A recent comment from an anti gun individual suggested that guns should be banned in the USA in order to save money.  I’ve also heard similar comments from other opponents of gun rights.   The full comment, and my response to that flawed argument, are below:

The economic argument against gun ownership

I think you should look at stats on gun related deaths and the money spent in our emergency rooms paying for the uninsured shooting.each[sic] In countries like Japan and Englind[sic] where there are very few shootings, Millions of dollars and lives are saved. It would save millions of unnecessary deaths and money if we banned guns all together. All the foolish excuses for having individual gun ownership in this country is senseless.

Why that anti gun argument is flawed

This argument, like many other gun control arguments, is premised upon the faulty idea that criminals will obey a gun control law.  They won’t.  Instead, criminals who are willing to commit crimes such as shootings and murders are just as willing to violate a gun ban.  That is why Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the country, including a total ban on handgun ownership – yet also has no shortage of armed criminals who shoot each other and innocent victims.  When a law is passed banning guns, criminals just smuggle them in, buy them on the black market, or make their own guns.   As proof of the futility of gun control, Britain is a perfect example.  The British banned handguns at the national level, only to have handgun related crime rise 40%.  Note that Britain is much smaller than the United States, and is surrounded by water.  British criminal defendants also have fewer protections against self incrimination than US defendants.  Basically, if gun control could work anywhere, it would be be in Britain.  Yet gun control has failed miserably for the British, just as it has failed in the United States so far, and would similarly fail under the total gun ban proposed by the commentator discussed above.

It is also worth noting that even if guns did magically disappear, criminals would just use other tools to injure and kill their victims.  Injuries inflicted by knives or fire can be just as deadly and/or expensive to treat  as any gunshot wound.

As far as negligent shootings, it does not appear that a gun ban would help much either.  Those individuals who illegally own guns tend to be the ones who negligently shoot themselves or negligently shoot others.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since criminals who acquire guns on the black market learn to shoot from other criminals, who don’t place an emphasis on safety or responsibility.  Law abiding gun owners, on the other hand, buy their guns from reputable stores which offer training, stress safety, and sell gun safes to help ensure that small children don’t find and misuse the gun.

How gun ownership actually saves society money

Rather than costing society money, gun ownership saves society money.  When a crime victim shoots a criminal in self defense, that crime victim is saved from suffering death or expensive injuries.  The crime victim can continue to support their family financially and pay taxes on their income, rather than having the family lose a source of income and end up on welfare.  The family of the victim doesn’t lose their loved one, and as a result won’t have to take time off of work to either grieve their death and make funeral arrangements, or to care for the physically and/or emotionally injured crime victim.

When a crime victim defends themselves, they are also taking a violent criminal off the streets.  If the criminal is fatally shot in self defense, that criminal will never again harm another victim.  Society also saves the expense of bringing that criminal to trial, then paying the high costs of jailing that criminal.  Even if the criminal survives being shot in self defense, or is merely held at gunpoint until the police arrive, that criminal will be efficiently apprehended with enough evidence to make convicting the criminal much easier.  While that criminal is serving the (likely longer) jail term, no other crime victims will suffer at their hands.

Armed self defense also helps prevent innocent people from being prosecuted and jailed for crimes they didn’t commit, which saves the public money.  When a criminal is shot in self defense, fatally or otherwise, there is little doubt as to who was the perpetrator.  An innocent citizen who has no gunshot wounds is not likely to be confused with the dead or injured criminal.  Instead of being jailed at taxpayer expense for a crime they didn’t commit, the innocent person can continue to earn money and pay taxes, supporting themselves and their family.

Furthermore, the American firearms industry is an multi-billion dollar enterprise which employs tens of thousands of people and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.  Eliminating this industry would hurt the economy, the budgets of many states, and leave even more Americans unemployed in the midst of a recession.

* Why the economic analysis really doesn’t matter in the first place *

Gun ownership for self defense and other lawful purposes is a constitutional right, guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.  As such, even if gun ownership were to hypothetically cost society money, the monetary costs would not justify a gun ban.  That is because constitutional rights are not subject to elimination because some members of society (erroneously) find them to be too expensive.  A comparison with another constitutional right should help make this point clearer: The 6th Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to representation by counsel, and to have an attorney appointed to defend them at the public’s expense should they be unable to afford their own attorney.  Providing every indigent defendant with a free lawyer is incredibly expensive – yet this right is guaranteed by the constitution, and as such cannot be eliminated in the interest of cost savings.