This past Mother’s Day, Los Angeles held its fourth annual gun buyback, offering grocery money to anybody who turned in a firearm. They amassed 1,650 assorted guns, just a bit short of their 2,000 gun goal.
So, why hold it on Mother’s Day of all days? They were basically playing the sympathy card. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa explained on his Facebook page that “too many mothers lose their children due to gun violence. This is our opportunity to make a real difference for our children, our families, and our future.”
Gun owners have two major incentives to turn in their weapons. First off, they will get prepaid grocery cards for each gun (up to $100 for handguns or hunting firearms, and up to $200 for assault weapons).
If people want to trade in their pistols for some fresh fruits and veggies, then that’s all fine and good. The other incentive, however, is drawing quite a bit of criticism. Police are not performing ballistics checks on the weapons to determine if they have been used in any crimes, so criminals could theoretically turn in a murder weapon, no questions asked. Supporters of the program are arguing that it will still be worth it because it takes guns off the street.
Is removing guns actually helping to reduce crime? Well, maybe. Police Chief Charlie Beck pointed out that gun violence has dropped about 20% since the program launched, but just because these two events are correlated we can’t be sure that one caused the other. When gun violence goes down as much as 20%, though, it’s hard to find reasons to complain.