Now that the Anti-Second Amendment party is in control on Capitol Hill, expect local officials who depend on congressional funding to start dancing to their tune. One way they’ll do this is to host idiotic exercises like gun buy back programs. But these programs also defraud citizens, aid criminals and waste money, all while cheating legitimate law enforcement of resources. These programs claim to reduce gun violence by inducing citizens to turn in firearms for small sums of cash, or vouchers for sneakers or groceries. They are financed by the diversion of drug forfeiture funds, that is, money taken from drug dealers. These funds are supposed to be earmarked for the support of legitimate law enforcement purposes, such as training, radios, over-time and the like.
While I was a government researcher in Mercer County New Jersey I managed to get the paperwork of a our local buyback program. This was despite the efforts of the County Prosecutor who fielded the program. Sympathetic law enforcement sources shared the turn-in sheets however so I could see exactly what was happening.
The County prosecutor paid $50,000 dollars for 959 firearms. Each gun was exchanged on a “No questions asked” basis for $25.00 plus a gift certificate good toward sneakers or groceries. The only justification offered for the program was to “Get guns off the streets.” So how much public safety did the prosecutor and the citizens of Mercer County get for her $50,000?
Over thirty percent of arms purchased were old bolt-action rifles brought back from the world wars. Obviously, Kaiser Bill and Emperor Hirohito’s engineers didn’t have concealability in mind when they designed these weapons. So at about three feet long, gang bangers won’t touch them. Purchasing hundreds of these relics from All Quite on the Western Front was a complete waste of law enforcement resources.
Next most frequently turned in were the kind of 22 caliber plinking rifles used by the Boy Scouts to teach marksmanship to twelve year olds. Occasionally one of these is used in a crime. But even sawed off, they are bulky and underpowered, so criminals don’t use them if anything at else is available. This was another laughable expenditure of public money.
A great many 19th and early 20th century top break revolvers were turned in as well. Antique handguns in this category, with their low power and hard to find cartridges are unreliable and famously inaccurate. Many were inoperable. The last time you saw one of these was in a pre-war Sherlock Holmes movie. People attempting suicide with these guns have shot themselves in the head and lived. Judging from crime reports even criminals spurn these weapons.
Two Hundred and Five old shotguns were purchased. Judging by manufacturer, many of these were also artifacts left over from the Gilded Age. Some were modern enough to be cut down and used in the commission of a crime. But the fact that criminals already have access to their weapon of choice, the large caliber semi-automatic pistol, makes this a poor expenditure of taxpayer’s money. Of course the shotgun is the hunters firearm of choice in New Jersey and they are also a popular and legal means of homeowner self defense. So unless the wholesale disarmament of the population is the goal, this is more money down the publicity hole.
How many of the criminal’s weapon of choice did the Prosecutor get off the street? Exactly twelve. Only twelve large caliber semi-automatic pistols were handed over. Seven of these were ex-US government 45’s, one ex-Nazi 9mm, One “Miscellaneous 9mm’ and two old Lugers.
Some argue that buying up old guns of any description has a purpose. But what possible purpose was there for the purchase of starter pistols. Incredibly, seven starter pistols, incapable of firing a projectile of any kind, were purchased, along with twenty-seven BB guns. I can only presume that the police were instructed to pay money for objects merely resembling firearms if not enough real guns turned up. This is literally throwing money away.
Bear in mind that new starter pistols can be had for less than the twenty-five dollars the prosecutor paid for them. So at a ten-dollar profit for each new starter pistol it wouldn’t take all that many such transactions to finance a real handgun, courtesy of the prosecutor!
And what about those Lugers? Firearms have a market value no matter how much they frighten government lawyers. Grandpa’s old shotgun may not be worth much more than the twenty-five dollars the prosecutor offered but uncle Fred’s Luger was worth at least a thousand dollars. Yet Uncle Fred’s widow walked away with the same twenty-five bucks as the street hustler who turned in a worthless throwaway.
It’s clear from the large percentage of war souvenir arms that the population responding to this program consisted of many widows and descendants of veterans. Clearly, some had no idea of their value as antiques/collectables. Is it moral for an arm of government to cheat them of the value of their property?
This is not a hypothetical question. Several high value arms were turned in. Two Lugers, and two Parker shotguns appear in the documentation as well as 19th Century Colt single actions and several other valuable arms. The people who drop these off were literally throwing away hundreds, in some cases thousands of dollars. To put this in perspective we should ask ourselves the following. What would we think of a Government program of quick cash for land, bilking widows of their holdings. In everything but firearms the government pays something like fair market value.
While the gun buy-back program cheats citizens at large, one segment of society does benefit – criminals. These programs have a strict confidentiality clause. Since all weapons are purchased on a “No questions asked” basis, criminals are guaranteed a discrete and profitable evidence disposal program. All weapons turned in are destroyed, putting them beyond forensic analysis. They can never be linked to any crime once destroyed. So incredibly, a criminal need only turn in a pistol used in a crime to escape being linked to that crime forensically. If at a later date bullets from crimes are seen to match it makes no difference. Without a criminal’s gun to test, he walks away. Thanks to the prosecutor’s efforts, the government itself is now in the business of destroying evidence.
Obviously gun buy-back programs are wrong headed, born of a misguided desire to appear proactive in the face of street crime. What they really do is rob ordinary people of the value of their property and help criminals to escape punishment.
As an old wag once said, “If you or I behaved the way the government does, why, you’d have the government after you.” Indeed.