Gun buyback programs: Do they reduce gun violence in Michigan?

A Michigan State Police officer stands between a gun reform legislation supporter, left, and an opponent during a rally at the Michigan State Capitol, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Lansing, Mich. Former Congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabrielle Giffords joined lawmakers and gun violence prevention groups to demand action on gun safety. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

By Lucas Henkel

October 18, 2023

Over the past year, gun buyback programs have been increasingly popping up in communities across Michigan. Who benefits from these programs? And, more importantly, do they actually reduce gun violence?


LANSING—Last week, a Lansing church held the latest in a number of gun buyback events in Michigan this year, and by all measures, it was a success. St. Michael’s Episcopal took in more than 100 guns—twice as many as they collected during the same event last year.

Like events in Oakland County, Grand Rapids, Flint, Ludington, and other Michigan cities, the Lansing event was part of a growing trend: Community members coming together to reduce the number of guns in their communities. Here in the US, there are about 121 firearms for every 100 people—and research shows that gun buybacks, when part of a larger gun violence prevention plan, help to make communities safer. Here’s how they work:

What is a “gun buyback” program?

Gun buyback programs allow people to trade in their firearms for vouchers that can be redeemed for cash—at the Lansing event, it was $100 for pistols and shotguns, and $200 for rifles. The exchanges are “no questions asked”—in other words, people who turn over their firearms aren’t subject to background checks, criminal history inquiries, and, in some cases, don’t have to provide an ID.

“If [guns] are surrendered to the Michigan State Police, then they are sent to [a] vendor, GunBusters, who uses a pulverizer (grinder) to destroy the firearms,” said Shannon Banner, director of the communications and outreach division of the Michigan State Police, in an email to ‘The Gander. “Per Michigan statute, all guns surrendered to the MSP are posted on our website 30 days prior to destruction.”

Why is it important?

On average, someone is killed with a gun every seven hours in Michigan. Nationwide, more than 116 Americans die from gun violence every day. And gun deaths are on the rise.

However, we know that removing guns saves lives. Having access to a gun triples suicide risk, and domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser has access to a gun. Today in America, guns are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 18.

Gun buyback programs help reduce the availability of guns in the community, provide an opportunity for safe disposal of firearms, and raise awareness about local gun violence.

Do these programs actually work?

When the goal of gun buyback programs is community engagement or awareness – not violent crime reduction – the programs can have some benefit. They help community members feel more empowered, and encourage locals to work with law enforcement on gun violence reduction strategies. They also perform the simple yet immediate task of getting guns out of neighborhoods—with incentives to do so.

Here in the US, we’ve got the weakest gun laws of any comparable nation—but we also have the most guns, at 393 million. In fact, Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than people in other high-income countries. The thinking behind gun buyback programs, then, is a common sense one: Any partnership that brings parents, neighbors, and other concerned community members together with law enforcement to fight gun violence is worth trying.

There’s also a lot of support for buyback programs. Recent polls have shown that the majority of Americans are in favor of them, and of community-operated violence intervention programs. Here’s local proof: More than $20,000 was donated to the Lansing church for the buyback program, which was held in partnership with the Lansing Police, the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, and the Michigan State Police.

Will there be more gun buybacks in Michigan?

Gun buyback programs are organized by local governments or police departments. To find an event near you, reach out to your local law enforcement, city council, or community organizations working on gun safety.


  • Lucas Henkel

    Lucas Henkel is a multimedia reporter who strives to inform and inspire local communities. Before joining The 'Gander, Lucas served as a journalist for the Lansing City Pulse.



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