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Posted: March 05, 2013

The Economist: Economic arguments about gun control

Some objective data

Tucker Hart Adams

I’m leaving the country for a month, so it seems like a good time to write on what must be the most controversial subject in the country today – gun control. Economists are supposed to present objective data, not look for facts to support preconceived value judgments. I’ll do my best.

I grew up in small town Arkansas, down near the Louisiana border. My uncle was an enthusiastic hunter and fisherman and we occasionally had the opportunity to eat fried squirrel, gamey venison and maybe an occasional possum. When I moved to Colorado I learned why Arkansas venison was so gamey. It was hunted by men (yep, always men) sitting along a game trail, swigging bourbon and waiting for the dogs to drive the deer by so they could blast away.

My Colorado hunter friend pointed out that if you don’t kill the deer with the first shot, it is frightened and releases musk (I think) into its body, which is what produces the gamey taste. Since his elk and venison were exquisite, I assume he knew what he was talking about.

My father wasn’t a hunter but he had lots of medals for his shooting prowess in his National Guard days. One night during the racial problems of the 1960s I was shocked when our car was involved in a traffic jam in a poor neighborhood and he unlocked the glove box and took out a loaded pistol. I don’t think he could have shot another human being, but I was appalled that he was prepared to do so.

He was also an avid gun collector. When he died I found myself the uncomfortable owner of a dozen or more rifles and pistols. I gave them all to a friend except for a Spanish American War pistol carried by a relative, and my father’s prized target practice pistol. They are both decommissioned, framed and hang in our living room.

I eat all kinds of meat – beef, lamb, pork, chicken. But, I tell my vegetarian grandchildren that my meat doesn’t come from cuddly lambs and cute little pigs and chickens. It only comes from plastic packages at the supermarket. They reply that if I’m not willing to kill the animal myself, I shouldn’t eat it. Fortunately, that isn’t a decision I have to make.

Enough personal background. Now for some facts.

• There are 300 million guns in private hands in the U.S., almost one for each of us.

• In the past 40 years, about 1 million Americans have been killed in gun violence – more than the combined U.S. deaths from all the wars it has fought since 1917.

• In the month following the murder of 20 children and six teachers at the Sandy Hook elementary school, another 900 Americans were killed by guns.

• An average of 46 Americans a day commit suicide with a gun, accounting for 53 percent of all completed suicides.

• A gun in the home is associated with an increased risk of suicide and the increase in risk is large, typically two to 10 times that in homes without guns.

• Among OECD countries, only Mexico (18.1) and Estonia (5.2) have a higher intentional homicide rate than the U.S. with five per 100,000 population. Canada has 1.8, England has 1.1. Germany has 0.8. Japan has 0.5.

• Since the founding of our nation more than 200 years ago, there has been no occasion when we have had to use assault rifles and high capacity magazine clips to protect ourselves from our government.

The Second Amendment to our Constitution clearly ensures the right to keep and use guns. A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

It is for constitutional lawyers to argue whether “shall not be infringed” refers to assault rifles and high-capacity magazine clips. It is for the American people to decide, as we did with slavery (13th Amendment), the right to vote (15th and 19th Amendments) and prohibition (18th and 21st Amendments), if we believe an amendment about gun ownership and control is needed.

Correlation is not causation. But rational decisions are best made on the basis of the evidence.

Tucker Hart Adams, president of the Adams Group, monitored and analyzed the Colorado economy for 30 years. She can be reached via her website, coloradoeconomy.com.

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Readers Respond

This issue is far more important than political correctness, dear Vicki. Now that you've been exposed for the gun-fearing liberal you are, stop all the posturing and accusations of we Americans who still value the constitutional rules and rights afforded us. Funny that you call out the 1st Amendment on the author's behalf, but want everyone else to be quieted! ONLY A TRUE LIBERAL THINKS THAT WAY! Silence, unless you agree! Right? By David on 2013 03 06
Enough of this! Tucker Hart Adams is one of the most respected persons in not only the state but also the country. It's one thing to disagree and even point out errors (thanks, John for pointing out the Whiskey Rebellion), but quite another to throw out personal jabs and even recommend cobiz "fire" her. What happened to common courtesy and respect? Shame on you. How's this? Why don't you unsubscribe to co biz if you're mind is so closed and fossilized? By Vicki on 2013 03 06
If that is your "best" why were you so proud you were leaving the country for a month? By David on 2013 03 06
The second amendment has little to do with hunting squirrels. And my comments are not frothing, not are they insults simply observations based upon experiences. Why do liberals hate facts so? By David on 2013 03 05
Columnist - a journalist contributing regularly to a newspaper or magazine. I see nothing about editorial or opinion in that definition. Interesting... By Jeff on 2013 03 05
There was at least one time citizens took up arms against the central government, the Whiskey Rebellion, put down by President George Washington. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_Rebellion By John Unruh on 2013 03 05
David (Sneed), guess I don't see the analogy. For Jeff: glancing at the cobiz home page, THA's article is listed in the column with the other columnists (no pun intended), it is not in the window that holds "articles and video." Looks like an opinion column to me. By Vicki on 2013 03 05
THIS David hopes he isn't confused with whichever one froths and spews. (-: I do, however, side with the gun nuts on this one. By THA's logic we don't need to give our kids Polio shots because there haven't been any US cases for 50 years. (you get the gist) By David Sneed on 2013 03 05
Vicky, please don't confuse the freedom of speech (1st amendment) with journalistic standards and ethics. They are not the same. If this article was posted in the "opinion" section of the magazine, then the author should be able to say whatever she wants. Since it's not published as an "opinion" or editorial, then the content should follow the standards set within journalism for not campaigning for a specific agenda. By Jeff on 2013 03 05
I am used to David's frothing insults and unsubstantiated statements, but really, KK, remove her from cobiz? You who hug your pocket copies of the Constitution close to your heart: the FIRST amendment is, well, the FIRST amendment!!!!! It's FIRST for a reason. By Vicki on 2013 03 05
It is sad to see that someone in Adam's position spew her very subjective and biased opinion on gun control. As a result, I for one would like to see her removed from cobizmag.com. By KK on 2013 03 05
Why do I have to take a test to drive or conceal a weapon but get to carry a 100 round magazine? Why did I have to take a hunter safety course to shoot squirrels and yet keep high capacity weapons without any instruction, insurance or training in the ethical usage of them? Why are hunters limited to 3 rounds to hunt duck, pigeon or deer yet no limit on recreational usage? Why is the gun lobby so against responsible gun usage and ownership? Why do they sponsor disinformation? Who has taken over the NRA to become such a radical and paranoid organization? Why don't gun lobbies recognize that non gun owners have rights to? I own guns and 2 high capacity magazines and can't understand why I don't have to have a license or insurance. By kent on 2013 03 05
I guess one's (Tucker's) meaning of "objective" is now "subjective". One of the areas with the highest murder/gun crime is the the POTUS' backyard of Chicago. Disarming citizens emboldens criminals and guarantees a waterfall of all kinds of crime and bloodshed across our country. Period. By NR on 2013 03 05
I guess one's own (Tucker's) description of being 'objective' is now subjective. One of the nation's areas with HIGHEST rate of gun related murder/crime is in the President's backyard - Chicago. Disarming Americans emboldens criminals and guarantees a waterfall affect of more bad guys with guns and bloodshed. Period. By NR on 2013 03 05
Vikcki, you are about as far from an NRA member as exists in this country; more like a liberal "plant" or "troll" as they are referred to in forums. Suicides don't happen because of GUNS. Murders don't happen because of GUNS. The responses to this article are hardly "diatribe". But, thank you for illustrating the patent dishonesty and ignorance of the liberal mind. It's helpful when enemies of our freedom identify themselves so clearly and with such ridiculousness. By David on 2013 03 05
Wow. I thought journalism was balanced reporting. Why don't we talk about how many people die in hospitals every year? It doesn't matter how many lives were saved -- only that people died! By Jeff on 2013 03 05
I'm certain that Tucker is glad she's leaving town for the next month, considering the diatribe against this column. While it's true she did not detail the economics of gun control, her facts do allude to the economics of each gun shot, each bullet. How much of our nation's economic dysfunction might be caused by all of those suicides? How much does it cost in medical, law enforcement for all of those homicides? How much does it cost in real dollars the violence, injury and death in our homes? Crime is one thing and we all know that crime will always be a factor. I think it's important to remember the oft-misplaced words of that vaulted amendment: "A WELL Regulated...." p.s.., yes am a gun owner and FORMER member of the NRA. By Vicki on 2013 03 05
Thanks to MK for referencing the Harvard Study - http://theacru.org/acru/harvard_study_gun_control_is_counterproductive/. It is much more logical than this obviously misguided article in COBIZ. Nutty idea but, before proposing a menu of new gun laws, how about enforcing the existing ones?!? http://thehill.com/homenews/house/284429-gop-lawmakers-to-obama-enforce-current-gun-laws By JF on 2013 03 05
Economic analysis? Objective data? No analysis is presented only opinion. Inferring correlation surrounding one data element is disingenuous and only adds to the misinformation leading to conventional wisdom of the masses. Just a quick review of the available data on the CDC website provokes a question of bias. Or at least perspective. Just beware of "experts" and their good intentions. Always question and analyze the presenters point. Agree or disagree, but always research. Through the process you will always find new information. By Stephen on 2013 03 05
This is not journalism! This is a radical, left-wing, anti-American attack on individual liberty by an obvious communist. Repulsive and totally unacceptable in a magazine that claims to be for business. If COBIZ presents any more of this drivel-count me OUT of your subscription base. Without the 2nd Amendment-we have no others! Which part of "shall not be infringed" needs a mealy-mouthed parasite of an attorney to define it for you? I believe the US Constitution was very clear...much more clear than the smoke and mirrors you refer to as "facts". By David on 2013 03 05
Crime won't magically be cured because we pass gun legislation. Lawmakers care more about passing hot topic legislation and getting their names on the front page, more than they care to address the underlying causes. And articles such as these give them more fuel to do the easy & visible. Crime has many root causes; lack of prosecution or punishment, mental illness, deterioration of family, media violence and lax domestic violence or stalking laws. You would have served humanity much better if you would look past the headlines and your own personal feelings; and not jump on the popular bandwagon. Encourage lawmakers to do what's right rather than whats easy and gathers the most votes. Our country is faced with big, difficult, complicated issues. Taking the easy road just ensures more of the same. By H Sanchez on 2013 03 05
(second post) Your logic is therefore full of fallacy. Your stats are a Red Herring, your premise a Band Wagon, and guns and their ownership your Straw Man. For much more erudite treatment your readers should go to Sam Harris and read The Riddle of the Gun. Also to counteract your gloomy future cast one should read Pinker’s The Better Angles of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The point being you, and so many others, may feel better if the present gun legislation is enacted in your favor. Sadly feelings are not facts. The present legislation will do about as much to prevent tragedy as the TSA taking some old lady’s 3.5 ounce mouthwash before she gets on a plane. If this is the kind of thing CoBizMag is going to let pass for useful journalism my next stop is to unsubscribe. By Doug McIntire on 2013 03 05
It is reasonable that you do care for guns and choose not to own or use them beyond, of course, the two for which you have an emotional attachment. What is not reasonable for such an experienced economist to use statistics in such an irresponsible way. You make the point you desire and state statistics from the Brady Center but the statistics are not free to stand alone. You use numbers to not make sense. (read Edward MacNeal Mathsemantics). Suicide is more related to mental health not guns. See the AFSP website and you will see their claim that 90% of all suicide deaths are in people with diagnosable mental health problems. (see second post) By Doug McIntire on 2013 03 05
I am hard pressed to view this as a true "Economic analysis". As with most data, it is how one is able to present the information and what words you utilize to skew the perception of the reader. Unless set side by side with a comparative analysis the data can be misinterpreted to be much more valid than it truly is. While all suicides and violent crimes are horrible occurances our nations reality is that we are likely much better off with our rights than without them. This article sheds a much more analytical light on the topic and references other countries, and even here in our own Nations Capital where violent crime is at its worst. http://theacru.org/acru/harvard_study_gun_control_is_counterproductive/ By MK on 2013 03 05
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