Hours after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a $250,000 gun buyback program on Monday, a downstate gun-rights advocate promised to come to Chicago to exploit it.
“We will be delighted to transact business once more with do-gooders in Chicago,” John Boch, executive director of Champaign-based Guns Save Life, said Monday.
Guns Save Life used Chicago’s 2012 gun buyback to embarrass city officials. That year, members said they turned in about 60 guns — some of them rusty and inoperable.
They received $100 MasterCard gift cards for each gun, which they used to buy ammunition for a National Rifle Association youth camp in Bloomington and bolt-action rifles to give away to campers.
Suburban Chicago gun dealers also took advantage of the no-questions-asked policy of the 2012 buyback to unload inventory worth less than $100 in exchange for the $100 cards, sources said.
At the time, city officials angrily accused Guns Save Life of abusing a program intended to take guns off the streets of Chicago and reduce violence. But Boch says the group was simply demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the program.
“Tell the mayor we need substance over symbolism,” he said Monday.
Boch is vowing to return to Chicago with another 50 or 60 guns to turn in.
“We will put that money to good use for public awareness efforts on our part,” he said. “We don’t need gun control, we need crime control.”
Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said officers will check to see whether turned-in guns are operable but won’t check the IDs of the people who bring them in.
“If people want to game the system, society is the victim,” he said. “I think those people need to ask themselves, are they part of the solution to reduce violence?”
Chicago Police collected about 5,500 guns in the 2012 buyback.
This year, the goal is to take 2,500 guns off the street. Once again, the city is providing $100 gift cards for each gun.
Churches and community organizations will advertise and organize the buyback events, which they will host. Police will collect the guns and provide the gift cards for them.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the city’s buybacks recover assault weapons and other guns that gang members would almost certainly use to shoot people.
“We get the parents and grandparents, we get the older brothers turning in the guns, so they’re actually taking the guns away from the kids who would be using them and giving them to us and in that case, you just can’t deny taking an assault rifle away from a gang banger is a good idea,” McCarthy said at a news conference Monday with the mayor and clergy at Greater Open Door Baptist Church on the West Side.
“Research can say whatever it wants, I can show you the examples,” McCarthy told reporters.
In a 2013 study, Anthony Braga, a Rutgers University professor, said municipal gun buybacks don’t seem to make a significant dent in violent crime.
“The small scale of these programs makes it difficult to generate the desired effects on the availability of guns to criminals and others. As such, it is not surprising that impact evaluations have failed to find any link between gun buyback programs and subsequent decreases in gun violence,” Braga wrote.
City buybacks are mostly useful in “promoting awareness of gun violence and youth violence, providing safe disposal opportunities and changing public views toward firearms,” he said.
Still, cities that carefully design their buybacks can wind up recovering a larger portion of the guns commonly used in crimes, Braga said.
In Boston’s 2006 buyback, the city advertised heavily to youths on billboards and on public transit. That resulted in police collecting more of the guns favored by crooks as opposed to the “junk guns” commonly seen in municipal buybacks, Braga said.
It’s unclear if the Boston buyback was responsible for a downturn in violent crime because it was among several anti-violence strategies that city launched in 2006, Braga said.
On the other hand, Australia’s massive compulsory gun buyback program in 1996 appears to have been successful in reducing violent crime, said Braga, who is also an affiliate of the University of Chicago Crime Lab.
Australia had responded to the mass killings of 35 people in Tasmania with a buyback that netted at least 640,000 firearms, Braga said. Murder rates fell significantly, he said.
A long-term study found “that by withdrawing firearms from the civilian stock on such a large scale, Australia had saved itself 200 gunshot deaths and $500 million in costs each year. No mass murders have occurred in that country since the program was completed,” Braga wrote.
The Australian buyback is now an issue in the Democratic presidential campaign. At a town-hall event Friday in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton said “it would be worth considering doing” an Australian-style gun buyback in the United States “if it could be arranged.”
Her comments quickly drew the ire of the National Rifle Association, which called her views “extreme.”