Recently, we reported on Hillary Clinton’s praise for local firearm “buyback” events and her view that forcing Americans to participate in them on a national level – ala Australia and Great Britain – is “worth considering.”
Voluntary gun buybacks are a classic case of gun control symbolism. Their advocates claim they are “taking guns off our streets,” although in many cases the guns collected are so ancient or decrepit as to be completely nonfunctional or nearly so. In other cases, the guns are not coming off “the street” but from law-abiding owners where such firearms pose no risk to public safety whatsoever.
Even an advisor to the Obama administration at the National Institute of Justice said such efforts “cannot be effective” unless “massive” in scope “and coupled with a ban” on the same sort of arms as are being collected. Voluntary buybacks, the advisor counseled, “are too small to have an impact” and involve guns that “are at a low risk of ever being used in a crime,” while replacements for the turned-in guns “are easily acquired.”
Voluntary turn-in events also usually require some incentive to stimulate participation. This typically takes the form of cash or gift cards, which of course can then immediately be used to finance the purchase of new guns.
Given all this, it was particularly ambitious for the Greensboro, NC, Police Department (GPD) to urge residents to turn in guns, while also signing a “pledge of non-violence” at an event the department conducted last Saturday. According to the Facebook post advertising the event, “Police employees will be accepting handguns, rifles, shotguns, and ammunition at the event. This is not a buy-back program. No cash will be given in exchange for weapons voluntarily surrendered to police.”
It was meant to be an event, “in which law enforcement and community members work together to solve problems.” The GPD noted that “there is no limit” to how many firearms would be accepted and that they would “not be returned.” The department also offered to pick up firearms from owners’ homes.
Police-community partnerships are a positive measure to increase public safety, but good intentions aren’t the same thing as a good (or effective) plan. A report by Time-Warner Cable News tried to put a positive spin on things by noting that “almost 1,000 people” responded to take the pledge, leading one to believe that 1,000 firearms had been turned in, but this was hardly the case. As evidenced by the footage accompanying the story, the gun turn-in apparently resulted in a single BB pistol and a single sheathed hunting knife being “taken off the streets."
Crimes involving firearms in Greensboro have increased 68% from last year, according to the report. Fortunately, asking citizens to promise to be on good behavior and accepting the community’s surplus sporting goods are not the totality of the GPD’s stepped-up efforts to counter this alarming trend. The department’s Facebook page also cites the “creation of a Street Crimes Unit, and enhanced dispatch protocols to calls for service likely to escalate to violence.”
The signed pledges collected at the event will be displayed at GPD headquarters. That may be good PR for the department, but their effectiveness will be measured in the coming days and years by how many criminals are paraded before them on their way to facing justice.