If you live near a city of just about any size, or manage to take in a newspaper or local newscast on occasion, you’ve probably heard about “gun buybacks”. Operated with the intent to “take dangerous guns off the streets”, they’re an opportunity for politicians to hand out tax dollars (usually in the form of Wal Mart gift certificates or pre-paid debit cads) in exchange for voluntarily-surrendered guns. While the proponents of so-called buyback programs (how can the government “buy back” something it never owned in the first place?) are quick to extol their theoretical virtues, it’s been proven time and time again that cash-for-guns programs are really only useful for political grandstanding and headline-grabbing.
With DaveRea.com being headquartered near Rochester, NY, we decided to take a look at just how well these gun trade-in programs have worked here. As far as one can determine by combing the web, the City of Rochester held at least two “buybacks” during 2008: 159 guns were collected at an event in May and 133 were turned in on June 23rd. Assuming Rochester tracks the national per-capita average for firearm ownership, then these two events (combined) took about 0.15% of the area’s guns “off the street”. Of course, that assumes that they’re all “on the street” to begin with; the majority of guns collected through buyback programs are actually legally-possessed and not involved in any sort of criminal activity.
So how did we do? According to the good folks over at SpotCrime.net, Rochester had 100 shootings on-the-nose in 2008, for a rate of one every 3.65 days. So far in 2009, we’ve already chalked up 64 – that’s one every 3.25 days! I know the stats are pretty coarse, but still: our elected officials spent taxpayer dollars to take almost 300 “dangerous weapons off the street”, and all we have to show for it is a 12% increase in the gun crime rate?!
Update, 8:30AM: According to this morning’s news, we can add two additional (and, unfortunately, fatal) shootings to the count above. This brings Rochester to 66 shootings for 2009, one every 3.15 days, or a nearly-16% increase over 2008.
I know it’s a lot to ask, but here’s a thought for our area’s politicians: In the face of mounting deficit, instead of wasting tax money on so-called “buybacks” where two-in-ten of the guns collected from people who aren’t criminals don’t even work, how about we focus on putting actual law-breakers behind bars where they belong? The city’s politicians are quick to blame our violent tendencies on gang and narcotics-trafficking activity – so how’s about we put that cash into gang and drug enforcement, rather than collecting dusty muskets from the law-abiding?
Still want to hold a “buyback”? Why not take it a step further? With gun values at an all-time high, it seems like a shame to just throw away all those taxpayer dollars buying valuable items for pennies on the dollar.
Rochester simultaneously chalks up almost 3,000 violent crimes each year (and that’s only within city limits) while offering some of the finest training opportunities East of the Mississippi for those who actually want to learn to protect themselves. So why not help some folks out? After all – when the median household income is only a shade over $27,000, not everyone can afford to go out and drop $600 on a defensive firearm. Take those “bought back” guns (well, at least the ones that work), mark them up to 50% of their fair market value, and sell them legally through area FFLs. The city pockets the difference, and in some cases the extra pistol permit fees as well.
Hmm… Everybody wins! The politicians get their photo opportunities, the good people who don’t want guns can get rid of them legally, the good people who do want guns can get them legally, and a few bad people might even end up on the business end of those guns as a result… Bonus!