David R. Henderson  

Seattle Gun Buyback Backfires

PRINT
Society of Lies... Economics Quote of the Week...

File this under "Gains from Exchange"

Police officers in Seattle, Washington held their first gun buyback program in 20 years this weekend, underneath interstate 5, and soon found that private gun collectors were working the large crowd as little makeshift gun shows began dotting the parking lot and sidewalks. Some even had "cash for guns" signs prominently displayed.
Police stood in awe as gun enthusiasts and collectors waved wads of cash for the guns being held by those standing in line for the buyback program.

This is from Ed Brown, "Seattle Gun BuyBack Gets JACKED!" January 27, 2013.

Further excerpt:

But the BuyBack wasn't a bust. On the contrary - their $80,000 supply of gift cards didn't last but 2 hours, and by 11:00 am they began attempting to issue IOU's at which point the entire crowd responded by turning and marching toward the gun dealers, forcing the police officers to pack it up for the day.

HT to Instapundit.


Comments and Sharing





COMMENTS (10 to date)
shecky writes:

It'd be nice to have a better link than an unsourced dcxposed story. The Stranger seems to indicate that sales to gun dealers weren't terribly enthusiastic.

An interesting thing here is that a few years ago here in L.A. a buyback event story was that people and small lime dealers were unloading worthless junk. Looks like the market dynamics have changed. Or at least the story spin has.

The event is being called a success, in that they unloaded all the gift cards, for whtever thats worth. I won't claim to understand the real significance of the tradeoff. I would imagine despite a few gems and oddball items, most of the guns are probably not worth all that much, anyway. And considering the funds for the event were from private contributions, the angle for the story looks more BFD than LOL.

Brandon Reinhart writes:

The mayor was grumbling about this on the radio this morning. He said it was 'insane.' No surprise he's unaware of the very active and reasonably safe private enthusiast gun trade in the area.

Private gun sales here are largely unregulated. There are a bunch of websites for discussing and scheduling private trades and sales.

The standard protocol is: 1) meet somewhere public with cameras, 2) get a photocopy of the buyer's DL and concealed permit (if they have one) 3) get a signed bill of sale. That's all informal protocol meant to protect the seller in case the buyer uses the gun in a crime.

Some of the enthusiast sites and forums recommend buyers and sellers meet on police property to exchange. Although gas stations are more common.

So it's not a real surprise that when you attract a bunch of willing sellers, offer them a poor deal (gift cards? really?) and you've got a very legal gun trade, you'll get people willing to pay a fair price lining up to do their business.

Well, a fair price if you know what to ask for. I have no doubt plenty of people sold expensive pieces for $100 bucks. Buyers were probably texting each other about the awesome deals they were getting and so their buddies kept showing up to get in on the action.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/28/private-buyers-invade-seattle-gun-buyback-offer-cash-for-firearms-that-would-otherwise-be-destroyed-by-police/

Daublin writes:

@shecky:

Everyone knows that success is measured by spending. If the government spent $80k, then by golly it caused $80k of immediate good, plus at least 50% more in the form of a multiplier.

Malin writes:

I was at the Seattle buyback. Only a small handful of folks opted to sell their firearm to the gun enthusiasts who showed up. I was there for three hours and only saw maybe twelve to twenty folks opt for the cash, tops.

Tom West writes:

I'm not going to comment on whether such programs are worth the cost or not, but I have so say that I'd see this as success in terms of increasing over-all safety.

A gun that is being sold to a gun dealer is probably less likely to be stolen and used in a crime (because it is more highly valued by the next purchaser) than one that is no longer of active interest to its owner (i.e. those willing to sell).

Guns are a bit like a toxic chemical, in that they require continuous expenditure of effort and money to ensure their safe storage. While there's a perceived benefit to the gun/chemical, that care is likely to be taken. When that benefit is no longer of interest, the chance of the effort being maintained indefinitely is much smaller. (And people being people, most are unwilling to spend time and effort to dispose of 'valuable' property, even when it no longer has value to them.)

Publicized buy-back programs help reduce the number of those sort of firearms, albeit are subject to gaming. It's just in this case, the gaming largely fulfilled the over-all goals anyway.

Steven Flaeck writes:

Frankly, at full spin, this story sounds like a great success that Seattle should capitalize on. For future buybacks, it should advertise to collectors and use them to increase the program's effectiveness. The whole point is to remove guns likely to be used in crimes and I suspect those guns are less likely to be stolen once passed into the hands of collectors. Getting collectors on board would mean fewer gift cards given and so more guns total removed from possible criminal circulation.

Ryan writes:

David, follow the "Stranger" article shecky links. Clearly, the "The gift cards were a great incentive, but not their primary motivation.". We should have had a gun give-back program.

Liam McDonald writes:

Don't you just love the free market?

Michael Meyer writes:

Steven Flaeck wrote:

For future buybacks, it should advertise to collectors and use them to increase the program's effectiveness. The whole point is to remove guns likely to be used in crimes and I suspect those guns are less likely to be stolen once passed into the hands of collectors.

Tom West wrote:

A gun that is being sold to a gun dealer is probably less likely to be stolen and used in a crime (because it is more highly valued by the next purchaser) than one that is no longer of active interest to its owner (i.e. those willing to sell).

Both of these quotes are perfect descriptions of almost every gun show I have ever attended. People looking to sell or trade a firearm that has lower perceived value either for cash or another firearm of higher value. Most booths and displays are gun shows are run by Federal Firearm License holders and most of the business flows through them. They are required to perform background checks when selling a gun at a gun show, just like they would if they were selling in their store.

So, after reading this story and the comments, I would claim gun shows save lives at a lower cost to the taxpayer than gun buy backs. Another free market win!

Dean Weingarten writes:

Gun shows that encourage private sales do save lives. There is an academic paper that even measured it.

It appears to me the paper was designed to find that gun shows increased suicide or homicide, and the authors were surprised to find that the only statistically significant finding was that were private sales were facilitated, the homicide rate dropped.

http://gunwatch.blogspot.com/2013/01/banning-private-sales-costs-lives-study.html

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top