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The Costs Of Guns

by Stuart Shapiro

The second most debated topic (after the tone of political rhetoric) after the Arizona shooting has been gun control.  Richard Florida has an article at The Atlantic with data on gun deaths.  There’s lots of interesting stuff there but what most struck me was:

Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42), and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).

Now unlike some folks, I do not believe gun ownership is a right.  But for argument’s sake let’s say it is.  Like all things claimed to be rights — free speech, health care etc. — the right to gun ownership comes with a cost.  And that cost is lives lost.  More innocent people die when more guns are around.  Maybe if we start from the premise that gun ownership is a right, but that it has costs, we can have a reasoned debate about whether restrictions on that right (just like there are restrictions on free speech) like trigger locks, assault weapon bans, and safe storage requirements are worth the number of lives that would be saved by them.

Gail Collins and Nicholas Kristof also wrote eloquently on this subject recently.

About Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

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