Someone in this world of 7 billion people has walked through the system costs of gun control in a much more detailed way than I am about to share using the back of the envelope. However, we all should view gun control from a cost benefit perspective. How much is the life of an individual worth? How much should society spend to save that life?
First of all, laws would need to be passed. My vote is to pass them at the state level, not federal because some states have much fewer homicides than others or are much more tied to hunting than others. No matter but lets say after deciding how to conduct this inquisition and conducting hearings, debates and votes at the state and federal levels, the cost of law passage is $500 million. Then of course regulations have to be passed which must included testing each individual for mental illness under some standard method.
Typical standardized testing takes about 12 hours so testing the population would cost about $1,000 x 200 million people or about $200 billion dollars. Plus of course there would be lost wages or $15 x 12 hours x 150 million people or about $27 billion. Plus there would be about ten times that cost in productivity lost during testing or about $300 billion. Then we would have to have some sort of gun collection cost to buy, collect and destroy guns. So let’s say we buy, collect, and destroy 50 million guns from those suspected of being unstable at a cost of $500 a piece for a total of $25 billion. So far the cost then is $552,500,000,000.
Now it gets interesting. Every firearms dealer will be put in charge of administering this new law. There are 50,000 retail gun dealers in the U.S. each having to foot new admin costs of $10,000 each year for a cost of $500 million. Plus each state and the Feds would have admin costs of $10 million each for another $500 million.
Then it gets heated because we have now defined across 50 states what constitutes enough instability that one should not be allowed to buy or possess firearms. So for every illness or disorder we have drawn a fuzzy or bright line against which each individual must be tested. And we know that every disorder will have a spectrum of evaluation from very mild cases to very pronounced. It will be those that approach the bright line or that just cross it that will be the most difficult for they will challenge our new laws and regulations and will bring them to court. So lets say we have to incur about 10,000 trials per year at a cost of $400,000 per trial, we now have added $4 billion a year in adjudication costs. Some will win their cases and will be paid lets say a million for a small sum of $1 billion per year. And of course some will break our new laws and will have to be incarcerated for gun possession. Perhaps we hold 10,000 new prisoners at $40,000 each per year for another $400 million.
Have I got the basics? Let’s add it up so far, $558,900,000,000. But statistically, will we then have more murders not less? We have after all limited gun access to those statistically more likely to commit murders and to those that happen to fall within the mental disorders we deemed in the same camp whether controlled by medication and therapy or not. But we have also removed guns from homes that could have been used to protect individuals from would be assailants. We have potentially limited murders that occur from those that might have been affected by momentary acts of unstable aggression. But we have made it easier for the thousands of sane, rational predators to do their work.
My bet is that murders go, up not down, by about 1,000 per year and that injuries from assaults go up about 10,000 per year. Yet, there are system costs that go well beyond the simple cost of collecting guns as I have shown in this simple example. Interestingly, when Australia outlawed gun possession and collected millions of guns their gun murder rate went up by 21%. Actions have unintended consequences. Home invasion rates went up because assailants knew the risk of being shot went way down. Murders are not caused by guns but by the root cause of societal disorder. Guns are the instruments of choice to carry out that disorder.
So now we have funeral costs. The cost of a funeral plus the lost wages, cost of attendance, room and board for a funeral times 1,000 funerals per year is $20,000,000. Then we have 10,000 hospital issues at $10,000 each or $100 million. And now the police must investigate 10,000 more assault cases at $10,000 each for another $100 million. Add to that the cost of prosecuting these cases at $40,000 each and incarcerating 2,000 assailants at $40,000 each and we have another $1.2 billion.
While a touchy subject, this financial look at the cost of gun control approaches the subject of the financial value of a human life. If we save 500 lives a year, it costs a billion per life. If we were to eliminate every murder in the U.S. by this one initiative, (of course completely impossible) it still costs $30 million per life. This value far exceeds the value placed on lives by our courts today. It begins to add to our social savior schematics another unsustainable cost of engineering morality.
Of course this blog is about GDP and jobs so to add that to the mix….Most likely a few gun dealers might prove insane and we would lose a few jobs there…but on the whole, the jobs to administrate and implement the ban, collection of guns, burying of additional victims etc. would be a boon in traditional GDP calculations. Therefore, this ban by restriction of mental incompetence could conceivably be Congress doing the number one job it was elected in 2012 to do and that was to create jobs.
Unfortunately, this back of the envelope calculation points to the law of entropy that states we simply cannot engineer ways to eradicate all evil from the planet. The cost of doing so could not be sustained by the economic output of humans. This is why we have not accomplished the task thus far. We are, as an example, attempting such a fate with American healthcare, spending twice that of other nations. We have not begun to spend what it would cost to eliminate death. We have, however, extended life by approximately three months at a cost that is bankrupting the country.