Quantifying the Social Costs of Guns

Gun Shop

Professor Tim Smith has calculated “The Social Costs of Guns.”  Apparently if you use “market approaches” to artificially drive up the cost of gun ownership, it’s not really gun control, even though his proposal would cost me thousands of dollars each year. He does a calculation on the social cost of gun ownership. To Prof. Smith’s credit, he admits that the social costs of rifles are actually very low, because they are so rarely used in crime. But at the end he proposes an annual registration fee of $140 per firearm, to cover the social cost they impose.

A lot of people would give up on gun ownership under this scheme, so it’s a political non-starter. It would gut our political power to resist further encroachments, and the registration scheme it would involve would result in massive non-compliance by gun owners. So this is not something that would ever become reality even if it could be passed.

10 thoughts on “Quantifying the Social Costs of Guns”

  1. Applying Kleck’s calculation of 760,000 defensive gun uses per year and assuming a 10% rate of homicide prevention as set against 34,000 firearms death, the majority of which are suicides and many others are justified homicide, guns should be subsidized rather than taxed. Plus the other 90% of the DGUs avoid costs which would more than offset the costs of non-fatal gun crime.

  2. I replied to the article. My comment’s still in moderation:

    What I learned from this article: if we make a bunch of BS, one-sided assumptions about the social “costs” of firearms (neglecting inconvenient realities such as the fact that firearm mortality risks aren’t demographically or geographically uniform), and then close our eyes and wish really hard, gun registration and an annual $140-per-gun tax doesn’t “directly restrict gun access” and thus doesn’t count as “gun control” infringing on a fundamental constitutional right.

    I’m of course fully confident that none of the people who’ll find Professor Smith’s proposal attractive have ever opposed voter ID laws as some latter-day poll tax. Or, if they have, it’s only because guns are just different, man, because reasons.

    Let’s also take a moment to admire Professor Smith’s quaint faith that the estimated $3.2 billion in annual revenue from his proposal would be spent fairly and wisely. The tobacco settlement monies say hello.

  3. If you look at a gun as social insurance against crime, could there not be an argument that those who do not obtain this insurance must pay a penalty?

  4. You can’t calculate cost as if risk was evenly distributed throughout populations.

  5. Oh? Surely the good Professor isn’t a Liberal, because imposing a tax on firearms would discriminate against the fiscally challenged citizens. And that’s Racist.

    But he must not be a Conservative, because his concept would restrict Second Amendment Rights.

    On the Third hand, he cannot be a Communist, or a socialist, because without access to firearms it is impossible to rise against the Capitalists!

    I’m forced to catagorize the professor as the only remaining (if overlapping) class:

    He’s a fucking idiot.

  6. It’s not a “market based policy” if it’s a mandated fee by the government. Even if the government mandated liability insurance, if it were left to market forces there is no need to calculate a “social cost” figure. The market would work that out. And I bet people like this professor would be sorely disappointed if guns were treated like cars and insurance companies didn’t pay out for acts of crimes leaving only the 2% of gun deaths he cited being part of the equation.

  7. His article should be titled: “Quantifying the Social Cost of Firearms: But not the Benefit- Heaven forbid that we Consider there is a Good Side.”

  8. Has anyone told these academics that my right to keep and bear arms isn’t dependent on any paper written by them? It wasn’t issued by academia or even by any of the 3 branches of government. It is a right that was first codified by hammurabic law and is considered innate to mankind.

    All the policy papers in the world don’t matter.

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