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Grand Rapids bringing back gun buyback program; but does it work?

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City of Grand Rapids
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The city of Grand Rapids is enacting a gun buyback program in an effort to reduce the number of firearms on the streets.

Grand Rapids City Commission approved a firearms-for-cash swap Tuesday evening, as law enforcement deals with a "dramatic" rise in gun violence over the past few years.

In 2021, city officials reported a 72% increase in gun violence, and in 2020, Grand Rapids reported 38 murders, the most homicides in city history, and nearly all of them committed with a gun.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom says, so far 2022 is trending in the wrong direction. "So far this year we have 11 homicides," he said. "Last year, we made progress, but this year, we are doing worse."

Do gun buyback programs reduce the number of firearms on the streets and reduce the number of gun violence-related incidents?

"In large part, they do not."

Dr. Mark Anderson is a professor at Montana State University, and author of a 2022 study searching for gun buyback program efficacy.

"Typically, what you see is the guns that are being turned in aren't the guns that cops want off the streets," he said. "These are guns that are broken, or don't work properly."

Anderson says the study took a comprehensive look at a number of gun buyback programs across the country, while tracking gun violence statistics in each city in the two years that followed.

He says the study found "no evidence" that the programs reduce gun suicides or homicides, but rather suggest it's an inefficient use of taxpayers' dollars.