A good intention misfires

Gun buyback misses target of making streets safer

Niki Watson doesn’t even live here anymore. But she went miles out of her way to help her hometown recently.

An Augusta native and Westside High School graduate, she didn’t like the Augusta news she was getting in Queens, N.Y. – particularly the shootings of people her age here.

“I had to do something,” she said.

We don’t want to temper her enthusiasm. We need more of it.

But gun violence is a very real problem that requires a realistic approach to solve. And there’s absolutely no reason to believe the gun buyback she staged Aug. 4 at Antioch Baptist Church will have done a thing to make the streets safer.

Evidence from such programs around the country indicates clearly that it’s mostly a public relations gimmick for shrewd politicians to make themselves look good.

“That’s what it is,” one local law enforcement expert told us.

“In truth,” the Los Angeles Times wrote after such a buyback there in 2009, “studies of municipal gun buyback programs have never turned up a shred of evidence that they reduce firearm violence. ... It’s safe to say that there are millions of guns hereabout. The 1,700 turned in Saturday did not significantly reduce the number.

“What’s more, the guns that tend to be surrendered are very seldom the ones used by criminals. They are usually old, broken weapons turned in by older people who would rather have a $100 gift certificate to
buy groceries (the premium offered Saturday to those who brought in guns) than a rusted revolver.”

In the case of the Aug. 4 buyback here, participants were given $70 gift cards in return for bringing in guns, no questions asked.

It appears for all the world as if what Ms. Watson got – some 22 guns – were the wrong guns from the wrong people.

“Organizers expected to see mostly young black men, but more women, older people and whites turned in guns than they expected,” our news story reported.

It’s a very safe bet the guns weren’t being used in crime – and many might never have been used for any other reason. Gun buyback programs are a great opportunity for folks to turn unwanted, worthless,
even unusable guns into cash – in many cases much more
cash than the gun might be worth.

Our law enforcement expert said no thug is going to cash in a $600 firearm for a $70 gift card.

So far, none of the guns turned in Aug. 4 have turned up as having been stolen, either.

Again, we appreciate Ms. Watson’s drive and civic-mindedness, including her willingness to cut five personal checks when the gift cards ran out. Her passion is utterly disarming.

Unfortunately, much more so than a gun buyback.

Organizers take in 22 firearms at Augusta gun buyback

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