Groceries-for-guns: Too unrefined to be an effective solution

The Newtown gun violence tragedy has influenced opinions inside and outside United States (US). Los Angeles (LA) County, which has an annual buyback plan to exchange grocery cards for US$100 to US$200 for guns in May each year, decided to hold this event again on December 27, 2012. According to officials, the program duration had to be extended as the numbers of vehicles lining up for returning guns were greater than in May 2012. Over 2 000 guns were exchanged for grocery cards this time around compared with approximately 1 700 in May 2012. Editor: While this event brings a good public image to LA County, I think that it is somewhat reactive in nature without much though going into it. Obviously this program does not fully address gun violence, which is a large and complex problem. One question that I am forced to ask myself is why people buy the guns in the first place? Is it for their safety, leisure, thrill or something else? For me, the groceries-for-guns program needs to be refined using innovative social marketing approaches should authorities want it to become one of the “meaningful actions” to control gun violence in the US. A clear understanding of local population perceptions played an important role in marketing contraceptive use in many difficult low-income unwilling settings. The buy-back approach is a good start but it needs to be more universal and more deeply entrenched. I think that in-depth reflections on how to integrate a social marketing approach within the gun buyback program would make it a significant contributor to control gun violence.

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