Gun Violence: Shooting Holes in Wrong-headed Reforms
On a recent Saturday morning people streamed into a church building in south Camden, NJ, all carrying similar items--some items bundled in blankets, some wrapped in rugs with others in cases and plastic bags.
Those items were not toys for tots or assistance for the destitute.
These items were guns – handguns, rifles and shotguns – some working, many inoperable, most old – all brought to that church center for bundles of cash ranging from $50 to $250 during a vaunted gun ‘Buy-Back’ program.
This government sponsored Buy-Back program did net a record number of firearms: 1,137.
The record-setting figure easily exceeded the previous New Jersey high mark of 700 guns which was set in 2009 during a similar buy-back program in the Newark area.
The Camden buy-back netted five fully automatic weapons, which is a plus.
But judging from photographs of that record return of guns featured in media coverage those five full auto weapons were not the dreaded AK/AR-style assault rifles rightfully feared by police for their ability to rapidly fire bullets that, unlike pistols, can shred bullet-proof vests.
And irrespective of that record number of guns turned in for cash, this program – like so many other buy-back programs around the nation – missed its real target.
It missed the mark because those availing themselves of the no-questions-asked-cash-4-guns were not young hoodlums – the group mostly responsible for the gun-related mayhem and murder wrecking cities like Camden, where the murder rate runs ten times the national average. Instead, most of those bringing in their old and otherwise unwanted weapons were middle-aged to elderly. And many were not even residents of Camden, with some coming from twenty or more miles outside that crumbling city located directly across the Delaware River from downtown Philadelphia.
One man at the buy-back, who lives in a comfortable community far from Camden, as he stood in line waiting for authorities to process the guns he had brought in, used his smart phone to look at a new semi-automatic pistol he planned to buy with the help of the cash he’d be receiving.
It turns out he came to the buy-back to make a few extra bucks while making “room in my gun safe” for new acqisitions. It’s not the motivation media reports have been attributing to buy-back participants, which suggested people had been “touched” by the Connecticut school shooting tragedy and had decided to turn in their guns.
One of the weapons this upscale-community gun owner brought in was a WWII vintage British Army rifle, which one of the policemen working at the buy-back told him was collector quality worth at least $100 more than the $150 being offered at the buy-back. That man took the $150, opting for a “clear conscience” over more cash.
The Camden gun buy-back began on the same day that a crazed gunman massacred 20 children in six adults in Connecticut.