By Larry Keane
December is a time of magical thinking, twinkling lights and holiday cheer.
Unfortunately, December is also a popular time for local governments and law enforcement agencies to host gun buyback events. Unlike believing in Santa Claus, these groups apparently do not outgrow the myth of the effectiveness of gun buybacks.
As we have said here before, these events are ineffective wastes of tax dollars. Studies show they do not reduce crime. Even the Obama Administration, which embraced all sorts of ineffective gun control measures, rejected the idea in its National Institute of Justice memo. Law enforcement professionals agree, with 82 percent rating gun buybacks as ineffective in reducing violent crime.
Paging the Medical Community
Now, medical professionals are joining the ranks of magical thinkers, hosting recent gun buybacks in several New England cities. Setting aside the futility of the events themselves, this is another example of the gun control groups attempting to recast gun control – a criminal justice issue – as a public health issue.
We’ve exposed this ongoing rebranding effort in the past, pointing out that firearms are not a disease and that there are legal, healthy ways that tens of millions of law-abiding Americans enjoy each day. Based on public opinion surveys showing that Americans do not see the misuse of guns in violent crimes as a public health issue, it’s not the role of doctors to play gun control detective during checkups. One NSSF survey found: “An overwhelming 84 percent of survey respondents said gun violence is a criminal justice issue, rather than a public health issue, such as viruses. An even higher 88 percent of respondents said they do not think the CDC should spend resources on studying the use of guns in crime rather than on studying viruses and disease.”
Physician Consultation Ineffective
This isn’t just the public’s opinion, however. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report in October that confirms that having doctors talk to parents about safe storage and firearms in the homes does not change the parents’ behavior. In the words of the GAO authors:
“Our review of the studies relating to safe storage approaches (device distribution and physician consultation) found that providing a free locking device to study participants influenced behavior to store firearms more safely and physician consultation generally did not.”
So, gun buybacks are ineffective wastes of taxpayer funds, and doctors consulting with patients and their parents on firearms doesn’t work. It will clearly take more than magical thinking to assume the combination will have any impact on reducing criminal violence or firearms accidents.
Really want to make a difference this season? How about a contribution to NSSF’s Project ChildSafe® program to help distribute free safety kits with gun locks to communities in all 50 states? Based on GAO’s own research and on public opinion surveys, more funding should be directed to funding the distribution of free locking devices and educational material, rather than being poured into ineffective gun control measures dressed up as safety programs.
Larry Keane is the National Shooting Sports Foundation Sr. VP & General Counsel