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13News Now Investigates: How effective are gun buybacks?

One event this weekend in Norfolk will offer gift cards in exchange for guns.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Hampton Roads Black Caucus (HRBC) is hosting a community gun buyback event Saturday, March 19, in Norfolk. 

It comes as Hampton Roads grapples with surging violence. Already 32 people have been shot and killed since January 1. 

Joel Jones with HRBC says they hope to make a dent in the violence with Saturday's gun buyback.

"It's all part of the bigger plan to reduce gun violence through education and training and we're going to start here," Jones said. "If we stay the course and be consistent with our message and with our actions... we'll get that violence down."

The idea of gun buybacks is simple: turn in a firearm and receive a gift card in exchange. No questions asked. The weapons are then turned over to the police department, where they will be destroyed. 

But do gun buybacks actually work in reducing gun violence?

A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found gun buybacks are "ineffective at deterring gun crime."

Researchers offered several reasons that gun buybacks could fail to reduce gun violence, including:

  • The gift cards aren't priced high enough to incentivize donations
  • Most participants come from low-crime areas
  • The firearms exchanged "tend to be older and less well-functioning than the average firearm."

Jones admits gun buyback programs aren't the ultimate answer to curbing gun violence, but he said events like Saturday's will provide the chance to properly and safely dispose of unwanted firearms. 

"Regardless of what the statistics say, we want to put some attention and show that we care enough and make time to do the program," Jones said. 

Norfolk Police shared information about the buyback, writing, "This simple act could prevent irreparable harm, and a firearm from landing in the hands of criminals." 

Saturday's gun buyback lasts from 12 to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of the Calvary Revival Church in Norfolk. 

HRBC collected 33 firearms during a gun buyback in December in Virginia Beach. Jones said they're planning to host a third buyback this summer, likely in Portsmouth.

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