Gun control for Mr. Spock

On my Facebook page, in response to this post, my friend, Scott, makes an excellent point:

Ultimately, this is just another permutation of the externalization of costs (in terms of health and fiscal expenditures) by the domestic arms manufactures, retailers and rabid consumers.

When debating guns, you encounter all kinds of people. Some come across as very emotional – FREEDOM! Pry it from my cold, dead hands! – while others strike a pose of the hyper-rationalist. Gee, these very, very logical people say, if we could just discuss this whole issue *rationally*, then we’d sort it out, easy peasy.

I have all sorts of problems with this pose, but let me meet it on its own ground for a moment.

On cold, rational, microeconomic grounds, what we have here is a huge pollution problem. Some people – in this case, gun manufacturers and gun nuts – are privatizing the gains of gun sales and ownership – cash profits and psychological benefits –
while socializing the losses – cash outlays for improved security and the horror of watching children get shot to bits at schools over and over.

Classic economics would tell you this is a problem. You can’t properly price a produce or service – or social system, really – unless people bear the full costs. Gun manufacturers and gun nuts are not bearing the full costs right now. Instead, they are dumping mass gun violence pollution on all of us.

So, how do we address this? There are a variety of ways. My preferred route is to enact strict gun control like I’ve laid out elsewhere. But a tidy, economic, freedom-loving solution is to force gun manufacturers and gun nuts to fully bear the costs of their interests. Private citizens or the government could sue every link in the gun chain to recover damages. Or we could tax manufacturers for those costs. Or we could make gun-buyers purchase comprehensive insurance policies to cover all of those costs.

Bottom line, no need to get emotional about it. If you’re a hyper-rationalist and can just ignore the real human consequences of gun violence, okay. But for goodness sake, carry your philosophy and stance through to its logical conclusion. Make the gun manufacturers and guy-buyers pay.

P.S. While not exactly hyper-rationalist, this plan should also satisfy people who are very concerned with that good, old-fashioned conservative value of personal responsibility. Unless, of course, they don’t actually mean it.

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