Why Not Privatize New York City’s Gun Buy-Back Program?
Like many cities — including San Francisco, Detroit and Boston — New York City currently has a hand-gun buyback program. Turn in a weapon, and get as much as $200 bucks, no questions asked. These programs work; on December 15th, in fact, one worked so well in San Francisco that the police ran out of money and had to issue IOUs.
But here in New York, where everything happens on a grander scale, we have a problem. The New York Post reported that the state simply can’t afford what it would take — estimated to be a billion dollars — to buy back (or confiscate) all the assault weapons that are out there. The math is simple and ugly: rifles like the Bushmaster — which is New York-made, by the way — cost around a thousand dollars each. To take them out of circulation is a budget buster.
And a million weapons may well be an understatement; the Post writes that “Unlike the millions of legally licensed handguns that are possessed by 1 million New York residents, the exact number of legally possessed semiautomatic assault rifles is not known because owners do not have to register them.”
What to do, what to do? I have a simple and modest solution. We draw upon the combination of largesse and tangible signifiers of generosity that have always characterized affluent New York donors. From hospitals’ marquis to mantles cresting with slowly tarnishing, engraved Tiffany gifts-of-civic-virtue, giving is also about getting. What’s more, as Nick Kristof pointed out in the New York Times this week, giving has become “cool.” And my proposal is uber-cool.
So here’s the model: New York sets up a non-profit organization. Let’s call it “Adopt-A-Gun.” Anyone can donate a thousand dollars and take an assault weapon out of circulation. While anonymous donors have funded gun buy-backs before, the innovation here is that it’s not a random gun you’re buying, but a very specific one.