- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2000

Bad ideas are like boomerangs they just keeping coming back. The federal gun buyback program is one such bad and interminable idea. President Clinton said Monday that his administration would shovel $15 million taxpayer dollars every year into the maw of this useless, feel-good program under which rusty old guns that probably don't work anyway are traded for cash several times their actual value. The "Buyback America" program "is an important part of my administration's comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence in America," the president said.

House Republicans contend that Mr. Clinton's use of the $15 million is actually illegal, as well as silly. According to Rep. James Walsh of New York, the money being dispensed by Mr. Clinton, via the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was appropriated for anti-drug efforts not gun-control schemes. Mr. Clinton's proposal "is to fund this gun buyback program with drug elimination funds … Drug elimination funds are for eliminating drugs … Gun buyback programs, whether you agree or disagree with them, do not qualify under that funding scheme," Mr. Walsh told The Washington Post.

Mr. Walsh may have a strong argument legally, but the idea of gun buybacks as such must be challenged more directly. Under Mr. Clinton's program, cities are provided with cash to offer individual citizens $50 for a turned-in weapon no questions asked. But how realistic is this premise? A good quality revolver retails for between $175 and $500 or more; an equivalent quality semi-automatic pistol, $400 and up. What rational person especially a criminal, who is more than a little interested in the monetary value of things would willingly exchange a weapon worth even $150 for $50?

If he did, for some reason, turn in a gun (perhaps a defective or cheaply made one), what form of delusion makes it possible to imagine that he will not immediately acquire another one? Or are we to believe, as Mr. Clinton, et al., apparently do, that the weapon itself is a mind-controlling totem of some kind? The argument here is that the moment it is no longer on his person, the malign intent of the gun-wielding criminal will melt away and a responsible, law-abiding citizen will miraculously stand in his shoes. A more ludicrous and naive belief would be hard to imagine.

Logic tells us that gun buybacks do not take weapons "off the streets." Rather, they waste taxpayer money buying Harry Homeowner's rusty old piece of junk that has sat in a drawer for the past 20 years. The kinds of people who turn in guns for $50 at gun buybacks are not the kinds of people who would likely ever have used their weapons for anything at all, let alone criminal activity. Maybe Mr. Clinton feels safer, having gotten such "dangerous handguns" off the streets. But odds are the criminals of the country are getting a good laugh at his and our expense.

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