The Economic and Social Costs of Gun Violence

Full video, transcript and powerpoint presentation; “The Economic and Social Costs of Gun Violence”; May 29, 2015.




Bruce Shapiro: So here's a different disciplinary focus. Phil is an economist, a sociologist, a professor of public policy, economics and sociology at Duke. And also this year he is a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, where I found him at his 212 telephone number. I am especially pleased to have him here. I used to cover criminal justice issues at the Nation magazine in the 90s, and your work was always one of the places I would go for sane perspectives. 

As Phil runs through this, I would urge you to be thinking, not just on the substance of what he's saying, but also to be thinking about the methodology that lies behind it, and the kind of thinking, whether clearer ways to be transferring that kind of thinking to our work, and certainly how we evaluate gun issues.

But take it away. Lead us where we need to go. Leave some time for discussion, because I know there will be questions. 

Philip Cook: Okay. Yes, good morning everybody. Thank you, Bruce. I appreciate the introduction, and I am delighted to be here, and of course, very pleased that Bruce and Kate chose to pass out the book that I did last did with my colleague Kristin Goss. So just let me just say 30 seconds about the book. It's not exactly a commercial, since you have it already. I'm not asking you to buy it. It is co-authored by my colleague Kristin Goss, who is a political scientist. I am an economist. She covered the public opinion politics movement stuff, and then I covered stuff like "What is a gun" and "What do we know about gun violence and what difference do different kinds of gun control make." 

It is written in the form of 107 questions and answers and is not to be read from cover to cover, in case you are so inclined, but rather more to be treated like a box of chocolates where you dip in and pick a question that is on your mind and go ahead and nibble with that. We did what we could to make it objective, to characterize not only what we know, but also what the debate is, and where the disagreements are, and at the end we have references for each chapter that should be helpful without actually using footnotes. That's something that I hope that you'll find useful. It was certainly written partly with a journalist audience in mind as a reference book, and I hope it serves that purpose. 

So what I'm going to do is to talk to you for about 30 minutes and then open it up. And I have a particular agenda; it may turn out to be too long, depending on how fast I talk. But let me just show you what it is. This is the central question: What should be included in a discussion about the costs of gun violence? So Garen gave you a presentation, partly about the public health perspective and the burden associated with the deaths that result from gun violence. And what I'd like to do is to expand that discussion and to talk more generally about the different kinds of burdens, not just the public health burden that's associated with gun violence. Why is it ultimately that we think of this as a serious problem worthy of our time, worthy of the attention that is being paid to it?

Just a question to have in mind as you see what I have to say about that is think about your own community and your own life, and how does gun violence affect it? I think the answer to that question would include the people that perhaps you have known who have been lost to gun violence, but I think it would also come up with some other ideas as well. 

The second question that is what distinguishes gun violence from other kinds of violence -- and for the first part, I'm going to be talking about all kinds of violence, but I do want to say why do we care about guns in particular as opposed to violence with other types of weapons? 

And then the third issue is just to take on the question about whether gun violence is closely connected to guns, or whether the people who commit gun violence are in a category of their own, disconnected from the rest of society. And of course the answer is there is no disconnect. 

And finally, the question that comes up many times when I make a presentation on the cost issue is, "Cook, why are you this gun grabber? We're only talking about costs and not benefits." And so in the last section, I'll talk about the benefits of gun ownership, not the benefits of gun violence. 

Okay. Here's a graph that I think serves as context in a variety of ways. And you saw some of it from what Garen was putting on. But it really deserves more attention. It is one of the great stories of our time, and that is the crime drop, and particularly the drop in violence rates that peaked in the early 1990s and now to an extraordinary extent -- the homicide rate, the robbery rate, the assault rate, everything that we measure in the way of violence has dropped enormously during that time. 

So here's the national homicide rate. You can see it peaking back there in 1993. It drops; it goes from 10 per 100,000 to below 5 per 100,000. So the homicide rate today is half what it was at the peak of the crack era. And what this peak graphs up here that lines up there is about particular cities and what has happened there. You can see, for example, the blue line is describing the New York miracle, where they went from 30 per 100,000 down to a rate that is actually dipping below the national average, below five. The city has been transformed. And then you see Los Angeles, which did almost as well, and then Chicago.

These are huge changes in the quality of life, or so it would seem in those cities. It's not something that you would ask the public in a public opinion poll, they necessarily have noticed. But really, they've noticed, and how they conduct their day to day lives in many neighborhoods that were formerly terribly impacted by violence has changed dramatically and a lot of other things have changed too in ways that I'll want to talk about. So keep that in mind that we are living in extraordinary times, given the last 50 years of history of violence. We're back to where it was in the Eisenhower era is what it amounts to. That's quite a story.

The second thing that I want to say, though, is this is by no means the whole story if what we're talking about is social burden, or the social costs of violence. Because what it is showing us is only the story about the victim. And the victim's story is only one part of what we want to talk about when we want to have a comprehensive accounting of how violence affects us. 

So what should be included? If you had read the Mother Jones piece -- Mother Jones is doing this amazing job covering guns. They've done some of the best work on rampage shootings in their data work there. And then recently, they made a big investment, as Garen mentioned, in updating the costs of the story and came up with the $229 billion per year. If you look at what they're doing there, it is using what is called "the cost of the illness" method that does focus on victims, and it turns out the great bulk of the costs that they come up with is to multiply the number of victims by $6 million. And the $6 million comes out of a number that is used often in traffic safety or the environment, about the value of a human life on some kind of average basis. 

It's not adapted particularly to the circumstances of violence, as opposed to some of the other causes of death or risk. And in a variety of ways that I've written with Jens Ludwig in our book, Gun Violence: The Real Costs, I would say is inappropriate. I was conceptually completely opposed to what they were doing, and we had long arguments about it with the reporters. I will not bore you with that right now, but I'm just saying this is a controversial approach. Economists would say it's wrong, even though it's very familiar in the public health context. 

Of course, they did include the costs of the public response to crime -- the investigation, case processing, prison -- not to mention the medical costs. No disagreements about that, but that's a very small part of the total. That's about $8 billion of the $229 billion along the way. 

And then they missed what I think are some of the most important parts of the costs of gun violence. And that is all the costs that are associated with the fact that all of the time, all of us are anticipating the possibility of becoming victims of violence, and taking steps to minimize that risk, or to reduce that risk to ourselves and to people in our family, and to people that we care about. And those prevention activities and avoidance activities and the fear and the worry that remain nonetheless, of course, are different depending on where you live and all the rest of it, are very important and should not be ignored. 

But one analogy that we did in the book on the cost of gun violence is polio, that was prominent when I was a child and the costs -- polio at the time we're being again, the medical costs, and the costs of lost lives, the costs of lost productivity, people that were paralyzed … but those analyses typically ignored what again, seemed to the be the most pervasive costs, and that is that parents around the country were worried every summer that their kid was going to get polio and taking extraordinary measures to try to reduce that risk. And none of that community effect and individual effect was included in that very narrow accounting. I want to bring it back into the conversation, and in some ways it's the most important feature of gun violence. 

So let me talk further about the disconnect between observed victimization and cost in just four very small examples. One is protecting the President. Thank god none of our presidents have been shot since 1981, when Reagan was shot and almost killed. So by one accounting you can say, "No victims, no cost." But of course, there's a huge cost. The Secret Service, bless their hearts as we say in the South, they're not doing that great, but they are so far 100% successful in protecting the President since then. And they do it at the cost of billions and billions of dollars. So that's not something that you can ignore, if you are saying, "What are the costs of gun violence?" because of course all of the presidents that have been attacked have been attacked with guns in our history. 

You have the recluse problem. Criminologists have scratched their heads and said, "The people in inner cities that often report being most concerned about crime are, not to be too offensive, but the little old ladies." So it's a little old lady problem. And yet, they have very low victimization rates. So they must be profoundly misled about their true risk. The fact is, they're recluses. They lock themselves in their apartments. The reason that they are not victims, if they live in a high-crime neighborhood, is because they don’t expose themselves. Is there no cost associated with that? Well, their life is transformed by violence, and greatly impoverished. And it has real value associated with it, but it does not show up in the victimization results. 

When we were doing an article about the future of children, a good journal worth paying attention to -- one thing that we were talking about was the interviews with parents that break your heart about -- they'll say, "At 4:00, I will get worried that the gang members will come out and my kid is going to get hit by a stray bullet, so that I bring them inside. And then on really bad weekends, I'll have them sleep in the bathtub because the metal in the bathtub will stop the bullets." Again, very low observed victimization rates, but very high costs. 

My first conversation with Mayor Rendell when he first became mayor of Philadelphia -- he said the thing that really kept him awake at night was that at some point there was going to be a murder in the commercial district in downtown Philadelphia, and all those suburbanites that were finally coming in to town to eat at the restaurants and to patronize those places would stop coming, because it would be a headline story, and that would be it. It would destroy an enormous amount of business activity, and that would be the end of that. So that again, not victimization, but something else is going on. 

Safety is what we're talking about. It's a commodity. It doesn’t necessarily show up in the form of victimization statistics. And safety is the freedom from the threat. It has the same value as other amenities that might be part of a neighborhood. I have a list here, but probably the lists missed the most important thing, I realize, and that's the quality of local schools. For example, at least in the neighborhood I come from in Chapel Hill, that's huge. These things of clean air and attractive surroundings and the quiet and the safety are subjective. But they're very important, and they push a lot of economic resources, and they certainly push the quality of life and so should not be ignored. 

Here are some of the indicators about the resources that are being pushed. One is population. So if you look at what was happening, or if you look at Detroit today, the first question you'd have is, "Where are all the people?" Detroit has 700,000 people living there now. It had over 2 million a while ago. Where did they go? Or if you look at New York, which was losing population, and then the miracle happened, and now they're gaining population. Part of the story is violent crime. The people who can, leave. They leave their neighborhood, they leave their city. It's a pretty good indicator of what's happening. We did an estimate with help from Steve Levitt that every murder in a neighborhood gets about 70 people to move out. It's a net figure. 

If you're familiar with the experiment that was recently the lead story in the New York Times, it's called Moving to Opportunity, where they recruited in five cities living in housing projects and gave them the option to sign up for a voucher that would then support their moving to a low-crime area. The women, all women, were asked, "Why are you signing up? Why are you interested in being part of the experiment and getting out of the project that you're living in?" And you could think of lots of reasons about why would they say, about all of those amenities that I just listed: better access to jobs, schools, and all the rest of them. But the number one reason was violence. That's what they were concerned with more than anything else. They were concerned for themselves; they were concerned for their children. So moving is one thing.

Property values, obviously, are making a big difference. And the business activity that's related to it, and then economic growth and development. It was interesting again, looking at the Times, they had an advertising insert the other day from the nation of Colombia. Basically, what the Colombian government wanted to get across by this rather expensive move was to the business investors in the US was that Colombia was now physically safe enough to be considered as a place. Free enough from violence. 

Closer to home, you have Camden, New Jersey. It became infamous for being the most violent city in the country in 2012. They are not going to regain any of the businesses and factories that they've lost until they can solve that problem. It becomes a huge drag on economic development. Detroit has to solve that problem to bounce back.

What we did back in 2000 in trying to address this and trying to get at these subjective values and monetize them, put in a monetary willingness to pay the study. It's common enough in environmental circles; it had never been done before with crime or violence. What Jens Ludwig and I did was to ask a nationally representative sample of people how much they would pay to have gun violence reduced 30% in their communities, and then use that as a measure of the social cost. Other people have tried to use changes in property values and other kind of indicators along the way. There's nothing that's perfect; everything has real difficulties associated with it. 

But these difficult measurement exercises at least have the virtue of getting right at what I think is the real issue. And that is, as a prospective matter, the costs of violence are all about safety. They're all about this commodity of safety, and that that may or may not be closely connected to actual victims. So that's topic A. 

Topic B is, I've been talking about violence. Generally, everything I said would have applied to all kinds of violence, but the reason we're here is to talk about gun violence. And I think that that is entirely appropriate. And the reason is that the type of weapon that's used is not just an incidental detail of a criminal encounter, say a robbery or an assault. But it really has a profound effect on the outcome of what happens there.

It actually has a number of effects on the outcome, but the one that probably matters the most is that because guns can kill quickly, at a distance, they don’t require much skill or strength, or even intentionality, that they make killing easy. The result is, to borrow a public health term, they increase the case mortality rate. They increase the chance that in that assault, in that robbery, somebody is going to die. 

The effect in gun versus knife, just based on the data that Garen mentioned and a survey that we have of emergency rooms from the CDC, that knife attacks that injure enough to send someone to the ER, can be compared with gun attacks that are serious enough to send somebody to the ER. The gun attacks are 12 times as likely to kill the victim. And there's a variety of other comparisons that you can do along these same lines. But trying to standardize for the circumstances and the intent and all the rest of it, it's simply much more likely that a gun is going to kill. 

Frank Zimring, who is the very first social scientist to do research on guns in a systematic way, and he's still very much with us. He wrote a book in 1997 called Crime is not the Problem that took that idea of instrumentality, the intrinsic lethality of guns and blew it up and said, "You know, the US has a terrible reputation internationally as being a super violent country. If we look carefully at the statistics, our robbery rates and assault rates are not that much higher than countries we like to compare ourselves -- Canada, Australia, Britain, Europe, and so forth. Where we really standout, without a doubt, is homicide. And the reason we have such a high homicide rate, first and foremost, is we have different weaponry. Our assaults and robberies are much more likely to involve guns, and hence to kill. So that's where the American exceptionalism should be focused in any kind of conversation. It's not that the US is such a terribly violent country. It's that we're such a lethal country.

All right. Illustrating the power of the gun, there are no drive-by knifings or stray fists. Part of it is kind of the randomness that is associated with rampage shootings. We don’t have rampage knifings. Ironically at the same time of the Newtown massacre that killed 20 schoolchildren and six educators, there was an attack in China that involved about the same number of victims but none of them died. And that attack was with a knife, rather than a gun. That serves to illustrate the point. Certainly, the gun provides the ability to attack well-defended. The victims of the political assassinations that we've had have been with guns. 

So this is the slogan that I would offer you that comes out of this kind of analysis. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. That's the old bumper script. I would say, guns don’t kill people; they just make it real easy. And whenever you make something easier, it happens more often. 

Part C. How is gun violence related to the general ownership and availability of guns? Topic I've been working on since the 1970s, and still haven’t quite got it right. The thing that we know about this comes from surveys of prisoners and from accounts of surveys of the public, and comparing the two. What is really seen over and over again is that criminals do not get their guns the same way the American public in general does. They shop in a different market is what it comes down to. The criminals are getting it from their social network, or from street sources, by and large; 20 percent or fewer are actually buying guns from a gun store. And that would be the number that comes out of the last representative survey of prisoners that we have in this country. We're about to get a new version of that survey. So less than 20 percent; unlike a majority of noncriminals get their guns from gun stores if that's what they're going to do.

So it's a different situation. Because they're getting it from their social network, they're getting it from street sources, they are really getting guns that are diverted from legitimate conduits, what is by and large legal ownership. Somehow those guns end up, whether it's by theft, or whether it's through some other kind of transactions, make their way into this more underground economy and that's where they end up. So it makes a lot of sense that in a city or a community where there are lots of guns, it's going to be easier for the criminals to get guns than, say, in Boston or New York, where there are actually very few guns. 

And sure enough, that's an area that I've researched, comparing for example the percentage of homes that have a gun in the city with the percentage of robberies that are committed with a gun. That kind of analysis makes it clear that the robbers are not a distinct group; in fact, they're closely tied to the local ecology in terms of where they get their guns. It is the general pattern of gun ownership that is influencing to a large extent the use of guns in crime. 

I'm not talking about suicide. Garen did a great job of doing that, but let me also point out that that is also true for suicides. The general prevalence of gun ownership is very closely related to the likelihood that the gun will be used in a suicide. 

So we heard about John Lott already, and just to nail this point down, let me say that not everybody agrees that more guns are going to produce more gun violence. In fact, John Lott has become a wealthy man by writing a book called, More Guns, Less Crime, that's in its third edition now. I had heard it was the best seller of all time from the University of Chicago Press. It's not because it's easy reading. It's full of regression results and all kinds of technical stuff. It's not internally consistent, and it's murky the way that only economists can be murky. But it has been hugely successful and the slogan has entered the public consciousness and the public mind and triggered, so to speak, the formation of an expert panel of the National Academy of Sciences, which then took the data that Lott had used principally in his early work on the subject and redid it, replicated it, did the thing you're supposed to do in the scientific method, which is all about replication by peers, as Bruce was saying, and found that the case was not made. We couldn’t conclude as Lott had concluded, that if we ease carrying restrictions and had more guns on the street that would reduce crime. The evidence wasn’t there. 

Since then, an economist that I would highly recommend to you named John Donohue has continued to work on this and has various versions of it. There's actually some very high-quality work that is being done on this subject.

The other thing that says that the high rate of gun ownership by no means produces a safe environment, and in fact the reverse is true. My own work, starting in the 1970s, has found over and over again, that where there are more guns, there are going to be more gun assaults and more murders. And then, actually, the burglary rate is positively affected by the prevalence of guns. Why? Because guns are worth a lot in the black market. So someone, while deciding to break into a house and is performing like an economic man, will then judge the profitability. It will be more profitable if that house has guns in it than if it doesn’t have guns in it because they are easily fenced at high value. 

Anyhow, there is direct evidence on both of those that that is the direction the story goes. And I would say that is as good as we have. 

Okay, my fourth and final topic. And that is the question of what about the benefits? So we're talking about the costs, what about the benefits? And I seem to … there are no benefits. What are we going to do?

The first thing that can be said about this is that as an economist, I have to believe in consumer XX. You sign a statement before they give you your PhD, "Yes, I believe in the marketplace. I believe that people know what they're doing." And 25 percent, and actually I think, Garen, your figures and mine are very similar, 25 percent of the adult public has chosen to spend some of their hard earned cash on guns. The latest statistics coming out of Harvard is seven guns per gun owner. So we're going to see more of that survey which has just finished soon. But Matt Miller at Harvard gave us a sneak peek the other day, and he said, "People who like guns really like guns, and they have a lot of them."

Obviously, they're producing a kind of value. That value may be subjective and personal. But so is the value of art, or the value of many other things that we respect. So we should respect this as well. That's not a big leap for me, and we can talk about all of the different uses, about hunting and target shooting, and collecting, or simply tinkering with this fascinating machinery. All of that is absolutely reasonable and true. 

And then there's this other thing: that most people who own guns believe that having a gun actually makes them safer, and makes their household safer, and that that's another benefit associated with it. Now that is more tricky for an economist or anyone else to evaluate, because it's probably dead wrong. It may be true for some people, but not overall. And it is a bit problematic. But in any case it's there as an experience benefit for being in gun ownership. And it has now been dignified as the basis of our new Second Amendment right which was decreed by the Heller decision in 2008.

There's a third possibility in terms of a benefit, which is that people who carry guns and people who keep guns in their home are providing a public service. So it's not only that they're enjoying their use, and may or not be offering protection for their immediate family, but they are also discouraging crime and maybe even discouraging tyranny by their private possession of guns. And I think that that's where I would disagree and most social scientists would disagree on that last issue. 

But that's not to say that guns and gun ownership don’t have value. I'm a gun owner, and I think my gun provides a bit of value to our household. And I really don’t do well with this -- I shouldn’t be trusted with technology of any kind. 

So that raises the question -- guns have both benefits and costs, what else is new? Lots of products have both benefits and costs, or benefits and risks associated with them. What can we do about that? The answer is in thinking about different regulations or different laws that might govern distribution and use of guns, we would want to take both into account. Certainly, that has been done in the area of highway safety. Driving has become enormously safe during my lifetime. Enormously. We have far fewer fatalities per year than we did 30 years ago, 40 years ago, despite the fact that the amount of driving has increased hugely during that period of time. 

And so it's not that we have outlawed cars, or outlawed driving, but we have found ways to compromise in terms of people's liberty and buying exactly the kind of car they want, and driving just how they want to, and maybe most strictly, whether they can drive without wearing a seatbelt or not and found a way through the thicket of freedom and risk versus the benefits of transportation, through a place that most people are feeling pretty comfortable with. In that area, the bottom line will not be earthshaking, especially coming from an economist, but in evaluating any kind of particular measure that we might be considering in the gun domain that it makes sense that you actually compare the change in costs and the change in benefits before making a decision and recognize that there might be action on both sides of that before you reach your final decision. 

So let me open it up and give you your turn. Yes?

Audience member: Could you address the benefits of gun production in this country? The industry itself, the economic benefits. 

PC: Yeah. And actually, I would look over at Garen for a more precise understanding of that. But the first thing to be said is I think the gun industry in terms of manufacturing, import, distribution, is small. It's about at the same order, I think we said in the book, as ice cream in terms of the contribution to the gross national product. A lot of people say that, "Boy, the gun industry is so powerful politically, it must be very rich." But it's not really the industry that's so powerful. That's the NRA.

There's a second thing to be said, and that is the gun industry is contributing, not to be snarky about it, but not only to our economy through production and distribution, but also through medical care costs. So emergency rooms in downtown Atlanta and places like that are certainly doing more business because there are so many guns around. The coroners and undertakers, as well. There is a lot of economic consequences to the death and destruction that are associated with guns as there is to the production side and the hunting and shooting. 

Here's the truth of it. If we found a way to reduce gun violence that included a possibility of reducing the size of the gun industry -- I'm not saying that's the only way to do it -- the resources that are currently going into that and the employment that is associated with that would then through the wonders of the marketplace, be transferred to other activities as the public found other things to do with their time and their money. 

The same issue has come up in -- another topic I study is alcohol control. And people say, "How can we cut down on drinking because so many people are making a living off of alcohol." The answer is, "You know, go do something else. That's how the market works." 


Audience member: You mentioned the comparisons to the auto industry and driving and gun ownership and deaths and accident that have been declining over the last 50 years. I guess it was 50 years ago Ralph Nader put out that Unsafe at any Speed. So the auto industry was really after him at first, but then now everything is fine, cars are more safe and roads are more safe, people are more safe, and medical costs are down.

Is there such a thing? Could there be such a thing for guns or the gun industry as some kind of gun effort like that, like what has happened with the cars?

PC: I'm feeling very optimistic and I will talk about smart phones as maybe some kind of analogy to the safety that has been engineered into vehicles. So there is a possibility that someday it will be possible to buy a gun that is personalized to the rightful owner. There is a gun of that sort that is now being manufactured by an outfit called Armatix in Germany, but it's not available for sale in the US. But the Obama administration and the military and others are interested in this. And maybe we'll get to see it. If it does become generally available for different types of guns, then there is a variety of results that may be hoped for under that regime that would push in the direction of a safer environment, because it would cut down on transfers within the household, cut down on the unauthorized, the teenage son finding the gun, taking it to school or using it to commit suicide for example, or the thief who breaks in and takes the gun and then puts it into the underground market and into circulation. 

The hope is that at least in some small way, there's a case where technology can matter and can really make a difference along the way.

Audience member: Have you looked into the economic costs of a concealed carry, because obviously a lot of businesses XX, bringing a gun into a restaurant or whatever. I know that there are movements for people because they can. They take it, their really large guns because they can into restaurants and public places, and they go, "Oh, all of us will feel safer." We have a section of where, what people think about whether guns make us feel more safe… can you hit the economic?

PC: It's a moving target. The answer is no. I haven’t looked at that. I'm not aware that anybody has along that. I think there's a general principle that continues to be true, and that is that people feel more comfortable with their own guns and their own gun carrying than they do with their neighbors. I'm sure a lot of restaurant patrons would be worried if they saw that so many other patrons were carrying a gun. And maybe some of them wouldn’t feel safer. It's a really interesting question that's been becoming more and more telling as that has increased. 

BS: I have a question for both you and Garen since you're both here. We use as the marker, we've been using it all morning, it's homicide, and homicides that are death caused by firearm. But there have been a lot of advances in emergency medicine and medical technology. Either from a public health standpoint or an economic standpoint, are those affecting -- are those driving down numbers, are those affecting your analysis at all. What's the interplay there?

GW: The answer is no. Phil and I are laughing right now because we spent a half hour before the conference talking about a study that we're hoping to do about that. So too simple to be believable science. 

You have easily available crime and emergency departments, which have much better data on deaths. And there's a study that was widely and uncritically reported upon that concluded that changes in medical care were responsible for the decline in homicide. Those of us who do that work know that there have been no changes in medical care that could account possibly for the type of thing they saw. 

PC: The only other thing I would say is the only time series that seems to be supporting that is coming from the CDC survey of emergency departments, which does show some growth in the number of people who are coming to the ER with gunshot injury at a same time that the number of deaths is going down. That seems to show this trend in case fatality that you would say is maybe the result of improved medical technology. 

What makes it so hard to believe, this series from the CDC is that it doesn't square with anything else we know about what's going on with gun violence. So if you look at the FBI's crime data, for example, it's certainly true that the assault rates are following the homicide rates. The robbery rates are following the robbery rates. The same thing from the victimization survey. 

BS: And one last closeout question for you -- again, I'm looking at my own state or region as a reporter, and I'm trying to do a cross-depth analysis of a particular proposal to restrict gun ownership. Key markers I should be looking at, if I am looking at statewide or regional data?

PC: I think it's important to know that any kind of analysis like that will involve lots of uncertainty. But that’s not unique to the gun area. Most of the public policy making we do is in a fog of uncertainty. What are the consequences of that new curriculum in elementary school going to accomplish? Whatever the deal is, right? So that's the first thing, you're not going to have a precise answer on these issues.

The second thing is the reason regulate to the extent that we do, or the reason we consider deregulation is because of thoughts of public safety. That is on one side of the ledger and certainly deserves a great deal of attention. But it's not the whole story. We would also like to know what costs are talking about. Some of the costs are going to be to the consumers, and the people who buy guns and who enjoy guns. And I think that deserves respectful attention in terms of how much that's going to impose on them in a variety of ways. 

It's not just a political matter. I think it's also a matter of good government that we should care about it that. So that's the balancing. 

BS: Okay. Well thank you. This was great.