Just a short time ago you could smoke anywhere. The smoke filled rooms of political decision making were literally smoke filled – so were movie theaters, buses, air planes, restaurants, and even private homes. Then came the studies that uncovered the dangers of second hand smoke on non-smokers; they were being exposed to the higher rates of cancer, heart disease, and lung disease sharing the spaces of those who smoked.
Along with the studies around second hand smoke came the shared costs imposed on all people, smokers and non-smokers, for just breathing in the polluted air of smoke filled rooms. The change was slow at first, but eventually it became illegal to smoke in most enclosed areas and a high tax was placed on tobacco products under the category of “moral hazards”; they were proven to be a danger to the health and welfare of all people.
Shared costs of declining health and vitality caused by smoking and/or alcohol abuse. Here, the “cost” is that of providing minimum social welfare. Economists more frequently attribute this problem to the category of moral hazards, the prospect that a party insulated from risk may behave differently from the way they would if they were fully exposed to the risk. Moral Hazard
What are the external costs of gun ownrship?
A recent, detailed study by Duke’s Philip Cook and Georgetown’s Jens Ludwig suggests that such external costs are every bit as legitimate as second hand smoke smoke costs were thirty years ago. The study seeks to to quantify the “external cost” of gun ownership.
“The two economists wanted to figure out precisely what sorts of costs gun owners impose on the rest of society.” Washington Post
In the impartial scientific study that is filled with equations like – DlnYQ1 DlnYQ4=DlnFSSQ1 DlnFSSQ4 – to maintain fairness and scientific methodology. While admitting that the questions of “whether the social costs of gun ownership are positive or negative is arguably the most fundamental question for the regulation of firearms in the United States” – the bottom line is well worth noting:
Under certain reasonable assumptions, the average annual marginal social cost of household gun ownership is in the range $100 to $1800.
D 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
The Smoking Gun – Social costs
In sum, gun prevalence is positively associated with overall homicide rates but not systematically related to assault or other types of crime. Together, these results
suggest that an increase in gun prevalence causes an intensification of criminal violence—a shift toward greater lethality, and hence greater harm to the community. Of course, gun ownership also confers benefits to the owners and possibly other members of the household. The benefits are associated with the various private uses of guns—gun
sports, collecting, protection of self and household against people and varmints.
But if our estimates are correct, the net external effects appear to be negative.
So every hand gun that is purchased for $400 – $700 dollars at a gun show or a retail outlet carries a further negative dollar amount on the rest of us. How much?
…that each additional 10,000 gun-owning households leads to around 6 additional crime-related gunshot injuries. If these contingent valuation estimates are approximately correct, the optimal license fee per gun-owning household would be on the order of $600. …some of our estimates that are based on modifications intended to reduce measurement error, the optimal license fee may be as high as $1800 per household.
The Smoking Gun’s Second Hand threat to health
Just as Philip Morris (Altria), Reynolds American (RJR) and Lorillard, fought the 1st and Second Hand dangers of their product on users and second hand innocents, you can bet the NRA and the gun manufacturers will fight, deny, and scoff at the findings of the – Duke’s Philip Cook and Georgetown’s Jens Ludwig – study.
Maybe a tax on weapons at point of sale remains a long battle to be won in the future, but the ban of automatic assault weapons and high round magazines should be a no brainer.