Houston, TX — In February of this year, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced “One Safe Houston” — a $53 million federally funded initiative aimed at decreasing crime across Houston. Mayor Turner says $1 million from the initiative will be used for gun buyback events.
Over the weekend, the city held their first buyback and authorities touted it as a success, boasting that they spent close to $100,000 to take guns off the street. A couple of days after the buyback, however, and photos of the “guns” began making rounds on the internet, and the gun buyback program became the brunt of multiple internet memes.
An anonymous activist in Houston heard about the gun buyback program and 3D-printed dozens of guns and gun parts. The city paid the activist thousands of dollars for these “handguns” that were actually 3D-printed uppers, lowers, and outdated “liberator” guns from 2013.
“You’ll always have people who will try and take advantage of the programs,” said Turner. “I was there when that person brought in those guns. The reason we went ahead and did that was we had not said we weren’t going to.”
“We’re going to exclude those next time around,” he said.
As we reported, authorities — without even realizing it — had created their own perverse incentive and attracted 3D-printed guns and parts from all over the country. They also spent $100,000 of taxpayer dollars to pay folks for broken shotguns, non-functioning rifles, and rusted out pistols.
Since the story went viral, the activist has come forward to explain why he brought dozens of 3D printed parts to the buyback — and he makes a valid point.
“The goal was not personal profit, but to send [Houston leaders] a message about spending $1 million tax dollars on something that has no evidence of any effect on crime…” the anonymous activist told FOX26, adding that the 3D guns only cost about $3 to make.
And he is largely correct which is why criminological experts began speaking out about the sheer waste of taxpayer money associated with the buyback programs. Not only do gun buybacks create perverse incentives, but there have been studies showing that buyback programs can actually increase crime.
The National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper in May exploring the relationship with crime and buybacks and they actually found an increase in incidents of firearm-related crime during the first two months after a buyback.
The working paper also found no evidence the programs reduce suicides or homicides where a firearm was involved.
“These results call into question the efficacy of city gun buyback programs in their current form,” the authors wrote in the abstract. Indeed.
Because there is a negative incentive for criminals to turn in their guns — making it harder to commit crimes — the guns aren’t coming out of the hands of criminals. Instead, they are being “farmed” like in the example above, they are being stolen, or old non-functioning weapons are being cleaned out of people’s homes in exchange for taxpayer money.
What’s more, as we’ve seen time and again, gun buybacks only take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens as criminals never willfully disarm themselves. Even after Australia disarmed its citizens in 1996, it is estimated that nearly 300,000 guns are still on the streets in the land down under. These guns don’t belong to the law-abiding citizens either.
What’s more, after the citizens were disarmed, crime spiked in the country. We are now watching a similar situation unfold in the West as governments implement gun buyback programs and as this case illustrates it will likely have the same results.
What’s that saying about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?