On July 30 at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Democrat Mayor Sylvester Turner held a gun buyback event, which is said to have taken in around 150 guns. The city awarded gift cards to citizens who turned in their firearms. For a non-functioning firearm, a citizen received a $50 gift card; for a rifle or shotgun, the amount was $100; for a handgun, the amount was $150; and finally, for a fully automatic rifle, a gift card worth $200 was awarded.
Turner touted the exchange as a success and has two similar buyback events planned. However, not all firearms — like 62 of the 150 reportedly exchanged on July 30 — will be accepted at subsequent buybacks. Turner said that 3D-printed guns, also referred to as "ghost guns," will be excluded the next time around.
One unnamed individual turned in 3D-printed guns in exchange for gift cards. He told Fox 26 that he exchanged 62 3D-printed guns, which each cost him approximately $3 to produce, and received $50 per firearm. He noted that "The goal was not personal profit, but to send [Houston leaders] a message about spending 1 million tax dollars on something that has no evidence of any effect on crime…”
The $1 million figure the person referred to concerns the money Turner has set aside from the city’s $53 million federally funded “One Safe Houston” program for this gun buyback initiative.
Other 3D-printed handguns were, however, rejected.
Cody Wilson, the director of Ghost Guns, brought around 25 3D-printed firearms that each allegedly met the criteria for "non-functioning firearm" to the buyback. With the understanding that finished frames are receivers for the purposes of federal law, Wilson and other members of the Ghost Guns team produced and brought such parts, which took them only a few hours and cost "mere dollars in plastic" to make. Houston police refused to take them.
Wilson told TheBlaze that such gun buybacks call to mind to "the apocryphal story of how the English Imperial Office tried to get rid of cobras in India," by placing a bounty on them. "And supposedly people began to farm cobras." In the case of gun buybacks, he suggested that one way to "spoil liberal posturing" would be to breed cobras or in this case 3D-print firearms for buybacks.
Wilson regards both law enforcement's and governments' acceptance of ghost guns and their rejection at these events as a win.
If accepted, entrepreneurial ghost-gun manufacturers can make some money. What's more, changes in definitions and in criteria incentivize innovation. "If you think about it, it's like a technology challenge ... encouraging the advancement of the state of the art." For instance, when lawmakers targeted polymer handgun parts, they "created structural incentives for people to make ghost guns from rifles and rifle parts" instead. Additionally, the attempt to pass off a 3D-printed firearm in light of the new exclusion forces private printers to improve quality.
If, on the other hand, "they have to say they don't want 3D guns, then we say, 'well, how big a problem can they really be?'" Wilson noted the disconnect at the event, where Houston police would have arrested 3D-gun manufacturers who had trunks full of firearms, despite having just been denied gift cards on the basis that the same items were not in fact guns.
On April 11, the Biden administration announced that the U.S. Department of Justice had issued a rule to “rein in the proliferation” of “ghost guns,” then defined as “unserialized, privately-made firearms.” The rule banned the business of manufacturing unserialized “buy build shoot” kits that individuals could use to assemble firearms without background checks. The rule further deems these kits “firearms” under the Gun Control Act.
This rule goes into effect August 24.
Wilson suggests that this rule and related efforts are tantamount to "pure anarcho-tyranny. We know the only people that have the equipment in the hobby to make guns are good, law-abiding people. And this [rule] is meant to terrorize."