February 27, 2013 News » Long Story Short

The hidden side of gun control 

Long story short

Steven Levitt, the University of Chicago economist behind the Freakonomics empire, has studied crime and violence for years. In a recent Freakonomics podcast devoted to gun control, he rattled off all sorts of stats on the preponderance of guns in our society today, the ineffectiveness of gun buyback programs, and even the unintended consequences of laws that mandate therapists report dangerous patients to authorities.

In sum, he told colleague Stephen Dubner: "Anyone with any sense looks at the current political climate, thinks about the kinds of proposals that are being made, and accepts the fact that none of these proposals are going to have any real impact at all."

Which is, of course, fairly depressing. But what if the reality was actually worse than that? What if gun-control proposals themselves, their mere existence and ubiquity in the news, actually led to more violence?

Boulder Weekly editor Joel Dyer probably wouldn't be comfortable with the suggestion that he could out-Freak Steven Levitt. But his own research, which he made into a very well-received book in the '90s, suggests that our fixation with controlling guns has actually spun some of our society's more unstable elements out of control.

In Dyer's story, starting here, he calls out this "elephant in the room" and draws parallels between the tenor of a couple decades ago — the era of Ruby Ridge, Waco and Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing — and today. Consider it food for thought, though it may be hard to swallow.


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