As predicted, Thursday evening’s investigation on the effectiveness of gun “buybacks” by KIRO’s Amy Clancy revealed that they are not an effective counter-measure to violent crime, but that’s not stopping the Seattle P-I.com’s Joel Connelly from going after guns in his Friday morning on-line column.
The conversation comes at the same time Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is apparently looking at ways to thwart impromptu gun buyers from taking advantage of the “buyback” by offering cash instead of gift cards. That happened last month, contributing to something of a circus atmosphere that actually salvaged some heirloom-grade firearms and one or two museum pieces.
The KIRO segment, according to Clancy, “did well in the ratings.” Some of that interest may have been generated by this column. KIRO’s segment is getting good reviews in the firearms community, at Northwest Firearms, WaGuns, Seattle Guns and Open Carry. The segment is posted on KIRO’s website here. Viewers liked the segment.
Clancy told Examiner in a telephone conversation that she wondered why Seattle had only done one other “buyback” about 20 years ago. That prompted her to find out.
“If they work so well,” she wondered, “why haven’t we seen them since?”
In the wake of last month’s parking lot effort under I-5 with McGinn presiding long enough for some television interviews, Clancy looked on the Internet and discovered a handful of experts on the buyback subject. She flew to Washington, D.C. to interview Alex Tabbarok, an economist and expert at George Mason University.
As surely as it rains in Seattle, Tabbarok rained on the gun buyback parade by telling Clancy that such efforts are essentially valueless. They are all for show because criminals do not “give up their tools.”
That was affirmed in a letter from another authority on the subject of guns and crime, Douglas Gallagher, an inmate at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center who is serving a life sentence under the state’s “Three Strikes” law.
In a letter to Clancy, Gallagher writes, “When I was a practicing addict nine years ago, I used a gun to rob, steal, and intimidate others. There was no way that I would ever even consider using a gun buy back program, as I would not want anything to do with law enforcement. Further more, if I wanted to get money, I would just go rob somebody. Why would I sell the tool that made me money?”
He also noted that he had talked to “at least 50 men in here” who essentially said the same thing.
“Now,” Gallagher wrote, “do I think that such programs help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals? No, I do not. And the reason is that if a criminal wants to get his hands on a gun, he will.”
Meanwhile, Connelly’s article plays the deceptive numbers game by reporting, “Between 1980 and 2010, 119,000 teens and young children died in America from gunshot wounds -- more than the combined total of U.S. war deaths in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan.” The figure is enough to make someone gasp until a bit of analysis is done.
That’s a 30-year stretch averaging just over 3,966 deaths a year, which covers homicides, suicides and accidents. One reader noted that the same could be said about deaths from motor vehicle accidents, drowning and other causes over that long a period. Those deaths would also add up to more fatalities than all of those wars.
Clancy, who has been at KIRO for 25 years and is a Lakewood native, knows the city is planning another buyback and presumes there will be more news coverage if that event happens.
Gun buybacks make great political theater, but as a solution to violent crime, they appear to be a bust. Twenty years ago, after Seattle’s first buyback, violent crime actually went up. Six months from now will be a good time to revisit that subject.