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NM gun buybacks draw scores, but experts question effectiveness

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Thursday, November 9, 2023   

New Mexico wants to curb gun violence by getting firearms off the street, and while recent gun buyback events drew lots of attendees, some experts say they haven't been found to reduce gun violence.

The New Mexico State Police hosted events in three cities, offering participants gift cards worth $200 for handguns and $300 for long guns.

Mark Anderson, professor of economics at Montana State University, helped prepare a 2021 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. He said it found "no evidence" gun buyback programs reduce gun crime.

"We tried to collect data on as many gun buyback programs as we could identify in cities that also have firearm-related crime data available," Anderson recounted. "It was the largest-scale analysis of gun buyback programs in the United States."

Anderson believes other measures, such as safe-storage ordinances requiring firearms in the home be kept in a locked container or secured with a locking device, could be more effective than gun buybacks. He speculated people who voluntarily turn over firearms are not those who pose the greatest threat to society.

The events allowed any participant turning in a firearm to remain anonymous in exchange for a gift card. But after some turned in as many as 60 guns, the gift cards were gone quickly, and some went home without.

Anderson stressed while well-meaning, such programs may not be the solution.

"I think about the opportunity costs and the resources that are used to implement them," Anderson emphasized. "Could they be used elsewhere more effectively? And I think the answer to that is probably, yes, so I think about it as not an all-or-nothing type thing I think about it as more of a, 'maybe we should pivot and do something else.'"

In September, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared gun violence a public health emergency after an 11-year-old boy was shot to death in Albuquerque while returning home from a basketball game.


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