Safety off-target?; Gun buybacks under fire.

Author:Boynton, Donna
Position:Local
 
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Byline: Donna Boynton

WORCESTER -- No names are required, no questions are asked.

In the 13 years since the Goods for Guns program was introduced, 2,545 unwanted and unsecured guns -- the bulk of which have been pistols, revolvers, automatic and semi-automatic weapons -- have been turned into police.

The goal of Goods for Guns, which has been expanded to other communities in Central Massachusetts, is to take unwanted and unsecured guns out of homes in an effort to reduce deaths, injuries and crimes by gun. Goods for Guns offers gift cards for each gun turned in, the value of which is based on the type of weapon.

According to the Worcester Police Department, a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to kill a family member or a friend than an intruder. Guns are legally required to be properly stored, locked and unloaded, and if that can't be done police suggest they be turned in for disposal.

Has the Goods for Guns program been effective in its mission, and how is its success measured?

Some gun-rights advocates question the effectiveness of buyback programs and cite a rising tide of shootings to argue the programs are not resulting in a drop in gun-related crime.

But law-enforcement officials in the region and medical professionals say any unsecured gun is one too many, and just by being unsecure raises the likelihood that it could be used in a crime or accidental shooting.

"It's the crime that doesn't take place that is the mark of success for this program, which is hard to quantify,'' said Deputy Police Chief Edward McGinn Jr. "We've taken more than 2,500 guns out of peoples' homes and out of neighborhoods, making them safer. These are guns that are no longer subject to theft; these are guns that won't be used in gang violence or to harm anyone on purpose or accidentally.''

Those who question the value of gun-buyback programs say it does not attract criminals despite offering anonymity, and gun violence and gun-related crime have not been reduced.

For instance in Worcester, nonfatal shootings have increased in the last three years: from 16 in 2012, to 24 in 2013 and 33 in 2014. The focus, instead, should be on firearms education and targeting the criminal element, not the gun.

"I don't see any positive effect through this program other than people standing around a table looking at some guns and patting themselves on the back,'' said James Wallace, executive director of Northboro-based Gun Owners' Action League. Mr. Wallace said. "Programs...

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