Medicine Hat News

Optional gun buyback programs more likely than compulsory ones to miss mark: expert



The Trudeau government is expected to introduce guncontrol legislatio­n this week that gives owners the choice of keeping recently outlawed firearms under strict conditions instead of turning them in for compensati­on.

However a gun-control expert who has studied buyback initiative­s says optional programs, as opposed to compulsory ones, have a greater chance of missing the mark of making communitie­s safer.

“The empirical evidence, the studies, show that a voluntary buyback is the most likely to fail,” said Philip Alpers, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Sydney’s school of public health in Australia.

Alpers points to major gun buyback programs in Australia and New Zealand that not only prohibited certain guns but included stiff penalties for not turning them in.

“It was the penalty that made the difference with the success of both the

Australian and New Zealand gun buybacks,” he said in an interview. “If you make it voluntary, you’re making it optional.”

The Canadian government outlawed an array of firearms by cabinet order in May, saying they were designed for the battlefiel­d, not hunting or sport-shooting.

The ban covers some

1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style weapons, meaning they can no longer be legally used, sold or imported.

The coming bill is believed to propose a program to buy back these firearms for a fair price, but allow owners to hang on to them if certain conditions are met.

Many gun-control advocates have been pressing the Liberals to make the buyback mandatory, warning that firearms that remain with owners could be misused or stolen.

When 35 people were gunned down at the Port Arthur Historic Site in Tasmania in 1996, Australia banned semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns, buying back some 650,000 from owners. The National Firearms

Agreement also toughened licensing, registrati­on and safe-storage provisions.

More than a dozen mass shootings occurred in Australia in the 25 years before the reforms, but after the buyback there were none until 2014.

“For Australia, the NFA seems to have been incredibly successful in terms of lives saved,” said a 2011 assessment by Harvard University’s Injury Control Research Center.

New Zealand implemente­d a buyback following the March 2019 shootings at two mosques that killed 51 people and injured many others.

Before the initiative, police estimated there were between 55,000 and 240,000 newly outlawed firearms in the country, based on a consulting firm’s analysis.

More than 61,000 firearms were handed in or modified.

A gun group criticized the buyback, saying there were 170,000 prohibited firearms in New Zealand, but the group Gun Control NZ says it has seen no credible evidence to support this figure.

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