Op-ed advocates for cost/benefit analysis on guns

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Everything has costs and benefits. With every action you take, you balance these two ideas. It’s why some people do their own home renovations and others hire contractors. The cost/benefit ratio looks different to different people based on time, experience, money, and a host of other potential factors.


When it comes to guns, such things also need to be considered, though they rarely are.

An op-ed I came across does precisely that, though, and calls out those who refuse to do so.

Whenever you hear, “If we save just one life …,” brace yourself. Chances are excellent you are about to hear a thoroughly illogical ignoring of the relationship between benefits vs. costs. Benefits generally come with a cost, and that cost can be severe.

The APD’s eagerness to get even just “one gun” off the streets and destroy it begs the question: What was the relative likelihood of any “one gun” of the 101 guns they bought and destroyed being used in 1 of the 198,562 gun crimes per year versus being used in 1 of the 2 million gun-assisted defenses against criminal attack?

The answer, arrived at by dividing 2,000,000 by 198,562, is that every gun APD destroyed, if put back on the market for a licensed gun dealer to sell legally to a law-abiding customer, was 10 times more likely to be used to defend against murder, robbery, assault or rape than to be used to commit those same crimes plus accidents.

The author here is focused on gun buybacks, but his point is valid in other aspects of the gun debate as well.

For example, the author compares the number of “gun crimes” against the number of estimated defensive gun uses. It’s clear that the cost/benefit ratio comes down in favor of gun ownership in general, not just with regard to buybacks.

However, we often hear the claims about “if it saves one life” as if that’s really how we should view the entire debate.


To be fair, if the life saved is yours, that’s probably pretty important.

Yet to talk about a political issue like guns and gun control, you have to look at the overall cost/benefit of such measures. If it saves one life but costs three, is that still a great bet? Look at it dispassionately, assume that you don’t know any of the dead, and ask yourself if you really think that one life is worth the cost.

It’s not. Not at that price, anyway.

If gun control policies would only save lives, then that might be something to talk about, but they don’t. They’ll also cost lives as well, and that also needs to be considered.

Unfortunately, it seems the only ones thinking of those lives are the people on this side of the debate. Ironically, we’re also the side accused of wanting to see people killed.

A cost/benefit analysis doesn’t mean any such thing, obviously, but anti-gunners know they’ll lose in such a comparison, which is why they avoid it like the plague.

We simply cannot let them do any such thing, because those lives lost due to gun control? They matter.

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