AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The Atlantic Admits Gun Buybacks Don’t Work

When it comes to news media, The Atlantic can be kind of confusing for me. On one hand, I see a lot of leftist rhetoric being passed as absolute fact, particularly on the subject of guns. For example, they tried to sell us on the idea that Bruen would lead to more violence. They also seemed really OK using racist gun control laws to justify new ones.

So when The Atlantic has a piece about gun buybacks, you click on the link with certain expectations.

The problem, of course, is that no matter how much they might like buybacks, they can’t escape one basic fact: They don’t work.

In fact, kudos to The Atlantic for admitting that fact.

Gun policy is a famously impossible problem in contemporary America. Any ideas that might actually reduce gun violence are stymied by political division or struck down by courts. Gun buybacks are the only form of gun control that both gun opponents and gun supporters like. There’s just one problem: They don’t work. Scholars have tried for years to quantify the benefit of buybacks, and they’ve consistently found little empirical evidence that they do much of anything to reduce gun violence at all.
“It’s easy to understand the impetus for launching a program of this kind,” Phil Cook, an expert on gun policy, told me. (Cook is a professor emeritus at Duke’s public-policy school, where I am an adjunct journalism instructor.) “The neighborhoods and cities that are fed up with gun violence and say We have to do something are then given something to do. And that often feels better than just sitting on the sidelines, worrying and complaining.”
Almost everyone wins: Authorities want fewer guns on the street. Americans are attached to their gun rights, and the Second Amendment protects many forms of ownership, so a buyback employs another beloved American tradition, the greenback, to collect guns instead. Citizens who have guns they don’t want, for whatever reason, can offload them without worrying that they might fall into the wrong hands. (To provide the cash, Durham County uses money seized in law-enforcement operations, which means no taxpayer dollars are spent. That said, asset forfeiture is itself a fraught practice.)

But the antique arsenal at the Durham event demonstrates one of the recurring flaws of buyback efforts: You mostly get guns that wouldn’t be used in crimes anyways. Most gun crimes in the U.S. are committed with handguns, but few modern, operable ones get turned in. Although AR-15s are a flash point in the gun-control debate because they are used in many of the worst mass shootings, they are far, far less common than handguns. Birkhead told me that Durham’s buybacks had yielded a few AR-15-style rifles, and he spoke almost wistfully about a high-quality SIG Sauer P220 that had come in that day and would have to be destroyed. Most of the weapons turned in, however, were either shotguns or elderly pistols. “Obviously, we don’t see a lot of shotguns used in the street crimes, but we do see some,” Birkhead said.

Nothing about that is surprising, save the fact that The Atlantic thinks people on this side of the gun debate like them. We don’t and for a variety of reasons, up to and including the fact that they’re still predicated on guns being the problem when they’re not.

And yes, the fact that they don’t work ranks pretty high on that list as well.

See, as The Atlantic notes elsewhere in the piece, buybacks are often motivated by the simple idea of “we have to do something!” Yet what that something is really should be more carefully considered.

And the fact that buybacks don’t work isn’t exactly new information.

A study done back in the 1990s looked at Seattle before and after buybacks. What did they find? “Comparing firearm-related events per month before and after the program, crimes and deaths increased, and injuries decreased, but the changes were not statistically significant.”

Officially, this falls into the category of no noticeable change because of the lack of statistical significance, but it’s interesting that crime and fatalities actually went up. If there were even a hint that these events did some good, that couldn’t happen. It just couldn’t.

And yet, here we are.

Even the anti-gun “journalistic” organization The Trace acknowledges they don’t work

Look, I understand correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. I’ve harped on that a few dozen times at least on this site alone.

Yet there’s a flip side to that and it’s that causation should equal correlation. If buybacks worked at any level, you couldn’t see an increase in gun-related crimes absent any other factors.

So we’ve known since the 1990s that they don’t work and study after study confirms this. Meanwhile, buybacks are championed by the people who simply need to be seen doing something in the wake of violent crime but don’t want to put any effort into something that might actually do some good.

It’s really past time to put this nonsense to rest and start trying to use that wasteful spending on something that might actually do some good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Biden Wildly Lashes out at Putin, Trump, and MAGA Republicans During Fundraiser

Catherine Herridge Posts Important Update on CBS’ Seizure of Her Files