Keeping guns away from kids

Having in the past expressed the view that the number of guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens is unlikely to influence the number of crimes committed with guns, honesty compels me to report on some new research by Phil Cook and Jens Ludwig showing that the frequency with which minors carry guns, threaten people with guns, and are themselves threatened with guns seems to depend in part on the prevalence of adult gun ownership in the county, even after controlling for other variables that might connect the two phenomena (such as the overall crime rate).

So if gun control measures could reduce the prevalence of adult gun ownership, they might reduce the incidence of deadly violence among kids. However, that’s a big “if”: the evidence that gun control measures can influence gun possession rates is sparse at best.

I’m left thinking that person-specific gun control policies are likely to be more effective, as well as more politically palatable, than more sweeping attempts to reduce gun ownership. But it now seeems hard to deny that having lots of guns around in the hands of adults makes them more available to children.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: