Tina K. Russell

May 19, 2009

The fantasy approach to gun violence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:02 am

Fight Drug Cartels, Not Guns, McCain Says – NYTimes.com
The drug war in Mexico should not be used as an excuse to try to restrict American gun rights, Senator John McCain told thousands of people who gathered here for the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.

Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, said that the United States needed to do more to crack down on gun smuggling into Mexico, but that such assistance in Mexico’s war against drug cartels did not require restrictions on the gun rights of law-abiding Americans.

“It should be noted that any effort to restrict gun ownership in the U.S. will not stop Mexican cartels from acquiring guns and ammunition from other countries,” Mr. McCain said on Friday. He added that cartels were already getting grenades and other weapons from other countries.

I really hate this argument for two reasons.

  1. Okay, perhaps other countries aren’t doing their part. But, are we doing ours? (And, will we have any right to criticize them if we do not?)
  2. Can anyone say with a straight face that Mexican drug cartels won’t be hurt—massively—by taking away their biggest supply of automatic weapons, which currently flows freely across the border? Doesn’t it make sense to force them to go to smaller, more remote, and less developed locales to fetch their AK-47s? (And if our massive pipeline of guns to Mexican thugs is somehow immaterial in the grand scheme of things, why have their arsenals become more sophisticated since the lapse of the assault weapons ban?)

To think that we can help solve the Mexican cartel crisis by considering only the smuggling of guns (good luck with that border), and not the buying and selling, is pure fantasy. Mexican cops and civilians are dying while we dither.


  1. Usually a response on the supply side in these types of cases does not work if there are multiple suppliers. If the US firms stopped supplying arms (legally or illegally) in Mexico, then other firms would. It would take a concerted effort of ALL suppliers to have any real impact on the market as a whole. It is extremely unlikely that all firms in the arms business would decide to stop supplying in any given case much less Mexico specifically. Ironically, it is the exact same situation in international drug markets. The only way to have any impact is on the demand side and that is done through giving people better alternatives rather than a ban. Economic prohibitions are incredibly costly and rarely effective.

    Comment by prfx — May 19, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  2. Isn’t it still worth it, though, to drive up the costs and effort required for them to obtain guns? And assuming that they can get guns just as easily and cheaply somewhere else—something I doubt—does other countries acting irresponsibly absolve us of our own irresponsibility?

    Comment by Tina Russell — May 19, 2009 @ 7:22 pm

    • Cutting off supply will temporarily increase the cost. However, increased cost will make the market more lucrative and there will be increased supply. Voids in supply always get filled at some point….

      Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote on the similar topic of arms import in India and Pakistan:
      The problem is this is a game theory situation with regards to weapon exporting nations where any realistic solution (meaning at least somebody sells arms) leads to a Pyrrhic victory based on the externalities (armed conflict). The optimal solution from a conscious standpoint is nobody sells either country arms but that is not realistic since all it would take is one person willing to sell out based on the Void Rule of Business: a void in any market does not last long.


      I am not arguing that selling arms is irresponsible. In fact, there is a strong argument that it is immoral. And I certainly believe in taking the high road and two wrongs don’t make a right and all that. I think it is incredibly messed up that we are an arms exporting nation. Making money by enabling war and murder is simply evil.

      However, (I can’t believe I am saying this) I agree with McCain regarding the statement above. (I feel icky now, ew)

      And I apologize for getting all debatey.

      Comment by prfx — May 19, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

      • I see what you mean. It’s hard for me to believe, though, that any other country can match the convenience and the economy of scale that we have. Would they really be able to find another country so big, with borders so porous and with gun laws so insanely liberal?

        Don’t apologize for being all debatey! It’s a good thing.

        Comment by Tina Russell — May 20, 2009 @ 9:39 am

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