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Often cited benefits of weapons buy-back programs include getting “guns off the street.” A Special Operations Team Leader stated that such a June 2011 program in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province would “help improve security, stability and development by getting these weapons out of insurgents’ hands.” The following analysis investigates this claim and evaluates the ability of weapons buy-back programs to remove weapons in an area by using microeconomic theory. Further, it suggests that, unless accompanied with security measures that prevent the free movement of weapons into the targeted area, weapons buy-back initiatives will likely be ineffective.
Editor’s Note. See also Chad Machiela’s Gun Control in Counterinsurgency for a game theory perspective on guns and money in counterinsurgency.