The Futility of Chicago's Gun Turn-Ins

Who is most likely to turn in a firearm for a $100 reward? Someone with 1) a cheap gun and 2) no criminal propensity.

If you've got some clothes you don't need anymore, you can give them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If you have an old car, you can call various organizations to take it away. And if you're in Chicago and have a gun that's burning a hole in your pocket, you can get rid of it on Saturday, no questions asked.

The city government has a great fondness for gun turn-in events. It's done six of them in the past six years, collecting more than 23,000 weapons. This one will be held at 23 churches, and anyone handing over a firearm will get a $100 gift card. The guns will then be destroyed.

The motive behind these efforts is not hard to understand in a place that had 433 murders last year and has seen a spike this year. Dozens of shootings take place in Chicago every week.

Two years ago, explaining the effort, then-Mayor Richard Daley said, "We have just too many guns in our society. When someone has access to a gun, they use it." The gun buyback is a way "we can reduce the number of guns on our streets," says Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

But don't put too much stock in those pronouncements. The number of privately owned guns in America keeps rising, and at last count it totaled 270 million, or about one for every adult. But nationally, the homicide rate has fallen by more than half over the past two decades.

Contrary to Daley, most people who own guns never use them for anything but legal purposes (hunting, target shooting, self-defense). Contrary to Emanuel, the weapons this sort of venture yields are probably not the ones carried in the streets or the ones used in crimes. The reduction also represents a minuscule share of the firearms in the city, which may number over a million.

Think about it: Who is most likely to turn in a firearm for a $100 reward? Someone with 1) a cheap gun and 2) no criminal propensity—say, Aunt Millie disposing of a rusty revolver her late husband left in the nightstand.

Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck noted in a 1996 book that when St. Louis did a gun buyback, those participating "were commonly middle-aged and 80 percent white, while those involved in gun violence in that city were mostly young and black."

Criminals will have trouble finding any appeal in this offer. In the first place, their weapons may have cost far more than $100, as handguns and long guns of good quality usually do.

In the second place, thugs practice a trade in which a weapon is essential for doing business. A pistol used in the course of armed robberies will pay for itself many times over. A $100 gift card won't.

The experience elsewhere offers little hope that the program will make a noticeable difference. After a successful 1974 buyback in Baltimore, the firearm homicide rate jumped by 50 percent. A study of a Seattle effort found it "failed to reduce significantly the frequency of firearms injuries, deaths or crimes."

This is the pattern wherever turn-ins take place. A 2004 study by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that "the theory underlying gun buybacks is badly flawed and the empirical evidence demonstrates the ineffectiveness of these programs."

The people who participate are generally those who are least dangerous. Those who are most dangerous have no motive to participate. So when the buyback is done, the number of armed criminals will most likely be unchanged.

Advocates may think that getting rid of weapons will at least prevent accidents and suicides. But some people who hand over a gun will hang on to other guns, which they are just as likely to handle carelessly or leave where a child can find it.

As for suicide, the odd thing about people intent on killing themselves is that if a firearm is not available, they can find plenty of other methods that will serve their purpose. The National Academy study said that "gun control policies may reduce the number of gun suicides, but they have not yet been shown to reduce the overall risk of suicide in any population" (my emphasis).

This year's turn-in will no doubt garner a decent haul of weapons. But for anyone anticipating a drop in gun violence, it will mostly yield disappointment.

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  • NotSure||

    How much do the cheapest guns in America cost ? If they cost less than $100 one could make some easy money with this turn in scheme.

  • ||

    Ever heard of a "Saturday Night Special"?

  • SugarFree||

  • General Butt Naked||

    I don't know why, but it annoys the shit out of me when someone posts music on youtube and puts pictures up of the what the lyrics literally are.

    "So when skinrd sings "black cat" I put up a picture of a black cat"

    "That's reallll smart Slappy, you wanna have a go at this here sheep?"

  • sarcasmic||

    Country rock sucks.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Yeah, and the clockwork rhythm crap that's dominated since the 1980s gets it precancerous polyps cleared out by random men at highway rest stops.

    And please, if someone within the range of this message invents the time machine, I'd consider it a personal favor if you went back in time and shot Andy Hildebrand.

  • Drake||

    $100 is a little low. Mostly worn-out or broken guns at that price.

    Some of the CA buybacks were $200. A new Hi-Point 9mm is about $150 so the math gets easier.

    There are usually gun dealers sitting out front to intercept people if they are turning in firearms of real value.

  • NotSure||

    Forgive me, I live in a place where some people even talk about banning kitchen knives, my only experience with guns is playing computer games. Why do they cost that much ? are they not simply a solid piece of metal ?

  • TELLMOFF||

    You "live in a place" that you should move out of. Try joining the military to learn about gun construction.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Other than disassembly/reassembly, I'm not sure that's effective.

  • NotSure||

    Would you leave, wherever you are, only because they banned guns ? Didn't think so.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Would you leave, wherever you are, only because they banned guns ? Didn't think so.

    I went from California to Virginia.

  • NotSure||

    Yes, but would you leave Virginia for say Switzerland if that was the last place left where guns were allowed ?

  • Drake||

    I grew up in Massachusetts but will never, ever, reside there again. If offered an irresistible amount of money to work there, I would commute from NH.

  • Bryan C||

    Sure, but then would you leave Switzerland for Mars? Huh? Huh?

    Gun bans are a pretty good proxy for bad governance in general. It's the sort of policy that indicates an unhealthy reliance on magical thinking and authoritarian solutions.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Guns are machines, and you can look at them much like you look at cars. Some are finely-made and highly-reliable. Some are cheap crap.

  • Jake W||

    Good analogy. Just like cars as well, if you take care of even a cheap one and don't drive it too much, it will run forever too.

  • R C Dean||

    are they not simply a solid piece of metal ?

    That would be a club. A gun is actually numerous pieces of metal constructed so that there are many moving parts.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So when the buyback is done, the number of armed criminals will most likely be unchanged.

    In Chicago, if you're armed you're a criminal.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    But the number of people with $100 will increase!

    FREE MONEY.

    Also probably a good place to rob someone is right after they leave a gun turn in. Just saying.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I like the way you think, and am interested in subscribing to your newsletter.

  • ||

    It's very lefty prog, and in the same vein as welfare distribution offices: hit up those po' folks as soon as they have their spoils. Them's some free monies!

    (Yes, I know about SNAP cards and such. Point stands.)

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I always think od Detroit when I hear about these programs, and picture the old grandmother dropping off her great, great, great grandfather's Civil-War era Colt (rusted, hasn't functioned since the Roaring 20's)...who walks out and is promptly robbed of her $100 (which she'd intended to give to her church, bless her heart) by two 13 years olds with tire irons and a 15 year old with a Glock.

    All, of course, are African American.

    Racist. And it just makes me want to cry despite my hard, hard heart, cause it's soooooo hopeless. As Eight Ball said in Full Metal Jacket, "Poor, dumb bastards..."

  • ||

    This sounds disturbingly like that Pawn Stars rip-off with the Detroit Pawnsters family biz with the hard-as-nails patriarch, douchey son, and skanky daughter who thinks she's hot shit.

  • Agammamon||

    Armed robbery at the exit point - I love the irony.

  • TELLMOFF||

    Follow them home, rob everything they own, rape the women, sell the children into slavery.

  • ||

    I was going to remark "A government program that doesn't work? Colour me shocked". But then I wondered whether, by disarming the law-abiding, it was working exactly as intended.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Give that man a see-garrr!

  • Concerned Citizen||

    Not yet. This past weekend saw 35 wounded and 7 killed in Chicagoland.

  • Matrix||

    Chicago should have a politician turn-in day. I think it would go a long way to keeping the streets and freedom safer than gun turn-ins, which actually will do the opposite.

    Then again, a gun turn-in is the perfect opportunity to score on stealing guns. Just rob people's homes of their guns, take them to this gun turn-in (no questsions asked, remember?), and profit!

  • DonTaylor||

    their weapons may have cost far more than $100

    their weapons are almost certainly worth far more than $100 on the street

    I suspect many guns come from gun shows in Indiana

  • Bilbo||

    You don't know squat about firearms or gun shows do u

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    I have to say, experience here in the [formerly] Great State of Michigan("Winter Water Wonderland!®") - specifically, in the City of Detroy-it - suggests that these gun "buyback" schemes can be quite successful, both in terms of economic stimulation and crime reduction.

    After several of these events, just LOOK at the City of Detroit. Just LOOK at it. Can you see? Can ya SEE it! The success!

    Look harder...perhaps squint a bit...

  • ||

    that's Old Detroit, right?

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    It's all Old Detroit....till Omni Consumer Products (OCP®) takes over the police force, of course.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    "They'll fix you. They can fix anything..."

  • ||

    "I'll buy that for a dollar. HAR HAR HAR!"

    You know Almanian, the thing that saddens me most here is: We could have been friends...

  • ||

    They still make cars in Detroit, though, don't they? They ought to, because big is back. Because bigger is better. The 6000 SUX. An American Tradition

  • ||

    Plane Geometry? You some kinda college sheila? Huh? I'm talking to you!

  • TELLMOFF||

    Detroit succeeded from the Union and became its own third world country for freed slaves.

  • ||

    Doesn't sound like Detroit has "suceeded" at anything.

  • ||

    succeeded

  • gaoxiaen||

    seceded

  • sarcasmic||

    "We have just too many guns in our society. When someone has access to a gun, they use it."

    Guns are magic. The cause people to do things.

    We must rid our society of these magical guns.

    Only police who have had government training are capable of resisting a gun's magical spell.

  • Pi Guy||

    Spoons made me fat.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    I like to eat with my fingers. I can't put them down. (Sniffle.) There's no hope I'll ever lose that lump of fat on top of my neck.

    (This parody brought to you by myplate.gov)

  • Bryan C||

    It was those large cups that did me in. Government should ban anything bigger than a DD.

  • Bee Tagger||

    "We have just too many guns in our society. When someone has access to a gun, they use it."

    If this was actually true, it would seem you'd either want everyone to have a gun or no one to have a gun. Since no one is pretending these gun turn-ins are going to get all of the guns, aren't they admitting to making more people less safe by taking away a valid protection the gunless have from those who didn't turn in a gun and are under their magic spell still?

  • sarcasmic||

    There's this other magical device called the telephone, and dialing 911 will cause uniformed agents of the state to magically appear to protect you.

    Remember that it is better to die with a telephone in your hand than to live with a gun in your hand.

  • ||

    When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Well, they'll get someone to clean up the mess.

  • ||

    "Those who are most dangerous have no motive to participate. So when the buyback is done, ... the number of armed criminals will most likely be unchanged."

    More importantly, the ratio of armed criminals to armed law-abiders is greatly changed, and I think that is the point of the program.

    Or, as some have pointed out, it is political theater where nonfunctioning junk is turned in for cash.

  • ||

    Why would anyone do this, ever? I'm amazed they even got 23,000. If your gun is worth more than $100 (likely) then you're an utter fool and even the old, shitty and/or not working guns that are worth less than $100 probably still have some sentimental value. This is just as creepy as those Rx drug turn ins they sometimes try.

  • SugarFree||

    Besides, if people stop flushing their drugs, there will be far less hermaphroditic fish. Chick fish with dicks that put JW's to shame are the back-bone of the ichthyological porn industry.

  • ||

    This is no time to be making references to Waterworld, Saccharin Man. You disgust me!

    I have it on good authority that JW slept with Jeane Tripplehorne.

  • ||

    Shit, those drug turn ins are a scam, IMO. Supposedly the inventory is supposed to be incinerated. *I* think, and this is purely speculation, that they either are disposed via flushing or, more likely, back on the street for "sting operations".

    OH! Glad to see you escaped the clutches of STEVE SMITH! I guess your rescue party followed the trail of gravy and cheese curds.

  • Drake||

    If it is a "no questions asked" turn-in, it is a great way to get rid of a murder weapon or fence a crappy stolen gun.

  • Mike M.||

    My suspicion is that the majority of these guns being turned in are stolen guns that were obtained during home burglaries and such.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    The motive behind these efforts is not hard to understand

    Yeah, it lets them push their agenda while they pretend to do good.

  • Agammamon||

    But the turn-ins are a good way to guarantee that the murder weapon is destroyed.

  • DantoRang||

    Those guys really do not seem to have a clue. Wow.

    www.Anon-Anon.tk

  • Bobarian||

    Dantorang -- the thinking man's spambot.

  • albo||

    I'd love it if they had a gun turn-in in my area. I inherited 3 .25 cal autos of uncertain providence from my dad that I'd love to get $100 for. I'd use the money to buy that Taurus .45 millenium I've had my eyes on.

  • ||

    Another fallacious example of attempting to control law breakers by attempting to control the law abiding.

  • ||

    The obvious solution is to only take guns from people with criminal records, and to encourage them to turn the guns in, offer above market payments.

  • UneasyRider||

    This seems stupid, but it would do far more to get guns out of the hands of potential criminals than the current program and it would likely cost less.

  • Harvard||

    Never underestimate the ability of guns, particularly hand guns, of causing urine flow.

    Consider the otherwise masculine, self relient culture of Australia whose Olympic Committee recalled two swimmers for posting images on Facebook that contained guns.

    The Committe cited "public outrage" as the reason for the recall so who knows how many Aussies were standing in warm puddles of piss?

  • Drake||

    Recalled? As in remembered? I can't recall the name of one Olympic swimmer. There the guy who won a bunch of medals last time and smoked dope. I can't for the life of me remember his name.

  • A. Freeman||

    And they Do! One of the usual incentives for a gun buyback is the gun will be destroyed, no questions asked.

    That's so the ballistic imaging that some state (NY) taxpayers will work more efficiently.

  • Nyarlathotep||

    Can it be reversed? Say, if I give them $100, can I take one of the guns?

  • joy||

    The number of privately owned guns in America keeps rising, and at last count it totaled 270 million, or about one for every adult. But nationally, http://www.zonnebrilinnl.com/z.....-3_13.html the homicide rate has fallen by more than half over the past two decades.

  • Uncle Joe||

    The gun buyback programs are misguided PR at best. Chicago has seen a major increase in gun deaths this year, so Rahm is trying to look like he's doing something about it.

    Supposedly, the fact that a bunch of gang leaders have been imprisoned recently has caused a lack of control over gang members on the street. In any case, there is a real problem with gang members having easy access to guns and not enough sense to look at shooting as a last resort.

    Reason's favorite cause, legalizing drugs, might take some of the cash incentive for being a gang member away. But, lack of more productive opportunities is likely a major cause of the increase in gang violence.

    The City would do better spending this money on job programs and funding people who teach gang members conflict resolution skills. Some of you jerks will mock it, but those programs are a lot more effective than gun buybacks.

  • Diomasach||

    A friend of mine with an FFL made a killing at one of these. Bought a truckload of cheap guns, mostly surplus junk, and “sold” them for $100 apiece.

  • tee shirt pas cher||

    If you've got some clothes you don't need anymore, you can give them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If you have an old car, you can call various organizations to take it away. And if you're in Chicago and have a gun that's burning a hole in your pocket, you can get rid of it on Saturday, no questions asked.

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