Gun Laws & Legislation

Gun turn-in participants miss out on cash, have privacy violated

The term “gun buyback” is a misnomer, in that a government cannot buy back something that it never owned in the first place. However, in Santa Fe, N.M., organizers of a city-sponsored event billed as a gun “buyback” even managed to get the “buy” part wrong, and violated the privacy of the participants in the process.

The Santa Fe turn-ins (a more apt term) were held on Jan. 12 and Feb. 9, and after running out of the $25,000 in debit cards allotted for the event, organizers began issuing I.O.U.s. Participants’ names, telephone numbers, addresses and firearms were recorded, with the promise that they would receive payment for their guns shortly. Lino Ortiz, who turned in two handguns at the Feb. 9 event, told local media in an article that appeared on the 19th, “I’ve yet to be compensated for it. They said they would have us a debit card last week, but I called the Finance Department, and the lady down there told me, ‘Well, we still haven’t gotten them yet.’”

Adding insult to injury, the list of the dozens of people who received I.O.U.s was then made part of the public record when it was distributed at a Santa Fe City Council Finance Committee meeting on Feb. 18. Democratic State Legislator Brian Egolf  (D-47), who turned in guns at the event, was among those upset with release of the information, stating, “My concern is, for those who do wish to remain anonymous, that there be a way for them to do so and for them to be able to rely on the city’s assertion that they’ll remain anonymous.” Police Chief Ray Rael was surprised at the release of the personal information, having been told that participant anonymity would be respected, stating, “It shouldn’t have happened, but it did… I apologize on behalf of the city, I don’t think that information should’ve been out there.”

Such turn-in events serve as propaganda for gun controllers, are a burden on the taxpayer, and serve no public safety purpose. A January 4 National Institute of Justice memo outlining President Obama’s gun control options states, “Gun buybacks are ineffective as generally implemented.” The author goes on to point out, “The guns turned in are at low risk of ever being used in a crime.”

Research on the failure of gun turn-ins is nothing new. A 1994 study that appeared in Public Health Reports noted changes in firearm related crimes following a turn-in campaign in Seattle “were not statistically significant.” In a 1996 article published by the Police Executive Research Forum, Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck makes clear, “Existing empirical information provides no basis for believing that gun buy-back programs reduce violence of any kind.” And in 2000, Harvard researcher David Kennedy noted that turn-ins “do very little good… The pool of guns that get turned in in buybacks are simply not the same guns that would otherwise have been used in crime.”

Seemingly, the only winner in the Santa Fe turn-ins was one anonymous gun owner who explained his take on turn-ins to the local media. The man noted how he turned-in an old non-functioning shotgun, then explained, “I got that $100 gift card and, in turn, I went to Sportsman’s Warehouse and I put that $100 toward a Springfield Armory XD .40-caliber.”