They include longtime gun owners and firearm enthusiasts who said they’d had a change of heart. Many were people who’d inherited guns ― sometimes lots of them ― but never really wanted them or knew what to do with them. Some said they’d be willing to sell their firearms. But most said they’d prefer to see their guns destroyed, as it would be the only way to ensure they’d never be used for harm. Almost everyone we spoke to agreed that it should be much easier to dispose of unwanted firearms.
Without a uniform process to end the life cycle of guns in the U.S., the stockpile of civilian-held firearms has surged to 393 million weapons, according to an estimate published in June. Many of those guns are in the hands of responsible owners, who use them only as intended and store them securely to prevent theft or other unauthorized use. But many are not, said Ian Johnstone, founder of Gun by Gun, a nonprofit that organizes buybacks for firearms.
“There’s an all-time high number of guns circulating in the U.S., which is always at an all-time high,” Johnstone said. “It’s creating a situation where there are a lot of guns that aren’t necessarily wanted that pose a threat to all of us and there isn’t a good way to get rid of them.”