The Volokh Conspiracy

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"Guns 4 Ukraine" Buyback Program in Miami


Miami has announced an event for tomorrow:

The City of Miami has set up a voluntary gun buyback program to assist in providing safety and defense equipment to Ukraine.

Your donations will be used to assist the Ukraine support efforts. Receive a gift card starting at $50 for an old, unused, or found weapons, no questions asked. Do your part to make our streets safer. Visa Gift Cards will be exchanged for the weapons in the following amounts:

  • $50 Handgun
  • $150 Shotgun / Rifle
  • $250 High-powered assault rifle

But, as AmmoLand (Lee Williams) reports, it's complicated; he asked the Miami Police Department whether it has a firearms export license, which is apparently required for this sort of project, and was told "no," with the following explanation:

However, at the June 9, 2021 Commission Meeting, the City of Miami adopted Resolution R-22-0219 directing the City Manager to "take any and all action to work with federal authorities to ship any functional weapon received through the City's Gun Buyback program to Ukraine for use in the conflict against the Russian invasion." The directive to take "any and all action to work with federal authorities" may include, but is not limited to, the procurement of an export license in accordance to the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) including conformity to the requirements of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR); any guidance from the Department of State's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls regarding AECA export controls and licensing for articles enumerated on the U.S. Munitions List; any relevant portions of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR); and/or compliance with the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security export controls for items listed in the Commerce Control List (including firearms) pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and Part 774 of the Export Administration Regulations; and/or compliance with the National Firearms Act including any application to obtain a permit for permanent exportation of firearms; any necessary clearances from ATF prior to export; or compliance with any one-time licensing exception the City may be eligible to obtain as provided in the provisions of ITAR. The actual avenue for the City to lawfully export anything is speculative at this time because the City cannot predict the amount or types of firearms that will be donated at buyback event.

Now perhaps the plan was just to get people to turn in guns, whether or not the guns will actually make it to Ukraine (especially in any timely way). But, as CNN (Peter Nickeas) notes, "experts say there's no evidence the programs reduce violence"; for instance, a  2021 National Bureau of Economic Research paper, "Have U.S. Gun Buyback Programs Misfired?," by Toshio Ferrazares, Joseph J. Sabia, and D. Mark Anderson, concluded:

We conclude that GBPs are an ineffective policy strategy to reduce gun violence, a finding consistent with descriptive evidence that (i) firearm sales prices are set too low by cities to appreciably reduce the local supply of firearms (Reuter and Mouzos 2004), (ii) most GBP participants are drawn from populations with low crime risk (Planty and Truman 2013; Violano et al. 2014; Romero et al. 1998), and (iii) firearms sold in GBPs tend to be older and less well-functioning than the average firearm (Kuhn et al. 2002; Levitt 2004).

(See also this item from the Foundation for Economic Education.) And I particularly note item (iii); I'm not sure that the Ukrainians would be that helped by eventually getting a bunch of guns that Americans were willing to sell for $50-250, even if the shipment is limited to those that the Miami PD decides are "functional."