Pol Pushes for Gun Buy Backs Amid Question of Effectiveness

A Queens lawmaker last week called for more gun buy-back programs in the wake of a triple fatal shooting. But experts cast doubt on the effectiveness of the program to thwart crime.

Councilman James Sanders urged Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at press conference last Tuesday to hold another gun amnesty event. The most recent borough-wide buy-back program netted 922 guns.

Buybacks allow gun owners to turn over their weapons in exchange for money, no questions asked. The guns are typically exchanged for a $200 bankcard.

But Jon Vernick, professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said that although the programs are popular there's no evidence linking them to a reduction in street crime.

“It's often the case that buy backs have to promise a fairly substantial monetary or other incentive, and when you total up the cost that these gun buy backs incur, that’s money that could be better spent elsewhere,” Vernick said.

Vernick said guns turned in tend to be older, lower-caliber revolvers. He says the guns used in crimes are usually high-caliber and semi-automatic pistols.

He also says gun buybacks don’t reach the population most at risk to engage in street crime: young men.

So far, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office is resisting calls for a buyback.

“We have used gun buy backs in the past and we will use them again when we deem them appropriate. We are in constant dialogue with the NYPD about where and when to have one,” Brown said in a statement.  

Brown also says individuals they can always turn guns in at their local precincts for $100.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall held a smaller gun buyback program last month: 35 revolvers, 19 semi-automatics and one rifle were turned in.