods or funded several community-based violence interruption positions. It could have been spent on early childhood programs to help kids stay away from gangs, or even on real gun safety training at local ranges.
When politicians do something useless just so they can say they’ve done something, they shouldn’t have compliments heaped on their efforts. Courage’s heart may be in the right place, but his head is stuck in the sand if he honestly believes that San Antonio is a safer place today because of the “buyback” held earlier this month. I don’t know if Courage knows any better but it’s clear the Express-News editors have a grasp on reality… they just choose to ignore it in favor of their own anti-gun fever dreams.