You may have seen stories like this one in Esquire, saying that voluntary gun buybacks are the best, and probably only, way to convince “a big chunk of the nation is too steeped in anti-government paranoia” to give up its weapons.
Setting aside the emotional arguments…do gun buybacks actually work? A recent study of American gun buybacks from the National Bureau of Economic Research says they don’t:
Gun buyback programs (GBPs), which use public funds to purchase civilians’ privately-owned firearms, aim to reduce gun violence. However, little is known about their effects on firearm-related crime or deaths. Using data from the National Incident Based Reporting System, we find no evidence that GBPs reduce gun crime. Given our estimated null findings, with 95 percent confidence, we can rule out decreases in firearm-related crime of greater than 1.3 percent during the year following a buyback. Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, we also find no evidence that GBPs reduce suicides or homicides where a firearm was involved.
Reason’s Brian Doherty writes the study effectively demolishes the buyback theory:
More than half those who sold a gun back still had another gun at home. And more than half of the guns sold were inherited or gifted to the seller to begin with. So if you want to believe we need more, bigger buybacks that somehow only target those who would have used their guns to harm others or themselves, you can keep believing it. But so far, the social science shows that gun buybacks as they actually can be constitutionally executed in the United States do little to reduce gun crimes or gun deaths.