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Every American is paying a $30 per month subscription to the Right To Bear Arms Club.

Since many arguments have been made and ignored about firearms in America, I’m going to advance the economic case.

We as a citizen population have elected to make firearms widely available to all purchasers. And have seen them distributed quite broadly. 34% of adults personally own a gun and 47% live with one in the household; each of these gun-holding households carries almost 5 weapons in stock.

And these guns have proven to be less than kind: if, as an american civilian, you were to die of an injury before the age of 75 there’s a 1 in 5 chance that a bullet ended your life. More than 30 thousand Americans died by firearm in 2009; combined they gave up more than three quarters of a million years of working-age life. 

Do you know how many people were killed by firearms in Japan in 2009? 7. In the UK? 63.

This is tragic, but it doesn’t seem to sufficiently move people. (If it did then, as a polity, we would demand a different policy.)

So what is the price that we’re paying to these 77 million US gun owners for allowing them to exercise their liberty? What does it cost to kill 30,000+ Americans a year?

$43 billion.

Between the cost of lost labor and direct medical costs that’s $366 per american household. 




So maybe the gun-toting households see that as a fair cost for their liberty, but why should the non-arms-bearers subsidize those that do? I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable with that $30 per month subscription.

So here’s a simple proposal: every gun that is introduced to the American system imposes an economic externality; it’s only fair that the firearm owners pay for that externality. The mechanism is simple, gun owners pay on a per-weapon basis for the economic externality that weapons have imposed in the previous year.

There are 270 million guns in the US; so the current per-firearm fee works out to $160.

Is this fair? 


Is it fairer? 


And the gun owners themselves will have an incentive to see that guns are safer. Want to lower your annual bill? Well maybe the freedom to carry an assault rifle doesn’t seem quite as important. Upset that your hunting-weapon is being taxed? Well maybe you should rethink your position on pistols (or perhaps lobby to shift the burden of the externality away from hunting rifles and towards Glocks).

If, rather than paying, you prefer to lay down your arms, then the government will happily pay you the present value of the economic cost that the weapon would have imposed (or, if lower, the retail cost of the weapon). But, if 30,000 dead didn’t sway you, if a congresswoman shot through the head didn’t sway you, if the annual horrifying public tragedy didn’t sway you, I don’t know why an additional $160 would.

As for me, I’m sick of it (and sickened by it). I’m happy to leave the protecting to the professionals and see no need to chip in an additional 3 Hamiltons per month so that the yahoo down the block can conceal and carry in the McDonalds.

If you want your freedom to bear arms, be my guest, I only ask that you pay for the havoc that you wreak.

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