Gun policy: The making of a bad idea.

Here’s a story from a few days ago on one of Obama’s casserole of gun-policy related executive orders. He is apparently trying to stoke the market for “smart guns” that can only be fired by their registered user by directing federal agencies to “‘explore potential ways to further’ the use and development of smart gun technology as well as consult with other agencies that buy firearms to see if smart guns could be considered for acquisition and ‘consistent with operational needs.'”

Here’s why this is almost certainly a TERRIBLE idea (in a chain-of-events sort of list):

  1. Smart guns will only appeal to the most responsible and risk-averse gun users. So to the extent new smart guns are sold, they will be sold to the people least likely to shoot someone.
  2. Any smart gun sales not accompanied by some really attractive gun buyback program will increase the supply of used guns.
  3. Guns are extremely durable goods. A 40 year old gun will do just fine for most anyone who needs a gun in a pinch.
  4. Used guns will be bought and sold in secondary markets. Such markets are both more likely to be informal / unregulated and to be the source of most guns used in criminal acts. In fact, those seeking guns for mass shootings, gang shootings, etc. would almost certainly be seeking non-smart guns, so if this initiative creates even a small increase in non-smart-guns for sale, it is increasing the supply of guns most likely to be used to kill people.

When making gun policy, first DO NO HARM. Things are bad right now but it is pretty easy to make them worse and this is a prime example of how to do it.


About theunlikelyeconomist

theunlikelyeconomist is in the midst of the long slog to attain a PhD in economics.
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