Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

May 4, 2007

The Economics of the 2nd Amendment

by Adam Selene

I don’t think I could say it better, so I’ll just let David’s words stand on their own.

“Suppose one little old lady in ten carries a gun. Suppose that one in ten of those, if attacked by a mugger, succeeds in killing the mugger instead of being killed by him — or shooting herself in the foot. On average, the mugger is much more likely to win the encounter than the little old lady. But — also on average — every hundred muggings produces one dead mugger. At those odds, mugging is an unprofitable business — not many little old ladies carry enough money to justify one chance in a hundred of being killed getting it. The number of muggers declines drastically, not because they have all been killed but because they have, rationally, sought safer professions.”
— David Friedman
Source: Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life (New York: Harper, 1996), p. 299

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  • Ryan

    Sure, muggers might give up. Or, they might just start carrying guns themselves and shooting any victim they feel might use a gun against them before the victim has a chance to pull it out.

    Also, little old ladies might start shooting at every passerby that startles them.

  • Nick M.

    Also, little old ladies might start shooting at every passerby that startles them.

    Ah yes, the old “put guns in the hands of otherwise normal, law abiding citizens and they will start shooting anyone who looks at them funny” argument.

    Sure, muggers might give up. Or, they might just start carrying guns themselves and shooting any victim they feel might use a gun against them before the victim has a chance to pull it out.

    True, they might, it depends on how much the criminal values his life. Of course, a good samaritan may shoot the mugger. When you don’t know who’s armed, it makes harder to pick a mark.

  • trumpetbob15

    Sure, muggers might give up. Or, they might just start carrying guns themselves and shooting any victim they feel might use a gun against them before the victim has a chance to pull it out.

    Then again, muggers are already using guns. Recall the case in Ohio where the 15 year old mugger was shot by his would-be victim since they BOTH had a gun. (Discussed here.)

  • lib

    Or, they might just start carrying guns themselves and shooting any victim they feel might use a gun against them before the victim has a chance to pull it out.

    Then we are not talking about a mugger, but a straight up murderer, for whom theft is an afterthought. Given the far stiffer penalties assigned to a murder over a mugger, I would suggest that the economics principle still applies. I would suggest that murder w/looting is less common than mugging because of that economic principle already in effect.

    Obviously the mentally impaired might not consider the economics of the situation, but that is precisely why those designated mentally impaired, or who have shown a propensity toward violent crime, are generally forbidden the lawful possession of firearms.

    Even this restriction may not stop such a person from acquiring a weapon of any kind (fist, stick, knife, gun), and this is all the more reason that citizens should have at their means the ability to defend themselves and others against such threats.

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