We’ve blogged quite a bit about suicide and put out an hour-long podcast on the topic. The podcast featured an interview with Matt Wray, a sociologist who studies America’s “suicide belt.” He described the type of American most likely to kill himself:
WRAY: So, yes the Inner Mountain West is a place that is disproportionately populated by middle-aged and aging white men, single, unattached, often unemployed with access to guns. This may turn out to be a very powerful explanation and explain a lot of the variance that we observe. It’s backed up by the fact that the one state that is on par with what we see in the suicide belt is Alaska.
DUBNER: All right, so now you can get a picture of the American who’s most likely to kill himself: an older, white male who owns a gun, probably unmarried and maybe unemployed, living somewhere out west, probably in a rural area.
We recently received an e-mail from one Glenn Harris in response to our “How to Think About Guns” podcast. He is right — we should do a podcast episode or book chapter on hoarding. It is certainly a great topic, especially in that economists see hoarding (and price gouging) very differently than most regular people (a point I touched on here). Anyway, below is Glenn’s e-mail. The subject line was “There are no bullets in the United States …”
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…for sale that is.
I’m interested in hoarding behavior, its economic impacts, and the freak’s point of view.
I live in New York. When hurricane Sandy came along the top-of-the-list item my friends with children hoarded was milk. They gave no thought to the fact that the probability that they would lose power and the milk would spoil. Over one million homes lost power and surprise, perishable foods spoiled. The post-storm hoarding behavior quickly moved to gasoline. There was plenty of gasoline in the northeast but no electricity to pump it out of the ground. The result was a run on the gas stations that did have power. The ability to hoard gasoline is clearly limited by one’s ability to store it. With gas cans quickly selling out drivers waited in lines for hours just to top off their tanks with a few gallons.
The damage in the northeast was extensive. Many roads and businesses were closed so there really was nowhere to go. And children can sustain life without cow’s milk quite nicely. I survived our last five extended power outages with half a tank of gas and no milk.
Saw this ad for peanuts in the subway this morning. It was doubly jarring. First, because I am not used to seeing the word “peanut” in public unless it is followed by the word “-free,” as in “peanut-free school,” “peanut-free party,” “peanut-free environment,” etc. And second: because the kid in the ad is holding a couple of toy guns! Many parents I know don’t let their kids play with any sort of toy gun, ever. (I happen to not be one of those parents.) As a result, their kids — their boys, mostly, to be clear — just make guns out of sticks, rulers, broomsticks, pens, fingers, etc.
I guess if you’re making an ad for one product that people are squeamish about, you might as well double down and go for the full effect.
A Texas legislator has proposed exempting handguns from the 6.25 percent state sales tax on March 2, Texas Independence Day. He claims this will create jobs.
It is likely that this brilliant idea will increase total gun sales, as reducing the net price of guns will increase the quantity demanded. But it would also shift gun sales away from most other days in the year. I would bet that employers of gun shops would in the long run cut employment and rely on overtime and temporary workers around March 2. It’s not clear that retail jobs would be created. Jobs in gun manufacturing would increase as production increases, but that wouldn’t help Texas very much, since most guns sold in Texas aren’t produced here. Of course, one also wonders whether more guns in Texas will add to our safety!
Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “How to Think About Guns.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
This episode is a straightforward conversation between Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt, keeping in mind recent events like the Newtown, Ct., school massacre and long-standing traditions like the American embrace of guns.
Levitt has focused much of his academic career on crime research, including all sorts of gun policies that do and do not prevent violence. He has also analyzed the relationship between the economy and the crime rate, whether increased police presence affects crime, and whether deterrents like capital punishment and sentence enhancements actually work. Read More »
We’ve gotten a lot of requests to comment on the massacre in Newtown, Ct., especially regarding the issue of guns. I haven’t done so because I don’t feel I have anything meaningful to contribute at this time, especially to the victims’ families, except for my deepest sympathy.
I will point to some things we’ve already written on the topic: Chapter 4 of Freakonomics, pp. 130-133; a quorum on how to reduce gun deaths; and a Q&A with the photographer-author of Armed America. And we are starting to produce a podcast about gun violence, to be released sometime in the spring.
Wishing everyone a more peaceful holiday season than the tragic events in recent months have prepared us for…
A new study by Brian Knight, an economist at Brown, explores the flow of the illegal firearm market in America and compares the source of guns used in crimes to gun laws in and around that state.
How big is the market for illegal firearms? Pretty big. Knight writes: “ATF investigations into tracking between July 1996 and December 1998 identify over 84,000 firearms that were diverted into this secondary market (ATF, 2000).” Meanwhile, each state in America legislates its own gun laws, resulting in cross-state externalities. For example, Knight cites anecdotal evidence showing that a gun purchased legally in Virginia for $150 – $200 typically resells in New York City for $500 – $600. This is the sort of thing that keeps Michael Bloomberg up at night.
A marketing first? A Montana RadioShack is offering customers who sign up for a Dish Network package a coupon for a either a pistol or a shotgun from a local sporting goods store. Read More »