Grassroots Commentary

Firearms Discussion (Part II): 'Firearms Buy-back Proposal'

By T. David Gordon · Jan. 16, 2013

Editor’s note: This is Part II in a three-part series on the topic of firearms. See Part I and Part III.

The debate over firearms includes a lot of confusing language and expressions. This is reflective of other forms of confusion in the debate, such as the common – but illogical – notion that reducing the number of firearms would have the effect of reducing their criminal use. Such an effect would not necessarily happen.

For the record, there are currently an estimated 250 to 300 million firearms in the country; nearly one for each of the 310 million people who live in the United States. In 1978, I purchased a firearm, and it was the only firearm I owned for a number of years. I acquired some others, and at some point I probably owned 10 firearms. I committed no crime with one firearm, no crime with 10 firearms, and would not have committed a crime with 100 firearms.

On the other hand, if a violent or unstable individual had even a single firearm, he might likely commit a crime with it. So, the number of firearms privately owned in the United States does not, by itself, have anything to do with whether firearms are used to commit crime. The moral character and psychological health of those who possess them has everything to do with whether they are inclined to commit crime. Any policy designed to prevent evil or deranged people from possessing firearms is a well-intended policy – but any policy whose only effect would be to prevent harmless people from possessing them is unconstitutional, unproductive, and possibly even dangerous (since those individuals could no longer resist criminal acts with them).

I suspect that many people who are confused about increasing or decreasing the number of privately owned firearms are also confused about the language they use. They are probably the same people who talk about getting firearms “off the streets.” While I believe it injures the discussion of public policy to be confusing, I do not object to cooperating in some ways with confused people, and so I would not object to the following proposal, as a concession to those who believe reducing the number of privately owned firearms would make us safer:

I would not object to a government-run, but privately funded, firearms buy-back program. If Mayor Bloomberg, Mrs. Brady, and others of their persuasion would sleep better at night if we reduced the total number of privately owned firearms in our nation, I would not object at all if they funded a government-run buy-back program. If all the money they currently spend lobbying Congress were instead spent on a buy-back program, the number of privately owned weapons would be reduced, perhaps somewhat substantially. (Mayor Bloomberg could probably contribute $20-$30 million dollars to the project himself.)

As a taxpayer, I would not want a nickel of public monies to be expended on such a project, because I do not believe the number of privately owned weapons has anything at all to do with crime rates; but I would not object to other citizens, of their own volition, contributing voluntarily to such a program, nor would I object to the program enjoying the same tax advantages as charitable organizations enjoy. If Mayor Bloomberg donated $20 million dollars to such a program, he should get the same tax deduction as he would if he gave the same amount to a church or to a synagogue.

Indeed, I am somewhat surprised that this proposal is not commonly discussed. On an issue where there appears to be little common ground, I believe substantial common ground could be found here. I doubt even the NRA would find the proposal objectionable; and I see no reason why Mayor Bloomberg (et al.) would object to such a project. Wouldn’t those who say they believe that reducing the number of firearms would make us safer approve a program that would reduce the number? Indeed, wouldn’t such individuals prove the sincerity of their belief by contributing to it? The only conceivable objection I could see to the proposal is that some people ordinarily prefer to achieve their ends with someone else’s money, but if the program were voluntary, I do not understand how or why they would object to it.

A voluntary, privately operated buy-back program is, it seems to me, a perfectly acceptable form of reducing the number of firearms.

T. David Gordon, Ph.D., is a professor of religion and Greek at Grove City College and a contributing scholar with The Center for Vision & Values.


Anton D Rehling in Olympia, WA said:

“A voluntary, privately operated buy-back program is, it seems to me, a perfectly acceptable form of reducing the number of firearms.”
To start with there is a current gun buying program in existence called the free market. If one does not feel safe about owning a weapon sell it, there are many law abiding citizens that would be happy to buy them. That is if your statement about number of guns in circulation does not constitute a threat to our safety is really believed by you. In my opinion 1 billion guns in the hand of 99 percent of the population would be no threat to any good man, but bad people beware.
In 1995, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told "60 Minutes," "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States, for an outright ban, picking up (every gun) ... Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in. I would have done it..."
Appeasement is not a rational program to stop the socialist march on our Liberty.
I have read part one and part two of your article and have one question for you, would you eat a brownie with just a little dog poop?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 6:29 PM

rab in jo,mo said:

Good luck getting 5 million guns out of civilian possession. MOLON LABEI Since you are a professor of Greek, you should understand the meaning and context. (Unfortunately, this site does not support Greek alphabet fonts, so a second Omicron is used in place of Omega in the word molon.)

The problem with buy-back programs is that there are usually two types of firearms turned in: 1)non-functional junk or 2)collectibles. The first type is not worth paying for, while the second type does not gain the owner true market value for what they turn in. Worse yet, everything is destroyed, regardless of value/condition. There are many people that would be willing to legally adopt one of these unwanted guns - some so much that they'd pay full value to do so.

Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Ruthie alexander in Abu dhabi, UAE said:

Anton, I think you are missing his point...if people want to VOLUNTARILY sell back their guns to a PRIVATELY funded organization, funded entirely by those worried by the NUMBER of guns out there, why not? The owners who would give up their weapons to a buy-back program are not those who would take a stand for their liberty anyway!

Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 1:57 PM

rab in jo,mo replied:

Then why not just sell them on the open market or to a local dealer? Why would government or some other organization be needed?

Friday, January 18, 2013 at 9:47 AM