Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 :::

It's dangerous to change public policy in response to a single event, especially shortly after the event, when its importance is especially inflated. This is partially because any rushed policy change is likely to be poorly thought out, but also because the stuff of life doesn't grab headlines. If we let media coverage drive policy, attempts to reduce murders even more than they have already fallen in the last several decades will focus too much on mass killings that dominate news cycles nationally and too little on other murders which are more frequent but which get less attention. Gun rights activists like to say that, when the bad guys have guns, we are better off when good guys have guns and are trained to use them. This story is plausible, but it seems strongest in the case of a mass shooting - if a shooter has one victim in mind, he may be done by the time anyone knows he's a threat, but in a mass shooter situation, it's the good guy with the gun who has the element of surprise. So we might be tempted to respond to a mass shooting by making concealed carry easier, reducing the likelihood and magnitude of a large-scale event, but whether that would increase or reduce the overall murder rate is an open question. My understanding is that the empirical results of well-done studies are mixed (the poorly done studies all seem to find a positive correlation between gun ownership and gun crime or gun deaths and infer that guns cause crime), and that the best conclusion is that any effect of gun ownership on crime is small, whatever its sign. Unless something useful can be said about subsets of guns or gun owners or crime, gun policy should probably be made based on other considerations.


::: posted by Steven at 9:36 AM

There was an NBER working paper looking at this recently, noting which sorts of studies tend to find what sort of effects, with the most consistent take-away being that, as usual, model specification matters. Also, though, what you said.
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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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