The reason gun buybacks don’t work is that the government is not offering enough money for street guns, argues Dr. Jonathan Wilson Jr., a social worker, researcher, and Southwest Philadelphia resident.
Wilson, who is confined to a wheelchair after multiple encounters with gun violence, made his case in a recent op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Typical black market prices for an automatic gun are between $800 and $1,000,” Wilson explains. “The price for a revolver or a ‘throwaway’ is between $300 and $500. At those prices, $1 million would be enough to buy at least 1,000 firearms and make a significant reduction in the roughly 300 murders this city sees annually.”
“Philadelphia, it’s time to put our money where our mouth is and embrace data-driven decisions,” he continues.
Dr. Wilson contends that if the city offered at least “$1,000 for automatics and ghost guns” and “$500 for revolvers” it would move the needle.
“Those who oppose this are not wearing their thinking caps — the cost is but a fraction of the price needed to prosecute a homicide case or to incarcerate someone convicted of homicide for the rest of their life,” says Wilson. “Moreover, there is no price comparable to one life saved.”
With due respect to Dr. Wilson, let me just put on my “thinking cap” and say, in the nicest possible way, you have no idea what you’re talking about, do you?
Let’s start with the “data,” and make a “data-driven decision” regarding gun buybacks. The jury’s in, they don’t work!
As GunsAmerica previously reported, a 2021 study of gun buybacks from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “Using data from the National Incident Based Reporting System, we find no evidence that GBPs reduce gun crime,” including “ suicides or homicides where a firearm was involved.”
Interestingly though, the authors of the study observed a slight uptick in crime immediately following a gun buyback. They expound as to why this might be the case.
“Given that most buybacks are small in scope, involve poorly functioning firearms, and involve participants with low propensity for crime, how can we explain the short-run small crime increase that we observe following a GBP (gun buyback program)? The result is consistent with a number of hypotheses,” they say, while enumerating the following:
- First, as noted above, the marginal participant may have sold a poorly functioning firearm to obtain income used to purchase a well-functioning firearms that may be used in or stolen for the commission of gun crime.
- Second, the GBP may induce come potential criminals to engage in more crime because they perceive that law-abiding citizens participating in GBP will be less likely to defend themselves with deadly force (Lott 1998).
- Third, some buybacks, particularly those that repeated, may induce stocking up of firearms among those who (i) fear that repeated buybacks may lead to tighter compulsory gun control policies, or (ii) are responding to a reduction in the ownership cost of firearms and expect to see the firearms in the future (Mullin 2001).
Got that, Dr. Wilson? Gun buybacks may actually imperil the lives of the law-abiding because they create more defenseless targets, incentivize stockpiling and dole out funds that can be used by hardened criminals to purchase better weaponry.
But if one study isn’t enough to convince you, other academics have also reached similar conclusions over the years. SUNY Buffalo State associate professor Scott W. Phillips looked at city crime data in relation to five gun buybacks held between 2007 and 2012 and found no evidence — zero evidence — that they reduce crime.
“Does it work? No,” Phillips told The Buffalo News in 2017. “Should they keep doing it? I wouldn’t bother wasting their time,” he added.
And if the data and research in these studies aren’t enough to convince you, Dr. Wilson. Try common sense. Why would any drug dealer or career criminal give up their meal ticket for a $1,000?
How is the street corner gangster gonna keep his well-armed rivals in check if he gives up his guns? How is the seasoned robber going to convince the bank’s armed security to turn over the contents of the safe if he sold his carry piece at the last buyback?
Set this scenario in a different context, for a moment. Suppose Dr. WIlson that you convinced an addict to sell you his needles. Do you really think he is going to stop doing drugs? No chance!
Dr. Wilson, I respect that you want to make a difference in your community and you want to save lives. But buybacks don’t work. They’re a complete waste of money. For the health and well-being of Philadelphia, please consider other options.