The Anatomy Of A Feel Good Campaign: Analyzing Buffalo's Gun Buyback Program
Buffalo's gun buyback backfires
The City of Buffalo is launching its 7th annual Gun Buyback program in just a few weeks. On August 16 individuals from all over Western New York will be able to turn in weapons to law enforcement officials at six drop-off sites across Buffalo.
In its release announcing the program's 7th year, the city boasts about giving away over $200,000 to residents who have turned a gun over in exchange for cash. And if it's anything like last year, you will see billboards plastered all over town promoting the "no questions asked" program. You read that right: No. Questions. Asked.
So what's the catch? There is none.
And therein lies the problem.
Sure, if you're a grandmother with an old, rusty pistol lying around that's been collecting dust in the attic over the past few decades, the gun buyback program may save you the trouble of having to find a suitable buyer and make a few bucks while you're at it.
But what if you're not?
What if... instead of a harmless senior you're a cold-blooded criminal?
What if, say, you were involved in a crime where a gun was used to take the life of another person? What if you want to get rid of the evidence, see it vanish and never again have to worry about it being found or used to incriminate you? Well, good news: the city will actually pay you to get rid of the weapon, and along with it your problems.
In fact, the city will do you one better: gun buyback program officials will actually destroy the evidence after the transaction.
If you live in the real world, this may sound far-fetched or unreal. But there's nothing imaginary about this scenario. It can happen, and probably has.
If you're a criminal, you must be thinking: What better way to stick it to "the man" than by handing over a weapon and have the evidence destroyed in exchange for cash?
Oh, the irony.
Under these circumstances, it's not difficult to imagine that a relative who’s family member was the victim of gun violence would feel a bit different about the implications behind the gun buyback program.
In essence, the same gun turned in as part of the gun buyback program, and subsequently destroyed, could otherwise have been used as evidence against a criminal. Or for that matter, it could revive a cold case and help overturn a case that could deliver justice to the wronged.
$200k spent so far and little to show for it
The appeal of a program that removes weapons from the streets is alluring. As simple math would suggest: less guns = less murders. Right?
At its core, the gun buyback program is a crime prevention program. It is a much-touted tool used by the administration to combat gun-related violence.
But has it worked? Have shootings actually decreased as a result of this program's implementation?
Let's put aside reports by the FBI ranking Buffalo as the 11th most violent city in America. And let's imagine for a moment that Forbes Magazine didn't really rank Buffalo as the 10th most dangerous city. Or that we're now the 4th most dangerous mid-size city in the country. Or that our police commissioner has deliberately manipulated statistics to make it appear as though the city is actually less dangerous than it really is. Or that - well, you get the drill.
Instead, let's take a look at some of the data provided by the FBI and the Buffalo Police Department.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, then these infographics, using data provided by the Buffalo Police Department and the FBI, tell an interesting tale:
Let's summarize the infographic: Since 2007 - the year in which the gun buyback program was implemented - to 2012, gun-related homicides have actually increased. And so has the percentage of unsolved gun-related homicides.
Conclusion: Gun-related homicides? Up. Unsolved gun-related homicides? Up.
All this the results of a program that has proven to be little more than a "feel good" campaign, and much less in the way of preventing or reducing gun-related incidents.
The gun buyback program is fundamentally flawed.
Not only does the aspect of anonymity of this program encourage criminals to turn in a weapon used in a murder, but - what's worse - it destroys evidence that could have been used to incriminate someone.
Removing incriminating evidence is hardly anyone's idea of a successful crime-prevention program.
This is a fatal flaw of a program that aims to prevent the number of gun-related violence.
As one reader sarcastically, yet so aptly, put it:
"Awesome, the perps on the recent shootings will all be able to get rid of the incriminating evidence"
More harm than good
The idea is the less weapons that are out in the wilderness, the less likely that they will be used to commit a crime.
But for the victims of gun-related violence, this program may do more harm than good in restoring a sense of justice.
Further, there's no evidence suggesting the gun buyback program works. In fact, as we've learned earlier, gun related homicides have only increased since the program has been implemented.
Can the program stave off an accident? Who knows. Will it help solve a murder? Absolutely not.
It is little more than a feel-good campaign that lacks substance, and nobody is fooled by it.
Spread sheet containing detailed data from 2007 to 2013 extrapolated to create the infographic referenced in this blog post. Spread sheet includes names, dates and location where incidents took place. Note: statistics provided by the FBI and the Buffalo Police Department. Click here to open.
Interactive infographic. To view an interactive infographic displaying data from the above referenced spread sheet click here.
Gun Buyback flyer. Click here to download.
Read. Gun buybacks popular but ineffective, experts say by USA Today columnist Mark Curnutte
Solutions. Click here for a 12-point plan on how to reduce Buffalo's rising rate of crime.