Some good citizens in St. Louis recently managed to take 842 guns off the streets of their city.
Kansas City should follow their lead.
In St. Louis, people lined up to turn in their weapons, arriving early to a six-hour buyback event to ensure their spots in line. Some waited more than two hours.
Admittedly, many of those eager gun owners likely weren’t lured by the public safety messaging of fewer guns equals less gun violence. More likely they were drawn by the opportunity to make a few bucks by unloading guns they weren’t using anyway.
A oft-repeated criticism of such gun buyback programs is that the money paid out often is used to purchase ammunition for weapons that those same gun owners did not turn over to authorities.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James isn’t a fan.
“Gun buybacks make people feel better for a short time, but haven’t been proven to be an effective way to address gun violence, and, in fact, there is evidence to suggest that some people use the money they get from selling back old and useless guns to buy new ones,” he said in a statement.
Suffice it to say, these efforts have plenty of critics, some offering valid concerns. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an upside, especially if creative minds get involved to target buyback events within communities that suffer the most from gun violence.
Fewer guns can lead to fewer accidental shootings, fewer guns stolen and used in crimes, fewer suicides or acts of domestic violence with a firearm. No one can be against those outcomes.
The St. Louis gun buyback deal was $100 for handguns, $150 for shotguns and rifles and $200 for assault rifles. All weapons had to be in working order, unloaded and placed into a carrying case or bag.
So many guns were turned in that available funds ran short. In the end, $125,000 was paid out for the firearms, which were displayed for the requisite media coverage, with the public safety director, the mayor and other officials proudly beaming. At the end of the day, 303 handguns, 533 long guns and six assault rifles had been gathered.
The weapons were to be taken by police for ballistics tests to determine if they’d been used in a crime. And then they were probably destroyed. This is the point in the story where the plot gets a little fuzzy.
The city of St. Louis didn’t officially sponsor the event. Private sponsors stepped up to work around a state law requiring that guns taken through buyback programs must then be sold to a licensed gun dealer.
Yes, that would negate the point of the buyback in the first place. The aim is to take guns off the streets, not reintroduce them through dealer sales. Heavy sigh.
In recent years, the Missouri General Assembly hasn’t managed to put community safety ahead of burnishing its Second Amendment credentials.
In 2013, the legislature passed a law that requires cities or counties to enact ordinances allowing for gun buyback events if they want to hold one.
The St. Louis Police Foundation and the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis raised the money for the most recent buyback event, according to the Riverfront Times. Omega Psi Phi, the first international fraternal organization founded at a historically black college, also played a role. The buyback was held in Omega Center, a hall operated by the fraternity’s nonprofit.
So when city officials were asked about the final destination for the weapons collected, they hedged on the details, saying that the private sponsors would attend to that. But they stressed that the goal was to permanently remove the guns from circulation.
In some ways, the state legislature did communities a favor by passing the law. It necessitates that private funding and backers play a role, as public officials are limited in their involvement.
Kansas City has not held a gun buyback event in recent years. They should.
Certainly gun buybacks are not a panacea for stemming violence. But even if such efforts make only a small ripple of a difference, Kansas City should be using every tool in its toolbox to tackle its violent crime problem.
Anything that can be done to get guns out of the hands of those who might disrespect the lethal nature of firearms is a positive step. Police could hand out gun locks in conjunction with a buyback. Missouri has the deplorable distinction of being among the top states for accidental shootings by children who get ahold of guns left loaded and unsecured.
Gun buybacks send a message that elected officials and civic leaders are taking action to reduce the horrific toll that guns are taking on Kansas City, which saw more homicides in 2017 than in any year since 1993.
St. Louis just took 842 guns off their streets. Why wouldn’t Kansas City aim to do the same?