In the wake of the Newtown massacre, there’s growing interest in Massachusetts and around the country in gun buyback programs, which offer gun owners everything from toys to gift certificates to cash in exchange for their firearms. Worcester recently initiated a program in December. Cambridge, Framingham, Wellesley, and Newton are all considering something similar.
That makes this a good time to discuss not only the benefits and costs of gun buyback programs, but also ways to improve the existing programs in Massachusetts. Here’s one idea: in exchange for the unwanted guns, offer sports tickets.
We are looking, after all, for what could provide the largest goods-related incentive for Bostonians and New Englanders alike to turn in their guns. Boston’s sports teams rank amongst the most popular in the United States according to a 2010 study by Forbes. They also have the kind of ticket prices that make our wallets cringe. Forbes’s comparison of ticket prices between Boston’s basketball, football, and baseball teams and ticket prices of most other American sports teams, showed that Boston’s were generally way more expensive. The Celtics had the NBA’s third highest average ticket price at $69 per ticket during the 2011-2012 season. The Red Sox, as of the 2012 season, edged out the New York Yankees and now have baseball’s most expensive tickets at an average price of $53. And of the fall of 2012, the Patriots had football’s second-most expensive tickets at an average of $117.
The popularity and the price make Boston sports tickets a hot commodity and perhaps a significant incentive for people to turn in their guns. “The most effective programs have been the ones that offer something popular—like sports tickets,” says Jack McDevitt, the associate dean of research at Northeastern’s College of Social Sciences & Humanities as well as the head of a special commission on gun violence in Boston. Cleveland, Ohio and Miami, Florida have successfully used sports tickets in exchange for guns, McDevitt says. “It is important to give something that is of value to young people since they usually have the types of guns we want. We are trying to get guns that would be used in crime.”
There are challenges, of course, to initiating a tickets-for-guns program—mainly, that the sports teams would have to cooperate. “The issue with sports tickets is that there just hasn’t been a lot of traction in the past,” says Worcester Commissioner of Public Health Michael Hirsh, who helped implement his city’s buyback program last year. “We’ve approached the Patriots and some of the local sports teams in Worcester, but none of them have really showed much interest in these types of programs.”
But Hirsh approached the sports teams before the Newtown incident and the subsequent interest the American public demonstrated toward tackling gun violence. The Red Sox took part in such gun-safety initiatives by contributing $25,000 towards Boston’s gun buyback program in 2006, so interest does exist among some sports organizations. With gun control becoming such a popular topic of discussion in national media and with a growing talk of pursuing gun buyback programs in various Massachusetts towns, perhaps that interest among sports teams could continue to grow.
Posted on Boston Magazine’s blog: Boston Daily