After a windfall of more than 400 firearms collected in 2014, Boston’s “Your Piece for Peace” gun buyback campaign netted just one firearm this year. According to city officials, the program is still funded and active, but participation has taken a noticeable dip despite a push by Mayor Martin J. Walsh to highlight the program. In an interview with The Boston Herald, Walsh pointed to a lack of promotion as the reason behind the program’s low yield.
“We need people to know that the gun buyback program is still in process,” Walsh said. “We’ve never ended it. So we’re going to continue to push that out there, and having more information out there letting them know that the program is still in existence, it’s a good thing.”
The Boston Police Department revived its gun buyback program early last year on a $100,000 budget. The goal of the program was to take illegal or homemade guns off the streets, in theory reducing the amount of urban gun-related violence in the city. Participants were enticed with $200 Visa gift cards and directed to deliver the guns in sealed, clear bags. The guns should be unloaded. Participants were also protected from prosecution for the ownership of illegally owned guns, unless they were directly connected to a crime.
With this strategy, the Boston Police Department netted over 400 firearms. Many of these guns were homemade, old, or battered to the point of being unusable. Still, officials touted the program as a win and compared it to previous gun buybacks, such as the one in 2006, when officials collected over 1,000 firearms in exchange for Target gift cards.
Many were also highly critical of the program, including Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts.
“We kind of laugh at the concept of gun buyback when they didn’t sell them in the first place,” Wallace told MSNBC. “If gun buybacks were supposedly effective, then why don’t we have drug buybacks?”
Other critics of the program say there is no way to trace where these firearms came from and that the buyback only served to vilify gun owners. Research from several studies found that buyback programs were either largely ineffective at reducing crime, or had only the slightest of impacts. In contrast, the Boston Police Department regularly seizes firearms from criminals, which has a much more significant impact. The Herald reported that the Boston Police Department confiscated 417 firearms in total this year—including the one turned in for a gift card.