Boston’s 2015 Gun Buyback Program: 1 Gun, Increased Non-fatal Gun Violence?

According to The Boston Herald, the Boston Police Department’s “Your Piece for Peace” gun buyback program has been so effective that only one firearm has been turned in this entire year.

In February 2014 Boston’s mayor revamped the program on a $100,000 budget, following the fatal shooting of a 9 year old boy by his older brother in a neighborhood outside of Boston.

Non-coincidentally, usually after a regional or national tragedy a politician or media pundit suggest that a gun buyback program be initiated. In fact, after the Newtown, Conn. shooting, The Washington Post columnist Matt Miller proposed that the federal government adopt a $100 Billion compulsory national gun buyback program, paying each participant $500. Miller also advocated a federal ban on all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.

The goal of the buyback programs is to reduce crime by offering individuals cash who turn in their illegal and/or homemade guns. Proponents argue the less number of illegal guns on the street, less gun related crimes will occur.

Boston’s buyback program offers a $200 Visa gift card per turned in firearm. Participants are directed to deliver unloaded guns in sealed, clear bags. In addition to receiving money, participants also receive protection from prosecution for illegally owning the firearm, unless it was directly connected to a crime.

In 2014, the Boston Police Department received through the buyback program 400 firearms; in 2006, 1,000 firearms.

Jim Wallace, executive director of Massachusetts’ Gun Owners’ Action League told MSNBC, “We kind of laugh at the concept of gun buyback when they didn’t sell them in the first place. If gun buybacks were supposedly effective, then why don’t we have drug buybacks?”

And advocate Rick Ector told media in response to Wayne County, Michigan’s gun buyback program as, “’LEFT (Law Enforcement Firearms Transfers).” He argues, LEFT is “misleading to the general public because they send a message that they are actually going to do something that’s going to affect the crime rate.”

John Josselyn of the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore calls buyback programs, “symbolism over substance” and “a publicity stunt.”

Decades of research, including several recent studies confirm their assertions. Gun buyback programs are either largely ineffective at reducing crime, and/or have minimal impact. Additionally, those turning in firearms don’t resemble the general gun-owning population, aren’t likely to commit gun crimes, and the firearm turned in most often doesn’t fit the profile of handguns used in homicides.

Indicative of this trend, Boston’s gun buyback program doesn’t correlate to reduced gun violence. In fact, non-fatal gun violence in Boston is significantly higher in 2015 than it was in 2014. The reason for increased gun violence– police spokesman Lt. Michael McCarthy told Boston’s NPR radio station WBUR is, “There’s just a lot of guns out there.” He’s of course referring to illegal guns, which he claims the Boston Police Department confiscated over 1,000 in 2014, “both through police work and through the gun buyback program.”

Yet, it seems the Boston Police Department and Boston’s mayor owe taxpayers an explanation for the allocation of tax dollars towards a program that has resulted in only one gun turned in for the entire year during which time non-fatal gun violence also significantly increased.

October 5, 2015

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