For the non-political, the Fort Worth Police Department’s gun buyback program is simply a chance to dump an unwanted paperweight for a quick 50 bucks.
But politically speaking, its either a good governance method of reducing violence and accidental shootings, or a left-wing gun confiscation scheme.
On the 2016 campaign trail, candidate Hillary Clinton called for national gun buyback programs, and used Australia as her model of success. “Australia is a good example” she said, and, “The Australian government, as part of trying to clamp down on the availability of automatic weapons, offered a good price for buying hundreds of thousands of guns. Then, they basically clamped down, going forward.”
Of course, gun rights activists often point to Australia as an anti-gun hell hole and consider anything Hillary Clinton says about gun ownership to be a sinister gun-grabbing plot. After all, her husband’s Presidency banned hundreds of firearms. And although the Obama administration did not sign the United Nations Small Arms Treaty until after her departure as top diplomat, she helped negotiate it for years.
And then, of course, she did use the words, “clamp down” in her plan.
Clinton’s views on disarmament aside, as far as “gun violence” goes, non-partisan data simply shows buybacks do virtually nothing to reduce it. The Fort Worth Police Department, which announced their own buyback program in May, even admitted that they did not expect “any lifelong criminals that use a gun as they commit crimes, to turn in their guns.”
Reason.com, a libertarian publication, responded to Clinton’s buyback push by citing data that revealed the Australia program to be an objectively verifiable failure, with about 80% non-compliance.
“When anti-gun laws fail to gain ground, gun grabbers have to get creative and try new tactics to rid the world of guns. One of the most idiotic techniques is gun buyback programs—that is, paying people to give up their guns…
[Buyback] programs only seem to help the perpetrators of gun violence and disarm potential victims.”
Indeed, a National Research Council report in 2004 found that buybacks are largely ineffective at reducing crime.
The department’s own admission that criminals are unlikely to participate leaves the imagination to surmise the purpose of their program.
Many gun rights activists see buybacks as a kinder, gentler confiscation effort. One reason for that is probably the fact that the programs typically take place in less gun-friendly localities.
In the Democratic stronghold of New Jersey, for example, the U.S. Attorney’s office is joining the state in holding a series of buybacks this year.
The L.A. Times reported in May this year that the Los Angeles Police Department bought 800 guns in exchange for $100 and $200 Target gift cards. This buyback is being lifted up as a great success by proponents. And like New Jersey, Los Angeles, California is certainly not a pro-gun, conservative stronghold.
But Tarrant County, Texas is.
In fact, just this January, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Tarrant County — in which Ft. Worth is the largest city — is “America’s most conservative large urban county.”
The Mayor of Ft. Worth, Betsy Price, is a Republican.
So when the Ft. Worth Police Department announced in May that they would be holding five buyback events in 2017, they were met with disappointment from conservative locals and nationwide mockery by pro-gun activists.
This Saturday, July 8th, they will hold their second of five buybacks.
The department announced on Facebook that they will be trading $50 gift cards for unwanted guns, with an aim to “get firearms off the streets.” Nearly a thousand, mostly displeased, comments followed.
Many commenters were furious that tax-payer dollars might be used to disarm their neighbors. However, the department tried to allay this concern with their first announcement in May, saying the funds are coming from federal grants.
But revealing the involvement of the federal government was certainly no comfort to gun rights activists who often view that institution as a perpetual threat to the Second Amendment.
The federal money is coming from “seized assets,” though the department does not specify how they were seized. If the money was seized via civil asset forfeiture, it makes the situation even worse in the eyes of local conservatives whose Republican State Senator Konni Burton has led an effort in Texas to abolish the practice in state-level law enforcement.
Anyway, the department’s statement makes clear if they want to keep the federal dollars flowing, whatever the effectiveness, they’re going to continue the program.
“We certainly do not expect a huge turnout of law abiding, gun owning citizens wanting to give us their guns for a 50 dollar gift card. Nor do we expect any lifelong criminals that use a gun as they commit crimes, to turn in their guns either…
“This money was provided for us to continue the buyback program in an attempt to get more guns off the streets. And as cliche as it may sound… even if we get just one gun off the streets, we’re going to continue this program.”
Whatever the motivation, funding, or effectiveness of the buyback, gun enthusiasts have made a habit of attending these events around the country and taking full advantage. Where the police may offer $50 for a $600 gun, don’t be surprised to see a handful of eager traders standing outside offering $100.
And despite Democratic lawmakers’ best efforts, private sales in the parking lot are still legal in Texas.
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