Why Gun Buybacks Are Dumb in One Picture

A Houston, Texas man appears to have gamed a gun buyback program that took place Saturday, claiming to have exchanged dozens of homemade 3D-printed guns for cash.


Add buybacks to the list of gun control measures that might sound good in theory but achieve little.


Participants in the “no questions asked” One Safe Houston program at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church received gift cards valued between $50 and $200, depending on the condition and type of firearm they turned in.

An image showing a box full of confiscated 3D-printed firearms, also known as ghost guns, went viral on social media and sparked mockery from commenters who said the city had been taken for a ride.

  • One social media user claimed to have spoken with a man who received more than $3,000 for exchanging 63 ghost guns.

Houston officials said ghost guns will not be eligible for cash exchange at future buyback events, Fox26 reported Monday.

  • “We’re going to exclude [ghost guns] next time around,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “This is a program designed for people who want to voluntarily relinquish their guns.”

A man who claimed to have exchanged his homemade 3D-printed guns with Houston officials told Fox26: “The goal was not personal profit, but to send [Houston leaders] a message about spending $1 million tax dollars on something that has no evidence of any effect on crime.”


A number of U.S. cities have implemented buybacks in an effort to reduce gun violence, but researchers have found no evidence that the programs work.

  • “It’s good theater. But it’s not helping deal with gangs and drug dealers and everyone else using the guns,” Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and professor at John Jay College, told CNN in April.
  • A study released last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research found gun buybacks are “ineffective at deterring gun crime.”
  • In a viral 2018 interview, a Baltimore woman told a local Fox reporter that she was planning to hand over her 9mm pistol in a local buyback and then use the cash reward to buy a bigger gun.

A 2020 comprehensive meta-analysis by the RAND Corporation concluded that only a handful of gun control policies — mostly background checks and other measures designed to prevent gun purchases by high-risk people — have any demonstrable effect on gun violence.

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