Point: Economics refutes irrational gun laws
by Kiersten Turnock
This is part of a Point/ Counterpoint Column about possibly placing restrictions on gun purchases. Click here to see the other side of the argument.
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The long-time debate about gun control seems to be never-ending in the United States and has become even more prevalent this summer as a result of the shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin. With this recent spree of mass shootings, a large portion of the population is advocating for stricter gun laws, citing the argument “fewer bullets, fewer deaths.” While this is all said and fine on paper, it fails to take into account the economics of gun laws and the potential repercussions of harsher laws and further government interference.
These advocates are assuming the only reason people like James Holmes commit murder is because Colorado has “lax” gun laws. Ideally, if Colorado were to implement stricter gun laws and make firearms harder to obtain, mass shootings like this would not happen or would happen less frequently. These people, quite simply put, are idiots with absolutely no concept of the economic theory of “substitutes.”
Substitutes are goods used to replace the preferable good when the latter is not readily available or may be harder to obtain. For example, if I go into a restaurant and order a Diet Coke, but the restaurant serves Pepsi products, regardless of how I feel about Coke vs. Pepsi, I am more likely to substitute the Diet Pepsi for the Diet Coke than I am to leave the restaurant.
So, just as I am willing to substitute Diet Pepsi for Diet Coke to get my fill of zero calorie cola, a serial killer is willing to substitute a different weapon or method of killing people to find their means to the end. This analogy illustrates it is not guns that kill people, but the willingness to kill and determination to satisfy that end.
Implementing stricter gun laws merely provides incentive for the murderer to commit the crime in a more creative way. The problem, therefore, does not lie in the freedoms allotted to citizens to carry guns, but in the society we live in which has brewed the motives for people to kill.
Holmes’ crime exemplifies one way our society has created a breeding ground for mental illness. Holmes molded his crime as a sort of “tribute” to the Joker in The Dark Knight. The argument could be made if we didn’t live in a society that thrives on drama and violence, movies like The Dark Knight — however mind-blowing they may be — would not be in such high demand. As movies become more and more violent and creative, demand in turn rises for something even more epic to be produced. In order to meet societies’ demands, Hollywood creates these films and completely negates the fact our country and society encompasses extreme mental instability that is easily molded by propaganda.
Ever the advocate for the supply and demand curve, I wish the solution was as simple as reducing demand for violent and suspenseful films. Unfortunately, corruption in the media is only one factor of our post-industrial society that influences mentally ill people to kill. However, the fact still remains, implementing stricter gun laws will do nothing to correct the factors that cause people, like Holmes, to have the need or desire to kill people. If someone is going to commit murder, they will do it regardless if it is with a gun, an axe, a knife, a bomb or a combination of the four. The only problem a law is going to solve is ensuring the victims of the crime will be injured or killed in a slower and/or more creative way.