In Nassau County, N.Y.’s first gun buyback in 20 years, police last month took in 424 handguns and shotguns at four churches, reports Newsday. A gun buyback in Suffolk County the same weekend also far surpassed expectations. Still, the debate rages about whether such events really take guns out of the hands of criminals. Law enforcement officials say they do – that an offer of $200 per gun prompts would-be criminals to turn in guns that they might have used to hurt people.
Some analysts disagree. “It’s a nice symbolic effort but it’s unlikely that it will really affect gun crimes,” said Brian Patrick, a professor at the University of Toledo. Garen Wintemute of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California at Davis found that most buybacks remove only an estimated 1 to 2 percent of the guns in a community, and that those turned in aren’t the ones likely to be used in crimes. He said police have started doing smarter gun buybacks in the last decade, and that researchers haven’t gone back to see if they are more effective now. Chuck Wexler of the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum, said if people look for gun buybacks to to reduce crime, they may be disappointed. If they look at them as a way to get the community involved in a larger effort to fight gun violence, they are worthwhile.