Man Gets $21,000 for 3D Printed Guns in NY — What Does it Mean for Gun Buybacks?

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Gun buybacks are turning into the perfect opportunity to sell 3D printed guns and gun parts. In the last several months, there have been such events in Philadelphia, Raleigh, Michigan, Northampton County, Livermore, Oakland County, and other cities across the country, where opportunities to turn in this type of ghost gun for profit are prevailing. We first learned about a man receiving more than $3,000 after trading 62 3D printed firearms in an August 2022 gun buyback in Houston, Texas. Now, another man claims he was paid $21,000 for 3D printed weapons at a New York buyback event in Utica last August.

According to New York’s WKTV news station, a man who identified himself as “Kem” (who’s listed under the pseudonym “AntennaBun” on Twitter) said he drove six hours to Utica, where he negotiated the sale of more than 110 small firearms with the Attorney General’s Office staff in exchange for 42 gift cards worth $500 each.

Inspired by other people tweeting about using 3D printers to make guns for the sole purpose of selling them for thousands of dollars at gun buyback programs, Kem told the local media outlet that he decided to use a $200 3D printer he got for Christmas to make lower receivers and frames for different kinds of firearms which he then took to Utica.

During the interview, Kem also described gun buybacks as “a fantastic way of showing, number one, that your policies don’t work, and, number two, you’re creating perverse demand. You’re causing people to show up to these events, and they don’t actually reduce crime whatsoever.”

More than 280 guns recovered at a gun buyback event in Utica

More than 280 guns were recovered at a gun buyback event in Utica on August 27, 2022. Image courtesy of New York Attorney General’s Office.

If anything, the scheme could encourage many others to print guns at home and take them to gun buybacks across the country, seeing how easily Kem received the money from the Attorney General’s office, which later decided to change the rules of 3D printed guns following the highly publicized situation.

Other cities have already altered gun buyback rules to avoid misspending local resources. For example, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city’s second “no questions asked” gun buyback event on October 8, 2022, wasn’t accepting any privately manufactured ghost guns; specifically 3D printed or made guns. The decision came after a man turned in 3D printed guns in exchange for $3,000 during the city’s inaugural buyback in July.

A wider discussion

Even though New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that the community gun buyback in Utica was a success after having collected 296 guns, including 177 ghost guns, other users have taken to social media to question whether the concept of gun buybacks is genuinely working, especially after several cities got swindled by people asserting publicly that they printed gun parts in exchange for money.

In exchange for the firearms, people received prepaid gift cards on-site, as well as an iPad for working handguns and assault rifles. According to posts on Facebook and Twitter from the New York Attorney General, the values went from $250 for an assault rifle to $25 for a non-working or antique gun. To date, Attorney General James has taken in more than 3,300 firearms through gun buyback events and other initiatives since taking office in 2019.

Like James, who believes gun buybacks are one of many ways “to combat this crisis, reduce crime, and protect New Yorkers from harm,” proponents of gun buyback programs see it as a safe and legal way for people to dispose of unwanted firearms, no questions asked. However, opponents say these programs may not reduce violence on their own.

Despite their popularity, research consistently shows that buyback programs don’t reduce gun violence, mainly because people who shouldn’t have these weapons will not trade them in for cash. Moreover, a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found “no evidence that GBPs (gun buyback programs) reduce suicides or homicides where a firearm was involved.”

Gun buyback programs date as far as 1974 when the Baltimore Police Department ran what is believed to have been the first gun buyback program in the U.S. Unfortunately, even though officers claim to receive hundreds of guns during these events and help prevent potential tragedies, gun buybacks won’t always collaborate to reduce gun violence. For instance, Chicago records more murders each year than any other city in America, even though its police department also takes in more guns through enforcement than any other city, including annual buyback programs.

Nationwide, the trend of people arming themselves has been escalating for years, according to Bloomberg reporter Thomas Black. Even more so, a study of global firearm ownership from 2018 concluded that there are more guns than people in the U.S., with gun owners possessing nearly 400 million firearms. Gun control experts worldwide have expressed that tackling these statistics might need more than gun buybacks, especially if cities are trading in thousands of dollars in exchange for what has been described as basically 3D printed “prop guns.” Sooner or later, countries like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom, which tightened gun laws and lowered gun-death rate areas, may all offer insight into curbing gun violence through targeted strategies.

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