Economic and Legal Implications of Gun Violence in the US

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Detractors who support efforts of the NRA argue that many instances of gun violence have been halted by private citizens carrying guns, an argument used against politicians attempting to place restrictions on gun ownership (Kopel 1). However, this argument is difficult to substantiate in light of the continued gun incidents raging across the country with increasing regularity since the 2016 general election (Branas, Flescher, Formica, and et al. 366). Two major issues form the basis of this brief. They comprise the economic fallout from gun violence and the legal parameters for laws designated to limit gun ownership thus decreasing incidents of gun violence. 

Policy debates for limiting gun possession argue for placing restrictions such as “Gun Free Zones,’ expanded background checks for private sales, bans on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, or a National Gun Registry” (Moore para 9). The underlying ideology for these continuing debates lies within interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Advocates for gun possession under the guidance of the NRA heavily rely on a literal understanding of this Amendment’s wording. Simultaneously those arguing for more stringent control for gun possession contend that the Constitutional framers insisted on this provision based on their own experience in being denied personal protection under British law (Woolf paras 1-4). The two issues of the economic fallout from gun violence and changing legislation to limit gun ownership raze through the country, Congress, and the courts to broker a compromise.

Economics of Gun Violence/Control

The economic aspects of gun violence/control orbit around the principles put forth by the gun manufacturers, the NRA, and pro-gun lobbyists that limiting gun ownership impinges on the Constitutional rights of Americans to own and use firearms (Moore sec 2, para 1). Another problem is the inactivity of the Supreme Court over the issue of gun control. The Court has consistently failed to weigh in on any gun cases since its 2008 decision in D.C. v Heller when the court struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban including strict rifle and shotgun regulations (Ford para 6). While this decision was not specifically targeting the economics of gun ownership or violence, the idea that the Supreme Court failed to restrict ownership has long term implications toward the underlying economics of gun violence. 

Examination of the economic strain gun violence has placed on the American public since Columbine is easily tracked. Every incident involving gun violence including mass shootings. Between 2013 and 2015 the count of mass shootings rose to 1001 (Ingraham para 3) and this figure fails to consider the shootings at the Orlando night club and the most recent murders at Margery Stoneham High School. While these occurrences gain national and global attention in addition to costing the taxpayers billions of dollars, other single shootings impact the economy at the state and national level (Singletary para 5). Each incident costs communities and the nation an enormous piece of the national budget. “Taxpayers are picking up the bill by paying for the medical care of victims on Medicaid and by forking out more in taxes to fund law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and jails and prisons” (Singletary para 3). Researchers estimate that the cost to American taxpayers for every occasion of gun violence averages around $229 billion per year with an estimated $2.9 billion in medical and other costs alone (Branas et al. 368; Singletary para 7). In Ohio, economists put the figure for gun violence in their state alone at an estimate of $2.7 billion per year (Singletary para 11). When incidents of shootings occur, such as the most recent shooting of the unarmed man in his grandmother’s backyard gunned down by two policemen, the primary uproar concerns policy, whether it relates to police violence or public shootings. Economic considerations generally do not surface in the public outcry, however, these need to be understood in light of profits by gun manufacturers and NRA wealth. Gun manufacturers earn an estimated, collective $13 billion per year, a figure that rises with each incident of gun violence while the NRA has pockets deep enough to endorse more than 100 politicians in their political ambitions (Moore para 4). 

These politicians are loathe to stomp too heavily on these manufacturers since they receive major contributions from these manufacturers and the well-connected the NRA (Moore para 5). For instance, after the Stoneham shootings, members of Congress appeared quick to offer thoughts and prayers, but a closer look at their most prominent supporters reveal the NRA in the forefront. John McCain receives the top donation of over $7 million for his campaigns (Leonhardt, Philbrick, and Thompson sec 2). All the politicians of the top ten receiving NRA funds in the millions of dollars per year are Republicans who refuse to move on limiting or creating more restrictions for gun ownership. 

Solution to Gun Violence

While the Supreme Court remains idle over the situation of limiting gun ownership, various states are proceeding with methods for policy change (Ford para 7). The major methods to combating gun violence and decreasing the economic impact of violence in American streets are to 1) increase the age limit to 25 for private RTC; 2) impose a separate own and carry tax on private gun owners that would be placed in a separate government holding used to offset costs of gun violence; 3) ban all assault weapons or assault weapon kits whether on the internet or at gun shows; 4) limit the number of gun shows nationwide allowable per year; and 5) make private gun purchases illegal across the country, on the internet, or even between acquaintances. Between 2013 and 2015 over one thousand men, women, and children have been killed through gun violence which illustrates a definite need for change (Ingraham sec 4). Countries around the globe do not have the same propensity for gun ownership as the map below indicates. The corollary is that these countries do not suffer from incidents of gun violence anywhere close to statistics in the US. The map illustrates that the closest country to the US in gun violence and possession per capita is Yemen while the rest of the world has far less violent gun crime and limited gun possession (Beauchamp para 3).


(Beauchamp sec 1)

Changing legislation to create statutes that limit gun possession is a difficult political process especially in the current Congressional climate (Branas et al. 365). Gun lobbies, with their powerful supporters and deep financial pockets, refuse to release their supporters to vote conscience (Moore para 10). Chart 1 below illustrates the economic strength of the gun manufacturers. Not only are the manufacturers benefiting by their production and sales, shareholders reap financial rewards as long as these manufacturers produce high numbers of guns. 


(Moore sec 6)

Legal Process for Impacting Gun Violence

While the above solutions to preventing gun violence may have to be drastic, they provide an opening for political debate, which to be successful should never start at the lowest denominator. Reach higher to achieve some form of middle ground, because it is apparent that in the US, gun owners will never agree to give up their guns. In Australia in 2017 the government offered amnesty to all gun owners to turn in their illegal weapons. Exceptions were made for shotguns for farmers, especially in the Australian outback, or for guns used for shooting competitions, but in only three months Australians turned in 57,000 weapons including a rocket launcher and automatic repeating rifles, with no government reprisals (Griffiths para 1). In order to accomplish this task, all government members from each of the six states and their constituents had to be in agreement. 

In the US, the likelihood of any amnesty for turning in weapons would be wasted Congressional effort since the Supreme Court has remained silent on gun possession since its 2008 decision (Ford para 4). In the US there is currently little data to support passing laws to limit gun ownership in relation to gun violence with the exception that in the past two years gun violence has increased between 13 and 15 percent (Ewing para 6). With such adamant supporters for gun ownership who cite the Second Amendment without understanding the initial concept behind its passage, there is little chance that serious limitations can be effected. Kopel criticized President Obama’s efforts to limit gun ownership and impose heavier restrictions on those wishing to purchase deadly weapons (Kopel 1). The Cato Institute for which Kopel works, espouses a libertarian philosophy, was started and is funded by the Koch family whose known sentiments support gun possession with virtually no restrictions (Kopel 1). But individuals and institutions such as the Cato Institute possess wealth and support to carry their arguments to the highest governmental authorities to continue opposition to gun ownership thus gun violence.

While individual states such as California, New York, and now Florida with its two mass shootings in the past two years, are currently endeavoring to change gun violence through more stringent legislation, the NRA attempts to block each effort by appealing to higher courts for support. And though the Supreme Court has not weighed in on the issue, other organizations have not been timid about expressing and devising legal options for controlling gun violence. For instance, in 2016 representatives from “42 public health schools and programs from 22 states and 17 leading public health and gun violence prevention advocacy organizations convened in Boston on November 14, 2016” (Branas et al. 366). 

These groups devised five initiatives which they proposed to limit gun ownership, violence, and establish healthier gun legislation. Their policy initiatives include “1) strengthening research and scholarship; 2) build collaborations; 3) promote conversations about gun safety; 4) support state initiatives; and 5) develop a business plan” (Branas et al. 367). While these efforts lay another level to the already defunct discussions about aborting gun violence in the US, it is apparent that even these small steps have not made an inroad into the political brainwaves of opponents of gun legislation, witnessed the ease with which Nikolas Cruz obtained his high-powered rifle that gunned down 17 people (Lee para 3). Raising the age limit for gun ownership was not even part of the objectives of the Boston group. However, after the Stoneham killings, several state governors attempted to raise the age from 18 to 21 for handgun ownership with little results (Lee para 6). Gun violence continues to escalate and it clearly behooves legislators to undertake the difficult and often contentious legislative route aimed at limiting gun violence. 

Works Cited

Beauchamp, Zach. “One Map that puts America’s Gun Violence Epidemic in Perspective.” Vox. 2018. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018].

Branas, Charles, Andrew Flescher, Margaret Formica and et al. “Academic Public Health and the Firearm Crisis: An Agenda for Action.” Am J Public Health, 107(3), 2017: 365-367. Web. [Accessed 9 April 2018]

Ewing, Maura. “Do Right-to-Carry Gun Laws Make States Safer? The Atlantic. 2017. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018]

Ford, Matt. “The Gun Control Movement’s Silent Ally: The Supreme Court.” The New Republic. 2018.Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018]

Griffiths, James. “Australians hand in 57,000 firearms during gun amnesty.” CNN Global. 2018. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018].

Ingraham, Christopher. “There have been 1,001 mass shootings in America since 2013.” The Washington Post. 2015. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018]

Kopel, David. “The Costs and Consequences of Gun Control.” The Cato Institute. 2015. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018]

Lee, Kurtis. “The NRA says Florida's Law Raising The Age Limit On Buying Guns Is Unconstitutional. But Is It?” The Miami Herald. 2018. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018]

Leonhardt, David, Ian Philbrick, and Stuart Thompson. “Thoughts and Prayers and the N.R.A.” The New York Times. 2018. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018].

Moore, Jeffrey. “The Economics of Gun Control.” Global Risk Insights. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018]

Singletary, Michelle. “The enormous economic cost of gun violence.” The Washington Post. 2018. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018]

Woolf, Christopher. “The Origins of the Second Amendment.” PRI. 2017. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2018].