By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
ST. PETERSBURG — One of Florida’s progressive heavyweights is out to collect the guns of Americans.
But for a fair price, of course.
That’s the aim of U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida’s 21st Congressional District, who last week introduced the Buyback Our Safety Act, a $15-million national gun buyback program that would grant money to local law enforcement agencies that would pay willing gun owners for their weapons.
“No single policy alone will solve our nation’s gun violence epidemic, but the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary beckon us to consider any and every option that could make our communities safer,”Deutch said in a news release last week.
Deutch said the Buyback Our Safety Act is a “modestly funded” proposal that builds “on the successes of gun buyback programs” under way across the country.
The bill also stipulates that guns identified by the National Academy of Sciences as being “most often used in violent crimes” would receive a larger payout from the government.
A local gun buyback in Miami on Jan. 19 scored 129 guns in exchange for gift certificates from Walmart and Winn-Dixie, according to the Miami Herald, as well as tickets to next season’s Miami Heat NBA basketball games.
Deutch’s proposal would give federal funds to local law enforcement, who would test and later destory all the firearms collected at gun buybacks across the nation, according to the bill.
Skeptics, however, point out that gun buyback programs are largely ineffective when it comes to reducing violence.
They claim they’re more likely to get the guns out of the locked boxes than off the streets.
“The general conclusion of researchers is that bad guys don’t turn in their guns,” said Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University. “Instead, it’s the proverbial little old lady, maybe a widow of a guy who owned guns years ago.”
His research shows that gun buybacks collect mostly unused firearms from nonviolent people, dousing advocates’ hopes that violent offenders will surrender guns seen as dangerous to the public.
“The only way you can argue it reduces violence is if you assert that the gun may have been stolen and might have been used to commit a crime,” he said. “It requires so many things to happen that it’s just implausible. It’s highly unlikely you can prevent gun violence this way.”
Kleck said he believes these measures are less about tackling gun crime than about offering easy political solutions to complicated problems.
“It’s not effective at all. It’s just money down the tubes,” Kleck toldFlorida Watchdog. “It’s political posturing, people trying to show their concern about the issue and that they’re doing something about the issue without regard to whether there is the slightest reason to believe it’ll actually have some impact on reducing gun violence.”
If anything, Kleck said, these gun buybacks are helping the very people gun control advocates are lined up against — the gun industry.
“From the gun manufacturers’ standpoint, gun buybacks are great,” he said. “The government is providing a guaranteed buyer for guns that, no matter how crappy they are, and as long as they’re workable, they’ll get the minimum price of $100. It’s like the government guarantees not only a buyer, but also a minimum floor price.”
A 2001 study by Michigan State University economist W.P. Mullin found that gun buyback programs actually increase the number of guns in circulation.
That’s similar to the conclusion reached by the National Research Council in 2004, which found that gun buybacks facilitate new gun purchases by ridding the market of older, antique guns, and provide larger profits to the gun makers who fill the gap.
Pressed on such doubts, Deutch’s office defended the program by pointing to other parts of the proposed bill requiring reports in the future.
“This exact concern is why Congressman Deutch’s proposal is extremely limited in scope and requires the Department of Justice to report to Congress on the efficacy of this initiative,” said spokeswoman Ashley Mushnickwhen asked by Florida Watchdog.
But despite the hopes of Deutch and fellow gun-control advocates, other lawmakers are putting themselves in the way of new federal restrictions on access to firearms.
“The impetus of this entire debate about guns, which should actually be a debate about violence, is the horrible tragedy in Connecticut,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told Florida Watchdog in Miami on Friday.
He said new regulations on obtaining firearms or gun buybacks won’t do much to change the nature of violence in American society.
“It won’t solve the problem,” he said. “What is effective is mandatory sentences like we have in Florida,” Rubio said, referring to the state’s mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with a firearm.
Rubio summed up the issue by alluding to the effectiveness of existing laws on the books.
“If you write a law, law-abiding people will follow that law. And people who are criminals ignore the law because they’re criminals.”