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Buying back guns

Published January 26. 2013 4:00AM

We welcome the community spirit and good intentions that have resulted in plans for a gun buy-back program. Religious, civic and business organizations are contributing donations to finance the effort to get guns off the street. New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced the program Thursday. And while the city's police department will handle the collections March 2, 3, 9 and 10, it will be open to residents from throughout the region.

Now the bad news - studies have consistently found that the buy-back efforts are not terribly effective in reducing gun crime and violence.

Given the number of guns circulating in the United States - about as many as there are people - the amount collected through such programs, while seemingly impressive when laid out on tables for news photographers and TV cameras, are relatively insignificant.

More significantly, the guns collected through these campaigns are often not the guns most likely to be used in crimes. Not many drug dealers, gang members and miscreants bent on mayhem tend to show up. The fact that the local program will not be a no questions asked, amnesty collection makes it even less likely that guns obtained illegally will be dropped off and removed from circulation.

In other words, old hunting rifles and revolvers retrieved from an attic or garage are more likely to be turned in for the reward than stolen assault weapons. The local program will provide Visa gift cards of $150 for assault weapons, $100 for handguns, and $75 for shotguns and rifles.

That's enough skepticism. On the positive side these efforts bring the community together to focus attention on the need to reduce gun violence. And if the program removes a few guns from volatile homes, or allows a parent to retrieve and dispose of a gun taken from the bedroom of a misguided young person making very bad decisions, lives may be saved and crimes averted, which is certainly worth the investment.

But anyone expecting such a program to make a change in overall gun violence will likely be disappointed.

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