Americans — we love our guns.
They are right up there with baseball, freedom and fast food.
We love holding them, showing them off, collecting them. Far too many of us are inclined to use them for murder and mayhem.
The overwhelming success of the Winston-Salem Police Department’s gun buy-back offer on Saturday showed just how trigger-happy we are. So many folks turned up at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds to trade in their superfluous firearms, the cops ran out of cash and turned to writing IOUs. Officials say more than 360 guns were traded in — most of them handguns, which fetched those who turned them in a cool one hundred bucks. Those who relinquished rifles walked away with $75.
Police announced the program earlier this year, after the city saw a small spike in gun-related homicide in 2013. The buy-back is one component of a manifold approach that also includes beefing-up the presence of officers and possibly adding more satellite locations for cops.
It is hard to measure the success of a gun buy-back program. They have been utilized for decades now by law enforcers across the country (not the world, because the U.S. is the only nation with a gun fixation) and have almost always drawn the masses. But grandpas deciding to fork over their antediluvian shotguns for a few extra bucks won’t put a dent in the crime rate, buy-back critics say. They have a point.
Hardened criminals are averse to police. Even if cops were offering $1,000 per piece, they ain’t going within a dozen miles of a phalanx of cops. Our buy-back program all but assured that criminals would stay away, as those turning in guns were required to give their names.
And criminals need their guns. They are the tools of their trade. An accountant needs a calculator; a physician needs a stethoscope; a criminal needs a gat.
So is the buy-back just PR or subterfuge used to give the illusion that proactive crime fighting is afoot? We hope not.
To its credit, the buy-back program is more violence-fighting and prevention than crime-fighting. Is the city safer this week with nearly 400 less guns out and about? Absolutely. One of those surrendered weapons could have made its way into a child’s tiny hands or ended up in a trash bin waiting to be discovered by an impressionable teenager. Who knows how many hotheads sold away guns that they would have grabbed to settle the next family argument?
But buy-backs won’t solve the gun problem — even if there were bottomless coffers to support them. We’d wager that a sizable percentage of folks used their buy-back money at a gun store to invest in a newer model.
Guns are a part of our collective psyche, and mass school shootings, mall rampages and certainly not money-for-guns will change that.
The city will hold another buy-back event on Saturday, April 12 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at First Waughtown Baptist Church, 838 Moravia St. Learn more at www.cityofws.org/home-center/gun-buy-back.