Firearm Injury Interventions
Gun Buy-back Programs
Programs tried in a number of communities
to decrease the availability of guns include the offer of an incentive such as cash
to "buy back" guns from citizens. The first such program was begun in
Baltimore over 20 years ago. During a 3 month period, 13,000 guns were collected
as part of a gun buy-back program. Since then, many more cities have conducted gun
We could find only one evaluation of such
a program, conducted by our Center in 1994.
Review of gun buy-back
|Callahan et al., 1994|
Study design and target population
|Cross sectional study. Seattle, WA September, 1992|
|Gun buy back program. (SGBBP) Participants who turned
in one or more guns received $50 voucher redeemable at local bank.|
|Firearm-related crimes within jurisdiction of the Seattle
Police Department, firearm injuries admitted to the regional trauma center and
firearm deaths as recorded by the King County Medical examiners office. Calculated
mean number of firearm events per month for 12 months before and 6 months after
buy back program.
Random Digit Dialing survey of 1000 residents to determine
knowledge and attitudes toward program
|1,172 firearms turned in, 95% were handguns, 83% operational.
No statistically significant change in monthly average of firearm-related robberies,
assaults or homicides, admissions to trauma center or firearm deaths.
86% of RDD sample had heard of program, 60% supported
use of public funds for such programs.
Study quality and conclusions
|Program removed 1 percent of guns from community, too
few to change outcome measures. Study well designed to evaluate program.
RDD survey indicated wide community knowledge
or and support for campaign.
Recommend community program for voluntary
disposal of firearms.
Summary of gun buy-back
This study demonstrated that a gun buy back
program can achieve widespread community support and acceptance. However, for such
a program to be effective, it would have to be operated on a much larger scale.
The authors calculated that $1 million would be needed to finance a gun buy back
program to decrease the prevalence of gun ownership by 30% in Seattle, a community
of 500,000 people.
Of course, one of the concerns about such
programs is that the people who would turn in their handguns are the ones least
likely to misuse them. While this may be true of criminal misuse of handguns, handguns
are frequently used to commit suicide and some of the household members affected
by the gun buy back program might be potential suicide victims. In addition, approximately
500,000 guns are stolen each year in the US, and decreasing the availability of
guns through a buy back program may affect this secondary market in guns.
Recommendations on gun
At present, we can cautiously recommend these
programs. They are for the most part politically neutral, and have good citizen
support. However, promoters of these programs should be careful about not overstating
their potential benefits.
Recommendations on future
There is a clear need for more research on
gun buy back programs. Our study should be replicated on a larger scale.