Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has announced a gun-buyback program, under which people who turn in guns to police will receive $200 in Target gift cards. Research shows little drop in violence or shootings as a result of politically popular gun-buyback programs, says Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi. Cities are relaunching them anyway. The theory is that one more gun off the streets is one less gun that can be used to shoot someone intentionally or accidentally. “There is a tendency for researchers not to think highly of gun-buyback programs,” said Chuck Wexler of the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum. “But today the thinking is, when you can get the community, the police, and the private sector to participate, it’s not the panacea, but it’s one way everybody can work together.” These programs, Wexler said, promote “shared responsibility for the gun issue,” and that’s worth something beyond crime statistics.
“Everybody should be concerned,” said Menino, who observes that there is more concern in Washington and elsewhere “about bird flu than there is about violence in the city.” Vennochi says the problem is that bird flu may prove easier to control than violence in the city. The new Boston gun-buyback program is a throwback to an effort last undertaken more than a decade ago. Between 1993 and 1996, 2,800 guns were turned in to police, in exchange for $50 in cash for each weapon. This time, the incentive is a gift card rather than cash, which some people in the past used to purchase newer, better guns.