Tampa, Florida police offered $75 and two tickets to an NHL hockey game and another ticket for a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game for every gun a person turned in. People waited in line for up to two hours and some people delivered multiple weapons.
Police in other cities around the country report similar experiences.
There is no clearinghouse for data on such programs, but cities from Seattle to Tampa are reporting heightened interest and overwhelming responses in wake of the Newtown Sandy Hook school tragedy.
The buy-backs are yielding thousands of firearms, including military rocket-propelled grenade devices and illegal automatic machine guns.
In Tampa, two rocket launchers and a number of sawed-off shotguns were turned in earlier this month. Also included: a flute that had been fashioned into a one-shot, .22-caliber gun, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Chad Chronister said.
Camden, N.J., Police Chief Scott Thomson said seven machine guns and a powerful “safari” rifle capable of taking down big-game were part of a weapons cache recovered there in December.
But usually the guns that get turned over in these programs are old hunting rifles or pistols that somebody is storing in an attic. They do not usually produce the kinds of guns that criminals want. A January 2013 USAToday story said:
The government estimates there are more than 310 million guns in America today, nearly enough to arm every man, woman and child in the country.
“They make for good photo images,” said Michael Scott, director of the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, based at the University of Wisconsin’s law school. “But gun buyback programs recover such a small percentage of guns that it’s not likely to make much impact.”
The relatively small number of guns recovered isn’t the only problem, Scott said. Buyback programs tend to attract people who are least likely to commit crimes and to retrieve guns that are least likely to be used in crimes.