Economics @ ITT

3 Approaches to Curbing Gun Violence Using Economics

Posted in economics, Policy Issues, Regulation, Taxation by ittecon on December 19, 2012

Undoubtedly, there are more economic incentives to employ, and I don’t want to get mired in the politics of this gun ownership issue, but these are decent ideas.

What if anything can the government realistically do to decrease gun violence in America? We’ll surely hear a number of proposals this week, but here are three that attack the problem as an economist would: through incentives.

via 3 Approaches to Curbing Gun Violence — Using Economics | TIME.com.

Another approach is to make the manufacturers and vendors civilly liable for any damage caused by the product—sort of like making a bartender liable for serving an inebriated patron alcohol after s/he gets into an accident. This takes the argument out of the constitutional realm into the domain of economics. People in the US might have the right to bear arms, but the liability would increase the cost to these parties, and so  based on classical economic theory, supply would decline and prices would increase.

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2 Responses

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  1. Robert Nielsen said, on December 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Economics can help a lot but it isn’t the solution to every problem. Your proposal would involve years of difficult legal proposals that would make millions for lawyers but not necessarily reduce gun crime. The demand for guns is very inelastic and only slightly affected by price so a tax or other economic incentives would have little effect.

    • ittecon said, on December 20, 2012 at 10:15 am

      Quite right, but this is an economic themed blog, and so… The reason I am coming from this angle is that in the US, it is part of a Constitutional debate, and Constitutional changes seems to progress at a glacial pace. A Constitutional amendment to give women equal rights to men was first presented in 1923. It got new legs in the 1970s, but it died on the vine. In the US, women still have no constitutional right to equality. It is trying to be revived, so time will tell. I am not holding my breath.

      As to the economics of gun ownership—whilst I do believe that the demand for a gun might be inelastic, some people treat this as a necessity “good”; I would presume the marginal utility of additional guns would fall precipitously. In the recent shooting, Adam’s mum might not have 6 guns in her home, and so we may have had less carnage.

      Keep in mind, too, that cigarettes are inelastic, and yet (along with moral suasion) economic campaigns (taxation) have decreased smoking in the US. Also, cigarettes are more elastic for younger age groups, but this is a different topic.


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