NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Crime And The Demand For Guns

August 5, 2002

In many ways, guns are exactly like normal goods. They respond to the laws of supply and demand. However, gun legislation and crime have special effects on gun purchases. A new study in the Journal of Law and Economics measures these effects.

The study confirms that guns are like normal goods. When prices go up, people purchase less and vice versa. However, other factors affect guns demanded as well:

  • A 1 percent increase in the violent crime rate raises the subsequent demand for handguns by more than 2 percent.
  • A 1 percentage point increase in the 25 to 44 year old U.S. population was associated with an 8 percent reduction in the demand for handguns, for reasons that are not clear.

The study also finds that legislation can increase demand for handguns. During debate and passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act, demand for new handguns rose significantly. Additionally, it also appears that anticipation of the Brady Act increased the demand for handguns.

This poses an interesting problem when trying to measure the effectiveness of gun legislation. If crime falls after the passage of gun legislation, did it fall because of the legislation itself or because of people buying more guns to protect themselves?

Source: Douglas C. Bice and David D. Hemley, "The Market for New Handguns: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Law and Economics, April 2002.


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