The United States has a high rate of death due to firearms, and gun buyback programs may mitigate these high death rates. Understanding the demographics, motivation, and geographic region of participants may improve program efficacy.
Three Injury Free Coalition for Kids gun buyback programs, in collaboration with the local police, were studied: Phoenix, Arizona; Worcester, Massachusetts; and New Haven, Connecticut. Participants were defined as those who relinquished a firearm. A self-administered, anonymous, paper survey elicited information from participants regarding demographic data, formal training on the use of the firearm, how the firearm was acquired, potential child access, knowledge of others injured by a firearm, whether the firearm was stored unlocked, factors motivating the surrender of the firearm, and other factors. Survey results were entered into a composite database and analyzed for differences in location, race, sex, and other factors.
Participants (n = 301) were predominantly male (73.5%), white (80.9%), and older than 55 years (59.0%). They lived an average of 19.0 miles from the event by zip codes and had an average median household income of $65,731. More than half (54.5%) did not purchase the firearm, acquiring it through inheritance, gift, or random find. Most (74.8%) had previous firearms training and were relinquishing for safety reasons (68.3%). Those relinquishing firearms for safety reasons were less likely to have purchased the firearm (odds ratio [OR], 2.46, p <0.05), less likely to have any formal training (OR, 5.92; p < 0.01), and less likely to keep the firearm locked (OR, 3.50; p < 0.01). Women were less likely to have purchased the firearm (OR, 0.50; p < 0.05). Fifty-three percent of those turning in firearms reported having at least one more firearm at home; designated themselves to be white, compared with all other groups combined (OR, 2.55; p < 0.05); more likely to report locking the firearm (OR, 0.11; p < 0.001); more interested in receiving a gun lock (OR, 0.15; p < 0.001); and more likely to know others who also own firearms (OR, 0.17; p < 0.001). In at least one of the cities participating in this study, as many as 30 percent of the weapons used in gun-wielding criminal acts were burglarized from the home of legal gun owners that had failed to secure them properly.
The gun buyback program is solely one prong of a multipronged approach in reducing firearm-based interpersonal violence. Additional research is necessary to determine effective methods to target individuals who would have the greatest impact on gun violence if they relinquished their weapons. Through the forging of relationships and enhancement of firearm knowledge among medical, law enforcement, judicial, and school communities, the prevention of intentional and unintentional firearm-related injuries will be able to be managed more effectively.