KIRO 7 "Investigates" is promising to blow the lid off Seattle's gun buyback program in an exclusive special report. "Seattle’s gun buyback program is designed to make streets safer," KIRO's website teases, "But when KIRO 7 starts digging, it looks like it all might be for show. Watch the untold story Thursday at 5."
Wow. Talk about over-promising. And I'm talking about KIRO, not the gun buyback program.
The problem is, KIRO is starting from a faulty premise: "Fewer guns, fewer crimes. Streets are safer, so you're safer. That's the hype, so they claim," the KIRO promo leads in with. Except that's not at all what the program's sponsors ever claimed. The buyback was never about getting guns out of the hands of criminals. It was always about getting guns out of the homes of people who didn't want them.
Yes, those unwanted guns are now no longer available to be stolen, so perhaps a gun related crime or two was indirectly prevented there. That's been mentioned by public officials. But the main goal of the buyback was always just to make hundreds of homes a little bit safer. Because study after study shows that the presence of a gun in one's house substantially increases one's risk of death or injury from firearms:
For most contemporary Americans, scientific studies indicate that the health risk of a gun in the home is greater than the benefit. The evidence is overwhelming for the fact that a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide and that gun accidents are most likely to occur in homes with guns. There is compelling evidence that a gun in the home is a risk factor for intimidation and for killing women in their homes. On the benefit side, there are fewer studies, and there is no credible evidence of a deterrent effect of firearms or that a gun in the home reduces the likelihood or severity of injury during an altercation or break-in.
Gun violence is a public health issue, and that is what gun buybacks are intended to address. Between 2006 and 2010, 68 percent of gun deaths in King County were by suicide. As for gun homicides, a 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found the odds of homicide among households with a firearm to be 2.7 times higher than households without.
So are you safer after the gun buyback? You are if you are one of the hundreds of people who turned in their guns. That's what the sponsors promised. And it sure as hell wasn't hype.
These are the sort of statistics that city, county, and law enforcement officials cited again and again before, during, and after the buyback, and these were the issues they claimed the buyback would help address. Nobody I talked to ever claimed what KIRO claims they claimed. So if KIRO was under the mistaken impression that the buyback was promising to get guns out of criminals' hands, well, they just weren't paying close attention.
As for KIRO's assertion that the buyback was "all for show," well, at least their crack reporters got it half right. The buyback was indeed partially for show. It was both an opportunity to educate families about the dangers of keeping a firearm in the house, and an opportunity to keep the issue of gun violence alive and in front of voters as lawmakers debate reform. Every official I spoke to was very forthright about that. So it hardly takes a KIRO TV "investigation."
Look, I'm all for castigating public officials when they lie, cheat, or fuck up. But to take a privately funded gun buyback program that succeeded beyond its wildest expectations, and attempt to present it as some sort of government scandal is just plain irresponsible. And dishonest.