The 135 firearms that North Charleston bought from owners last weekend are firearms that won’t be used in robberies or discharged in accidents. They won’t be used in suicides.

The buyback also is admittedly a small part of the city’s anti-crime campaign. Sadly, by Mayor Keith Summey’s own acknowledgment, it’s far too easy to buy guns illegally in his city — even out of the trunks of cars.

And sadly, plenty of people do just that.

The problem is not just in North Charleston, which had 55 reported gun-related crimes in March.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that, in 2005, 30,694 deaths were attributable to firearms. A stunning 16,000 of those were suicides, about 12,252 were murders, and 500 were justifiable defensive shootings by police and citizens.

Some dispute it, but reducing the percentage of households with firearms should result in a drop in the rate of gun violence.

If nothing else, gun buyback programs like North Charleston’s deliver a message to people to think seriously about gun ownership. If you don’t need it, don’t keep it. If you keep it, make sure it is secure so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands, or become part of a tragic accident or suicide.

Naysayers contend that the buyback program only abets criminals. They get a $100 gift card for an old gun ($50 for a long gun) and go buy another newer one with what they saved at the store.

That’s where Mr. Summey has promised tough policing to stem illegal gun sales.

But it will take a concerted effort to chisel away at gun crimes and to turn around the culture of violence that seems so pervasive. It will require the joint efforts of law enforcement, parents, schools — indeed, the community at large.

And gun owners need to understand the potential for harm.

If a handful of those who turned in guns this weekend for a $100 gift card did so because they wanted to make their families and communities safer, the buyback did its job.