Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chicago, Guns, and Pretending not to Have Lost

I was amused by a recent article quoting Mara Georges, a top attorney for the city of Chicago, on how the city could continue to achieve the objectives of the gun ban that the Supreme Court just declared to be unconstitutional. The policy which she proposed and claimed—for all I know correctly—was still constitutional, would be to limit handgun ownership to one handgun per resident and ban gun shops within the city. As she explained:

"Part of the goal is to prevent straw purchases, limit suicides and make it less likely one family member will hurt another, either accidentally or intentionally."

The point about straw purchases is a legitimate one. Committing suicide, or killing your spouse, only requires one gun.

“The same concerns that motivate a one handgun per person per residence limit — reducing the number of guns in circulation in Chicago and the risk of illegal traffic in guns — motivate the gun dealer ban,” she added. “Gun dealers have access to large quantities of guns. Gun stores therefore pose a serious risk of guns flowing quickly into the community and into the hands of criminals through theft or through illegal trafficking.”

She went on to say that there are 45 gun stores within 13 miles of the city.

'It is clear that Chicago residents who would like to own a gun for self defense in the home have a wide array of options very close to the city at which to purchase their handgun,' she said."

No explanation of what prevents criminals, like other people, from obtaining their firearms from suburban gun shops.

I am reminded, oddly enough, of a conversation with a Harvard economist a very long time ago.

In the early sixties, when I was an undergraduate at Harvard, it was taken for granted by most economists, in particular by Harvard economists, that there was a tradeoff between inflation and unemployment, permitting a government that wished to keep unemployment down to do so at the cost of letting prices rise; the relationship was referred to as the Phillips Curve. The rival Chicago school argued that the relation held only in the short run. Once people adjusted their expectations to the new inflation rate, unemployment would go back up. The Harvard view of Chicago was reflected in the comment of a fellow student that he couldn't take economics at Chicago because he would burst out laughing.

Professional opinion shifted a little later, due both to evidence—stagflation—and theory. At some point, probably in the seventies, I happened to be discussing the issue with someone from the Harvard economics department. He commented that everyone, of course, knew that the long run Phillips Curve was vertical—precisely the old Chicago position. But it was at least logically possible that the temporary gain from the reduced unemployment in the short term would be larger than the costs of the permanent increase in the inflation rate needed to produce it. Like Ms Georges, he was doing his best to salvage what he could from the wreckage of defeat—in his case intellectual rather than legal.


BobW said...

The attorney for Chicago describes a tactic to violate the spirit of the law in order to continue to restrict gun ownership in city limits, much like Washington D.C.

The Harvard economist is doing something else:


Anonymous said...

I think this sums up economics well.


David Tomlin said...

No explanation of what prevents criminals, like other people, from obtaining their firearms from suburban gun shops.

Three things.

1. Poverty. Poverty is the primary, if not the only, cause of crime. It can be assumed that virtually all criminals are poor, and cannot afford to shop in the suburbs.

2. Lack of public transportation, magnifying the effect of point 1.

3. Racism. Most suburban gun shops are owned by white suburbanites, all of whom live in utter terror of black men with guns, as carefully documented by Michael Moore in his film Bowling For Columbine. They would never sell a gun to a black man, no matter how great the value of the foregone business. (Racism is the second most important cause of crime, if there is one.)

Donna B. said...

David Tomlin - your comment IS tongue-in-cheek, isn't it?

lelnet said...

How many of those 45 gun stores within 15 miles of the city are in Indiana (which, for those not local to the area, runs right smack up against the Chicago city limits along the southern shore of Lake Michigan)? Is she aware that any gun store outside Illinois is prohibited by _federal_ law from selling any firearm to a resident of Illinois? This law, unlike the Chicago ban, is entirely unaffected by McDonald.

Hammond, IN is in a different state than Chicago, IL to exactly the same extent that Windsor, ON is in another country than Detroit, MI. For all purposes except legal technicalities and taxes, it isn't. For those two purposes, it totally is.

If there are really 45 gun stores within 15 miles of the city of Chicago and on the Illinois side of the state line (ie, stores where a Chicago resident might now actually buy a gun legally), it's definitely news to me.

David Tomlin said...

Thanks, Donna. I was hoping for such a reaction.

I've often seen comments just far enough over the top that I couldn't tell if they were parody or self-parody. I thought I would try my hand at creating one.