Organizers of a compensated confiscation effort in Pensacola, Florida are patting themselves on the back today after collecting 71 firearms and doling out $10,000 in less than an hour on Saturday, though they’re doubtful that they’ll be holding another event anytime soon.
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson called the gun turn-in a “successful” event, and I suppose it was if the idea was to get rid of thousands of dollars in city funds in exchange for a few dozen guns that weren’t likely to be used in crimes.
District 7 Councilman Delarian Wiggins proposed the program in January to raise awareness about gun violence in the city while getting a few guns off of the street.
The program was a completely voluntary, one-day event.
The council approved the idea in a 5-2 vote, and Robinson put forward $10,000 in the city budget from the Mayor’s Discretionary Fund to pay for the program.
Prices for the program were set at $150 for semi-automatic pistols, $125 for revolvers and $200 for semi-automatic rifles.
The city paid out $10,000 for 68 firearms (another three were handed over after money had run out), which averages out to slightly less than $150 per gun. According to the city, 19 long guns were turned in, along with 52 handguns. A photo from the event shows what appears to be mostly lever-action .22s along with a couple of shotguns, most of them in pretty rough shape.
In other words, these aren’t likely the guns that are being used by criminals, but rather “garbage guns” collecting dust in closets, attics, and gun safes. I’m guessing that a fair number of people handing in their guns in exchange for cash turned around and used the money they received to go out and purchase ammunition for some of the remaining guns in their collection.
Wiggins said that while he hopes the conversation about reducing gun violence in the city will continue well after the program, he doesn’t think there will be another gun buyback event offered anytime soon.
“This sparked interest in people,” Wiggins said. “Now is the time to say, OK, let’s sit at the table now and really discuss what’s going on in our community. What’s really going on? Now, what can we do to tackle these problems? Because we see that the amount of gun violence, especially in the African American community is running rampant. So how do we stop that?”
Well, you don’t stop it with a “buyback” or any other strategy that focuses on inanimate objects instead of violent offenders.
Look, if the city wants to waste its money on programs like these, that’s ultimately the decision of the city council and the mayor (and the residents who elect them). I just don’t think any politician should be patting themselves on the back for a “buyback” given that there’s virtually no evidence of their effectiveness in reducing crime, suicide, or accidents involving firearms.
“I’m not convinced,” said Jamie Copenhaver, a former detective for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Copenhaver has also been a Fox News security analyst on crime issues.
Copenhaver said, in many of the buyback programs, despite guns being turned, there has not been a decrease in the number of criminals using a gun to commit a crime. Copenhaver noted that in the Miami-Dade buyback program, over the course of a single year, only 128 guns were collected. In the Hollywood buyback program, only 65 firearms were reported to be turned in. The guns being turned in ranged from BB guns, pistols, shotguns and semi-automatic rifles. In the Central Florida buyback programs, there were only 700 handguns, shotguns and rifles collected.
“You mean to tell me with the millions of guns in the U.S. and Florida and this small percentage of guns being turned in is really going to stop shootings? No way,” Copenhaver said.
Last month, Lacey Wallace, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Pennsylvania State University, published an article which found local gun buyback programs have not done much to reduce crime. The article was republished by UPI.
Wallace also went over other flaws in gun buyback programs, including almost 25 percent of the guns turned in not working and many of the firearms that were turned in were worth less than the cash incentive being offered in return.
I call events like the one held in Pensacola last weekend a “soundbite solution.” It may sound good coming out of a politician’s mouth, but the real benefit is for those politicians who get to say they’re doing something, as opposed to doing something that works. These events provide an easy way for anti-gun officials to demonstrate their opposition to gun ownership, but in terms of having a practical effect on violent crime there’s no difference between giving someone $200 for a beat up .22 rifle and simply setting that cash on fire.
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