Our view: Buying back guns

February 8, 2013 10:27:35 AM



Earlier this week, the Columbus City Council approved a proposal from Selvain McQueen, the city's police chief for a gun buy-back program. 


There is nothing new about buy-back programs. They've been around for years, in fact. While the effectiveness of such programs in reducing gun violence in the cities where those programs are used is less than overwhelming, buy-backs haven't raised much of a fuss -- not even from the NRA, which is particularly sensitive to any laws, programs or initiatives that have anything whatsoever to do with guns. 


The basic premise is this: Any person who wants to exchange a gun for cash, simply brings the gun to the appointed location, drops off the gun and walks away with the payment. The person is guaranteed anonymity and the program is conducted strictly on a volunteer basis, which means that no one will be knocking on your door to demand that you swap your handgun for cash. 


It appears to be a fairly benign effort to take unwanted guns off the street. 


Yet almost as soon as the Columbus buy-back program was announced, some folks immediately took to the Internet to voice their opposition. 


Such is the tenor or our times.  


In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, the question emerged: "Can we have a reasonable discussion of gun violence in our nation?" 


With each passing day, the answer that question is, "No, not if there is any mention whatsoever of anything would limit, restrict or place conditions on private gun ownership of any kind." 


Gun enthusiasts are more than willing to put anything else on the table, from the state of mental health treatment to violence in movies and video games. That movie and game makers would assert their First Amendment rights as vigorously as gun supporters rally behind their Second Amendment rights seems not the register.  


For gun enthusiasts, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct and all-encompassing.  


It is against this backdrop of suspicion, when programs such as gun buy-backs are viewed as a "slippery slope" means of disarming private citizens, that the Columbus buy-back program was approved. 


"(The mayor and city council) have just guaranteed that burglaries will sky rocket in Columbus and Lowndes County," one Internet commenter said. " Gun owners need to be prepared to come home from work and find their houses burglarized." 


There are some legitimate questions concerning the Columbus buy-back program. Unfortunately, given the inflamed passions of the day, you have to wade through a lot of nonsense to reach them. 


The most important question is: What will be achieved by the program? Previous buy-backs provide no conclusive evidence the programs significantly reduce gun violence. This is not necessarily evidence that there is no impact, however, since the gun violence data can be affected on any number of factors - even the weather. Studies show that the buy-back programs do increase awareness of gun violence, though, for what it's worth. 


Beyond data, it seems reasonable to conclude that anything that takes an unwanted gun out of circulation serves the interests of the community. 


Essentially, that's what the Columbus buy-back program will do, at a cost of $10,000. 


Of course, that invites another relevant question: Is a buy-back program a good use of taxpayer money if it can't be proven to reduce gun violence? 


The council, by its unanimous vote in favor of the program, believes it does. 


Councilman Kabir Karriem's, the leading proponent of the program certainly thinks so. 


"If we get only one gun off the street, we have made Columbus a safer place," Kabir said. 


In less emotional times, no one would argue that. 




Them's fightin' words.