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And the Purpose of Gun Buybacks Is … What?

Los Angeles becomes the latest to disarm its law-abiding citizens and gloat about it.

by
Clayton E. Cramer

Bio

May 24, 2009 - 12:30 am

The May 11 issue of the Los Angeles Daily News has one of those news stories that remind me of the story of the guy sent to drain the swamp who has gotten so lost in other issues that he has forgotten his original purpose:

A Los Angeles citywide gun buyback program was called an unexpected success after nearly 1,700 firearms were collected Saturday from owners who’d been promised anonymity, “no questions asked” and — very important — $100 gift cards. …

City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel emphasized the good news, noting the removal from L.A. homes of hundreds of guns that “will be melted down and no longer can be used in a crime.”

The haul was reported to include more than 100 assault weapons, which are illegal for general possession in California.

No, that’s not true. As long as the weapon was registered with the California Department of Justice by the appropriate date, assault weapons are completely legal to possess. But the bigger problem is the “no longer can be used in a crime” part. And that would be because criminals are turning in guns for the lure of the $100 gift card? An armed robber prepared to take some risks can probably make that much in one liquor store robbery — and certainly in two. More importantly, police were very clear about who was turning in guns. LAPD Lt. Stephen Carmona is quoted as saying:

“It’s a pretty good-looking group of citizens,” he said. “We didn’t expect any gangsters.”

Detective Bill Flannery, busy identifying the guns collected in Canoga Park, said he was surprised by “the number of guns that little old ladies are bringing in.”

So, how will having little old ladies turn in guns reduce crime? At least when I lived in Los Angeles, no one I knew lived in fear of the AARP posse. (Perhaps city officials have watched Clint Eastwood’s new movie, Gran Torino, one too many times.)

The article acknowledges that gun buybacks have been widely criticized as publicity stunts that only take guns from law-abiding adults. The explanation from officials for why this is still a good idea just makes my head ache:

But L.A. police and city officials say every gun turned in Saturday and destroyed is one that no longer can be stolen and used in a crime or contribute to an accident.

I see. We have two choices here:

Option A: Have sworn police officers spend their time (presumably, while on the clock) giving out $130,200 in privately contributed funds to get law-abiding citizens to turn in their guns so that they can’t be stolen and used in crimes by other parties.

Option B: Persuade the people who contributed that money to spend it hiring another police officer for the LAPD and have that officer do nothing but investigate burglaries, locate criminals, and send them to prison.

Have the police in Los Angeles really reached the point where option A makes more sense?

And the “no questions asked” idiocy means that if someone does have a stolen gun, they no longer have to risk fencing it. The police will pay you $100 for it, no questions asked! I don’t know what a fence would typically pay for a stolen handgun, but I’m guessing that $100 is on the high side.

The madness continues:

The LAPD said it will destroy all of the guns collected Saturday, even ones as potentially valuable as a World War I-era chrome-plated Luger that showed up in Northridge.

Let’s see, what else could they do with such a collector’s piece? They could sell it to a collector, who would lock it in a safe where its risk of being stolen and used in a crime is almost zero — and probably raise many thousands of dollars to spend on gun buybacks — or even, you know, use it for what used to be considered police work: trying to arrest and convict the criminals that commit felonies. Or they could find a museum that would want this rare and perhaps desirable historical artifact. But that would require something other than the kneejerk insanity which is so common in the city where I used to live.

Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.
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