Gun Buyback Misfires

Oakland’s recent gun buyback was especially ridiculous.  The police offered up to $250 for a gun "no questions asked, no ID required."  The first people in line?  Two gun dealers from Reno with 60 cheap handguns.  Fortunately the buyback did manage to get some guns off the street, too bad they were turned in by a bunch of senior citizens from an assisted living facility.   Whew, the streets are safe at last.

Even putting aside the obvious nonsense, gun buybacks simply don’t work.  In technical terms the supply of guns to Oakland is perfectly elastic so buybacks won’t reduce the number of guns in Oakland.  Here is an analogy from my op-ed in the Oakland Tribune.

Imagine that instead of guns, the Oakland police decided, for
whatever strange reason, to buy back sneakers. The idea of a gun
buyback is to reduce the supply of guns in Oakland. Do you think that a
sneaker buyback program would reduce the number of people wearing
sneakers in Oakland? Of course not.

All that would happen is that people would reach into the
back of their closet and sell the police a bunch of old, tired, stinky

Gun buybacks won’t reduce the number of guns in Oakland. In fact, buybacks may increase the number of guns in Oakland.

Imagine that gun dealers offered a guarantee with every gun:
Whenever this gun gets old and wears down, the dealer will buy back the
gun for $250.

The dealer’s guarantee makes guns more valuable, so people will buy more guns.

But the story is exactly the same when it’s the police offering
the guarantee. If buyers know that they can sell their old guns in a
buyback, they are more likely to buy new guns. Thus the more common
that gun buybacks become, the more likely they are to misfire….

The guns bought in this buyback are destined to be melted down to create a monument.  It’s a shame that this monument will be the only lasting effect of the buyback.


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