Gun Buyback Programs: A False Sense of Security?

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Benjamin Franklin once explained that “those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Unfortunately, too many of us have forgotten this principle. As a result, many are willing to surrender their rights to the state in exchange for some perceived security coming from the entity that is most guilty of violating these rights.

This can be seen in a recent ABC News report detailing how more than 3,000 guns were surrendered in exchange for gift cards at a statewide gun buyback event in New York. The state attorney general’s office coordinated the program, which took place at nine locations, including two in New York City.

“The buyback program came just days after Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said at a news conference that the ongoing proliferation of guns in his community is contributing to a rise in the city’s violent crime rate in the first quarter of the year,” according to ABC.

Syracuse, where homicides have risen by 133% compared to last year, saw 751 firearms turned in by community residents. Mayor Ben Walsh has recently spoken out about the proliferation of guns in the city, contributing to the rise in violent crime.

“Gun violence has caused so many avoidable tragedies and robbed us of so many innocent New Yorkers,” New York State Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Every gun that we removed out of Syracuse homes and off the streets is a potential tragedy averted and another step in protecting communities throughout New York state.”

The program gave $500 gift cards for assault-style rifles and “ghost guns” and $500 for handguns, with additional gift cards given for multiple handguns or other types of guns. The program was described as a “landmark event” by James.

“There are too many damn guns in this country. They’re everywhere. And we have too many states that are abdicating their responsibility to ensure that guns are being sold safely,” Walsh during a press conference. “And our federal government is abdicating their responsibility to ensure that guns are being handled safely.”

In essence, Syracuse residents are foregoing their right to keep and bear arms because they believe it will make them safer. In so doing, they are making a tacit admission: They think their government can better protect them if they abdicate their responsibility to defend themselves to elected officials. Unfortunately for them, they might end up having reason to regret their decision.

The idea of a gun buyback program may seem like a quick fix, but it does not address the underlying issues that lead to gun violence. Instead, it may create a false sense of security among the public and lead to a lack of accountability among policymakers.

One issue is that gun buyback programs often target law-abiding citizens who legally own firearms. This approach punishes responsible gun owners who are not the source of the problem, and it is unlikely to have an impact on criminals who obtain guns illegally. Criminals who engage in violence are not going to participate in a buyback program or turn in their weapons to the government, right?

Finally, gun ownership is a constitutional right protected by the Second Amendment. The government should not be in the business of confiscating firearms from law-abiding citizens, even if they are giving them up willingly. When we allow ourselves to be convinced to give up one of our most fundamental natural rights, it doesn’t make us more secure. It makes us more vulnerable.

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