Gun violence and economic solutions

Peace on earth

Early this morning in Orlando, Florida, a gunman murdered 50 people and injured 53 (as of 11 am CDT) in the worst mass shooting in American history.

After the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, I wrote a column, Economic theory gives us two ‘weapons’ to combat gun violence. The short version is that economics suggests we think about gun violence in terms of two concepts:

  1. Externalities, that is, costs that are borne by those not engaging in an activity. More bluntly, we as a society bear the costs of gun violence even when we have nothing to do with gun ownership and use.  In this case, taxing guns and ammunition would be an effective strategy in reducing gun violence.
  2. Noxious markets, that is, markets which society decides are especially objectionable. In this case, restricting the markets for particular types of guns and ammunition are analogous to laws such as those prohibiting human trafficking.

The Second Amendment obviously comes in to play here but it is no more unlimited than is the First Amendment.

I wish this column were not still relevant.  Unfortunately, except for the lead quote from President Obama I wouldn’t need to change a word to publish it today.