Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why The Detroit Police Department's Gun "Buy-Back" Was A Failure

Last Thursday, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) conducted a gun "buy-back" program at a local church - Second Ebenezer Church. It was reported in the local media that 800 firearms were turned in, with no questions being asked by law enforcement officers, and that sellers were compensated $50 for firearms that were operational and were given $25 for those that were incapable of firing. Predictably, DPD announced that the program was a success. This post will explain why the program was a failure.

DPD's gun "buy-back" program was a failure before it even started. The basic premise behind this scheme is false. The police want you to believe that if it buys back guns it never owned in the first place that the city of Detroit will be safer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Gun buy-back programs do not affect crime rates. Accordingly, the violent crime that Detroiters witness daily will continue.

Gun buy-back programs only serve one purpose: it shows that the police are doing something. It doesn't matter that the program will not change things. It is more politically effective to show citizens that the police are hard at work getting guns off the street. It just might make citizens forget that the Interim DPD Chief was allegedly involved in scandal with one of his subordinates.

Interim DPD Chief Ralph Godbee was quoted as saying the following, "Every gun turned in will be destroyed and is one less gun that is stolen during a home invasion." Apparently, it never dawned on him that those very same guns could be used for self-defense to shoot home-invaders, especially since DPD's officially published response time of 28 minutes is woefully inadequate.

Further, gun buy-back programs send an erroneous message to the general public. Detroit's crime problem is not caused by guns; crime is caused by criminals. A firearm is only a tool. Obviously, a firearm in the possession of a criminal is a bad thing. However, a gun in the hands of a law-abiding citizen is a threat to no one other than criminals.

It is pure folly to suggest or to imply that any criminals turned in their firearms during the buy-back program. Regretably, many "gun widows" and some misinformed citizens were the only folks turning in their guns. Thus, the city of Detroit was made less safe. There are now fewer firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves.

Violent crime has been a persistent problem in Detroit for a long time. It requires real solutions that will foster better relationships between the community with police officers who to a large extent do not reside in the city, will not put citizens on hold when they call 9-1-1, and will decrease the woefully inadequate response time for the police to arrive.

We do not need ineffective programs that do not change anything. Perhaps the only sillier crime fighting tactic that was recently deployed in Detroit was ex-DPD Chief Evans' program of towing cars of drivers with suspended Operators Licenses. Someone had told him that thirty percent of drive-by shooting were done by criminals who were driving illegally. On the very first day of that program a drive-by shooting occurred in the city.

Finally, the biggest travesty of this gun buy-back scheme was that the program reportedly paid a person $50 for a Civil War era revolver. If you believe that gun was destroyed, I have some prime real estate in the Florida Everglades to sell you.


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