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Friday, July 15, 2016

A New Gun Control Scheme

During Wednesday's broadcast of's Cam and Company (at about the 2 hour 15 minute mark), host Cam Edwards mentioned an article that appeared in the Huffington Post titled "Quantifying the social cost of firearms: a new approach to gun control."   It was written by Timothy M. Smith, Professor of Sustainable Systems Management & International Business, at the University of MinnesotaSmith writes:
Another week in America, another week of sadness and hand-wringing prompted by gun violence.

While the most recent incidents are tinged by race, they also point to a country awash in guns and the too many deaths that result from their use (or abuse). But are these shootings any more likely to lead to some kind of meaningful action to address the problem?

Unfortunately, probably not. As long as the debate continues to be one of constitutionality (the right to bear arms) and control (regulation), little meaningful change is likely to address the 16 million new guns entering the U.S. market each year or the nearly 34,000 annual gun deaths.

A new dialogue is desperately needed among policymakers and the public. And it could begin by shifting our focus away from the regulation of guns toward understanding (and mitigating) the social costs of firearm fatalities.

My research examines ways to assess the social, environmental and health effects of new technologies to inform policymakers and companies. Though my focus at the University of Minnesota is on sustainability, similar analyses may also be useful for the political debate over gun control.
Smith comes up with a calculation for the cost of deaths involving firearms based on type (rifles come in at about $15 per rifle since they are used in so few crimes where handguns cost around $400 per handgun). He then ends up proposing a $140 registration fee:
An $140 annual registration fee, applied only to the 23.1 million guns transacted each year, could generate over $3.2 billion in revenues annually. If nothing else, these resources could bolster local police and security budgets, improve access to gun safety training and education, incentivize new technologies that make guns less dangerous and compensate victims’ families.
Of course that would price a large number of people out of the market, which is the intent of such a scheme - to reduce the number of people who can buy a firearm.

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