• Marty Mc'Clarkey

Why Less Gun Control Means Less Crime ... Economically Speaking.

Updated: Jan 10, 2019

[Sources are below]

Gun control seems to be one of those issues where people can't see either side. On the one hand, those on the political Left think that the right would be crazy to loosen gun laws, and that they simply don't care about children being killed at school or in the streets as much as they care about their NRA mega-donors. Of course this is an absurd view, but instead of correcting the Left for this assertion the Right inflames by declaring that those on the Left want to ban all firearms, which of course left-wingers aren't proposing (at least not most of them).

However, regardless of who-said-what, we should remember that the debate over gun control is not like any other political debate. The gun debate is really a debate on culture, and what our society should except on moral and logical grounds.

So in this article, I want to make a case for the Right's belief in "More Guns, Less Crime" by looking to economics and recent studies, rather than making an appearance in a cliche NRA TV video. My thesis is that loosening gun control and letting more people own guns would break down the black market and help in decreasing crime.

To start us off, let's look at a map of the USA, but not one you might have ever seen.

If you are wondering what this is, it is a map of the illegal gun trade, with the flow of illegal firearms shown by the size of the red arrows. The states that are more green are the ones with more strict gun laws.

The map was made by the New York Times, which saw that states like California and New York were the biggest hubs for the black market in terms for illegal firearms. It has also shown to affect cities like Miami and Chicago, which is why there are some arrows pointing to states that are relaxed in terms of gun control. This is what people like Barack Obama meant when they referred to the 'gun show loophole'. However, it's not as simple as getting a gun out of state without a permit. What generally happens is that someone, usually a representative of the black market, will steal the gun or ship it out after purchasing it legally to a state with higher gun control standards.

The reason this is important is because most gun crimes are committed in tandem with the black market.

As a matter of fact, most gun crimes are committed using an illegal firearm. In fact, according to Politifact:

"In the 13 states with the fewest restrictions on gun ownership, 40 percent of inmates illegally obtained the gun they used ... about 13 percent purchased the gun from a store or pawn shop.

In the other 37 states, including New York state, 60 percent of inmates illegally procured the gun they used ..."

The reason this is important is because much of the debate surrounding gun control centers around LEGAL firearms, which make up only a fraction of gun crimes. Yet we don't think of guns in the same way we think of other products like we did with alcohol during Prohibition. The fact is that guns, like alcoholic drinks, are products that if not placed on the free market will surely be found on the black market. That doesn't mean they can't be regulated, but it does mean that criminals have an incentive to make a tidy profit on something if it has high demand and low supply, such as guns in New York and California. According to the New York Times: "A low-quality handgun that sells for $100 in an Atlanta store might sell for $500 or $600 in New York City, researchers say — and it can be transported cheaply."

However, even if you are a supporter of gun control, one ought to recognize that gun control laws in these blue states are almost comparable to prohibition. Hell, my hometown of DC tried to do exactly that, which is why there is a Supreme Court case called DC v Heller. The solution here should be clear, loosen gun laws in blue states. It will curb the black market by cutting their profit-motive, thus curbing gun crimes. And if you don't believe me, I can prove it to you.

Missouri originally had much stricter gun laws. A state permit and several background checks made it nearly impossible for your average citizen to get a gun there (and don't even get me started with St. Louis). However, in 2007 the state moved to repeal a portion of it's gun control laws, not only were more legal guns used in gun crimes, but as you can see below there were less violent crimes happening afterwards (the spike comes from the violent protests surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown).

In truth, the debate around gun crime should be part of the larger debate surrounding the culture of criminality, as it is mostly known thugs who perpetrate gun crimes, and we ought to recognize that making gun purchasing less restrictive gives less of an incentive for the black market to make money and thus less of an incentive to commit crimes. However, this does pose a very important question: What about mass shooters or those committing suicide? That means that they too will be able to get guns more easily?

It is an absolutely good question, as there is a correlation (though a weak one) between gun ownership and gun deaths. In truth, you don't have to own a gun to prevent someone from doing something terrible, but you have to recognize that limiting one's freedom to own a gun has its consequences. Preventing suicides, mass shootings and gang violence should be everyone's concern, but I believe I should answer that question in a separate post. Sources:

1. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/12/us/gun-traffickers-smuggling-state-gun-laws.html

2. https://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/missouri/

3. https://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/19/1/26

4. https://www.politifact.com/new-york/statements/2018/mar/12/john-faso/do-illegal-gun-owners-commit-most-gun-crime-rep-fa/

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Marty Mc'Clarkey

Washington, DC