NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Do Buybacks Get Guns Off The Street?

August 28, 2000

Are federal laws like the Clinton Crime Bill of September 1994 and gun buy-back programs targeted at getting illegal guns off the street effective? Are they helping lower the rate of crimes committed with guns? There is evidence they have not been as effective as supporters hoped.

A program in Brooklyn, N.Y., for example, offers a reward for "Any working handgun, sawed-off shotgun or assault rifle. No questions asked."

  • Last year, 659 firearms were turned in for $100 each.
  • This year, the District Attorney was disappointed that during the one month window beginning July 1, 2000, the program only pulled in about 200 guns, so he upped the reward from $100 to $250 per gun.
  • Then, in one day, they received about 100 guns -- all .38 police service revolvers -- from court officers in Brooklyn who had been allowed to keep their revolvers after they were issued 9-mm. semiautomatics last year.

Although the D.A. wanted the court officers to give the $25,000 back, a union official pointed out that "It gets the gun off the street instead of leaving it in a closet where children or a burglar could find them."

In Milwaukee, five specific gun makes accounted for almost 50 percent of the fatalities in the area, but only accounted for 6 percent of the guns turned in during a gun buyback program there.

Also in Milwaukee, the gun types targeted by the Clinton Crime Bill of September 1994 were involved in 9 percent of the homicides from 1991 to 1994, reports the American Journal of Public Health, but between 1994 and 1996 these gun types were still involved in 9 percent of homicides.

Source: Mike Claffey, "Gun Buy-Back Backfires When Officers Cash In," New York Daily News, July 28, 2000; Catherine Barber, et al., "A 'Call to Arms' for a National Reporting System on Firearm Injuries," American Journal of Public Health, August 2000.


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