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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Boston gun buyback, while potentially ineffective, sends the right message

Gun violence, and indeed, violence in general, is one of the more shameful parts of our history. One particular incident has gotten Bostonian tongues wagging about guns again. Earlier this month, reports surfaced that a 9-year-old was shot and killed by his 14-year-old brother. According to police reports, the teen responsible for the shooting had been previously arrested, and his mother had admitted to having difficulty with him, partly because she was raising her sons by herself.
It’s an all too familiar story, with an all too familiar ending. So familiar, and so tragic, that I’m sure most of us would be glad to never hear a story like this again.
Newly elected Mayor Marty Walsh certainly doesn’t want history to repeat itself. Mayor Walsh has proposed a gun buyback program, which would consist of the city paying gun owners money for their guns, then taking those guns out of circulation. In theory, this program would ideally reduce the amount of guns on the street. Like a good number of theories though, the implementation could certainly turn out different.
Walsh’s predecessor, Thomas Menino, embarked on a similar program in 2006. His “Aim for Peace” gun buyback program is touted to have taken over 1,000 guns out of circulation in a span of about four weeks — an impressive haul by those numbers.
Still, like many pundits pointed out to the mayor in 2006 and are pointing out to Mayor Walsh now, the strategy has many potential flaws and sinkholes. In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences criticized gun buyback programs, saying, “The theory underlying gun buybacks is badly flawed and the empirical evidence demonstrates the ineffectiveness of these programs. The guns that are typically surrendered are those that are least likely to be used in criminal activities. The guns tend to be old, malfunctioning guns whose resale value is less than the reward offered in buy-back programs or guns owned by individuals who derive little value from the guns (e.g. those who have inherited guns).”
Conservatives will not fail to remind Walsh that the gun buyback program of ’06 was never proved to have caused a drop in gun fatalities in the years that followed. According to a Boston Globe article, John Vernick, co-director of Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, described the program as having “no compelling evidence that gun buyback programs are an effective crime-fighting tool or that they reduce the rates of crime.”
There have been numerous similar studies nationwide, all arriving at the same conclusion: gun buybacks are ineffective. Yet, the program remains widely popular around the country as evidenced by its use in Connecticut, Arizona, and Cincinnati.
Despite its perceived ineffectiveness, there’s a reason for the buyback program’s popularity, the message it sends. Embarking on programs such as these, even though it reads like a public relations ploy, lets the members of the community know that solutions are being sought. As Walsh said, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem — we need outside the box solutions.
Make no mistake about it, a gun buyback program will do little to curb gun violence in our city, but there’s no denying it, something needs to be done. Even with its limited effectiveness, a buyback program is a step in the right direction.