Why do some people want to ban or restrict guns, particularly in the aftermath of tragedies like Sandy Hook? Because they believe by banning or restricting guns they will effectively reduce the supply of weapons, which will in turn reduce the incidence of violent crime.
If they believe that restricting guns will choke off the supply and do good by preventing violent crime, wouldn’t an outright ban on guns ceteris paribus do even more good? Ostensibly, the answer is no. Under the most totalitarian state imaginable, all guns could not be removed from the hands of private owners. Is the freedom of 330 million Americans the price we have to pay to reduce the (ever decreasing) rate of murder we have in this country? (From 1995 to 2010, the murder rate has decreased from 8.1 to 4.8 homicides per 100,000 people). Even the police don’t believe the absurdity that banning guns would be helpful.”In 1995, the National Association of Chiefs of Police polled the nation‘s 18,000+ police agencies. Of the respondents, 88.7% believed that banning all firearms would not reduce the ability of criminals to obtain firearms…and 97.4% of the responding Chiefs of Police agreed that even if Congress approved a ban on all rifles, shotguns, and handguns, criminals would still be able to obtain ‘illegal weapons.'” In general, in the United States, the cities with the highest crime rate have been those with the most severe gun restrictions.
Frankly, the trade-off between freedom and safety is a false dichotomy. Even in the totalitarian state where freedom ceases to exist, we would not achieve total safety. No police state, no matter how powerful and despotic, could ever eliminate murder altogether and whenever guns are banned from the hands of the people, the incidence of murder and imprisonment at the hands of the state will skyrocket to take it’s place, and then some.
Defensive gun uses in the United States are estimated anywhere from 100,000, to 250,000, to over 2 million times per year. Do we really believe that if defensive gun use wasn’t an option in these cases, the individual would have been better off?
If the drug war has taught us anything, it is that the outright ban of anything will not lead to the disappearance of the banned entity. In fact, the ban will cause any current supply of the item to increase in value. If economics has taught us anything, it is that higher prices mean that suppliers will be willing to produce more to derive a greater profit. It also means that entrepreneurs will be willing to take on more risks to be able to supply more items to those who are demanding it.
We can see this happening when disasters affect a particular region. Goods become scarcer, in turn driving the prices of these goods up. Higher prices mean a greater opportunity for entrepreneurs to make larger profits. For example, when gases prices skyrocket in the wake of a natural disaster, entrepreneurs will take more risk to deliver their supplies of gas to the area, in turn flooding the area with gasoline and in turn driving the prices back down (if they’re allowed to and not price controlled). It is these price signals that allow scarce resources to be allocated efficiently in our society.
Liberal critics of the drug war (usually) recognize that banning drugs has not led to a decrease in the supply of drugs and has only served to increase the number of criminals created. Yet, how do these same critics presume that banning guns will decrease the supply and make our society safer, with less criminals? I think, in many ways, it comes down to an ignorance of these basic economic principles and common sense. A candid assessment reveals it makes us more vulnerable to criminals and the large scale band of crooks known as the government and further, it is not a trade-off any self-respecting individual should be willing to make. As Thomas Sowell has said, “if evil people who care no more for laws or treaties than they do for other people’s lives are the problem, then disarmament makes decent, law-abiding people more vulnerable to evil people.”
Gun control advocates always say, “If it saves even one life it is worth it.” But what about all the crimes that could have been prevented if we had freedom from gun regulation today? How many murders by government could have been prevented by a well-armed citizenry ready to defend their rights? The always cogent Andrew Napolitano wrote, in his book Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History:
Gun control laws, one must ask, make it, “safer for whom? Safer for the criminals who rob, assault, and rape, all the while knowing that the probability of their victim being armed is slim and thus they do not have to fear a fight they cannot win? Safer for a tyrant who fears an armed citizenry? Safer as opposed to freer? If things continue this way, liberty’s tombstone will read, “This was for your own good.”