the False Promise of Gun Control

a million units every year of the decade. Ignoring the ultimate sources of crime and violence The American experience with prohibition has been that black marketeers often professional criminals move in to profit when legal markets are closed down or disturbed. Criminals, at least, can switch to varieties of law-breaking in which a gun confers little to no advantage (burglary, smash-and-grab but people who are afraid of confrontations with criminals, whether rationally or (as an accountant might reckon it) irrationally, will be very highly motivated. One example is the Administrations pending proposal to make employer-paid health insurance mandatory and universal. Members of the House and Senate who have not dared to confront the gun lobby concede the connection privately. Hobbyists want to get rid of them, and gun-control proponents dont think they go nearly far enough. Sealing the border, handguns are not legally for sale in the city of Chicago, and have not been since April of 1982. Nor can one expect large numbers of people to surrender firearms they already own. But another anomaly they dont. (Correlative, perhaps, is their uncritical readiness to accept studies that debunk the utility of firearms for self-defense.) The class of people we wish to deprive of guns, then, is the very class with the most inelastic demand for them criminals whereas the people most like. Government programs to buy up surplus cheese cause more cheese to be produced without affecting the availability of cheese to people who want to buy.

No doubt this means encouraging properly qualified private citizens to possess and carry firearms legally. The rising generation of criminals will have no more difficulty than their elders did in obtaining the tools of their trade. The determinants of crime and law-abidingness are, of course, complex matters, which are not fully understood and certainly not explicable in terms of a countrys laws. But most people are not dedicated antiquitarians, and would not be impressed by the argument I admit that my behavior is very dangerous to public safety, but the Second Amendment says I have a right to do it anyway. Nothing guarantees prudent behavior like a sense of the future, and with average skills in reading, writing, and math, young people can realistically look forward to constructive employment and the straight life that steady work makes possible.

As long as crime pays as well as it does, we will have plenty of it, and honest folk must choose between being victims and defending themselves. One could extend the concept of intermittent roadblocks of the sort approved by the Supreme Court for discouraging drunk driving. Most of the countrys major newspapers apparently take this problem to have been solved by an article published by Arthur Kellermann and several associates in the October 7, 1993, New England Journal of Medicine. But the costs of the rule are not negligible, only hidden. This is true, in my opinion. Our statistical tools are too weak to allow us to identify an effect clearly enough to persuade an open-minded skeptic. At-will employment meant that companies could get out of the relationship as easily as employees could. That would be a case for repealing the Second Amendment, not respecting.

In order to predict who will comply with gun-control laws, we should remember that guns are economic goods that are traded in markets. Seeing that local firearms restrictions are easily defeated, gun-control proponents have latched onto national controls as a way of finally making gun control something more than a gesture. Kleck wrote that it is as though Kellermann, trying to discover how diabetics differ from other people, found that they are much more likely to possess insulin than nondiabetics, and concluded that insulin is a risk factor for diabetes. What will happen to the rate of violence?