he Walmart slaughter at Chesapeake, the horrific school shooting at an elementary school in Texas, a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo—the list goes on and on, and that terrifies a lot of American citizens. We’re all faced with the fact that the United States is home to the most prevalent gun violence. Having said that, gun buyback programs were launched in hopes of lowering the chances of gun violence. This begs the question, do gun buybacks work? Will this finally end the increasing number of violent crimes brought upon by firearms? 

What are gun buybacks?

Gun buybacks refer to the act of voluntarily surrendering firearms to law enforcement in exchange for money or other items. People can even get tickets to sports events if they trade in their guns. 

Gun buybacks are also a “no questions asked” type of program, which means that when people hand over their firearms, there won’t be any background check done on them. 

The main purpose of this program is to hopefully reduce deaths caused by gun violence, whether it’s suicide or homicide. Of course, gun buybacks are more than just getting firearms off the street. 

This program aims to accomplish several objectives, such as:

  • Reducing gun ownership in communities 
  • Raising awareness regarding gun violence 
  • Encouraging safe disposal of firearms

Do gun buybacks work?

Yes, gun buybacks do work, however, this would depend on how much it’s being implemented in a community. For instance, in Australia, a large scale gun buyback was launched, resulting in a reduced rate of firearm suicide by 74% and firearm homicide by 59%. 

The same principle can’t be applied to the U.S. since the gun buybacks done by the states are nothing but small scale ones. This doesn’t dismiss the fact that gun buybacks aren’t effective at all in the U.S., but rather that the frequency of the programs isn’t enough. 

What does the data say about guy buybacks?

The objective of gun buybacks, in a way, are helpful in reducing the number of owned firearms. If you look at it logically, it makes sense. However, when we turn to the data and statistics gathered over the past few years, gun buybacks don’t have that much of an impact, given that those who surrender their guns are law-abiding citizens rather than criminals who dedicate their weapons to spilling blood. 

First, let’s recognize the valiant efforts of responsible citizens in states like LA and Texas. This year, LA was able to acquire 450 guns in their buyback, as for Texas, they were able to collect more than 800 guns. 

While these numbers may seem impressive, they only make a fraction of a difference in reducing gun violence. According to research conducted by the NBER, it showed that the effects of several gun buybacks in the U.S. didn’t reduce the rate of gun violence. 

There are several reasons why gun buyback programs are ineffective:

  • Cash incentives are too low
  • The gun buybacks take place in low-crime areas 
  • The guns collected are old models which means they’re less functional or not functional at all

It’s quite understandable why a person would refuse to turn in their weapon, especially since they bought it for a hefty price and would get it exchanged for a measly $100 food coupon. Also, gun buybacks won’t yield massive results if law enforcements keep putting their focus on low-crime areas. 

The sad truth of it all is gun ownership is too prevalent in the U.S., making it ever so difficult to control or get rid of completely. The only thing that’s left to hope for is that law enforcements would be able to come up with something more creative to entice people to surrender their firearms, therefore, increasing the numbers of gun buybacks by a landslide. 


Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.