Governments are beset by unintended consequences to the policies they adopt and the laws they pass. People tend to act in their own personal, rational self-interest…a fact most elected officials never seem to grasp at all. Many times the consequences are relatively small and benign. Sometimes they’re much more profound and problematic.
Unintended consequences generally come in four flavors; 1) unexpected benefits, 2) unexpected drawbacks, 3) perverse results (basically the opposite of what’s intended) and 4) unforeseen developments. See if you can figure out which is the most likely outcome of Dr. Jonathan Wilson’s latest brainstorm.
Wilson, who’s described as a social worker and researcher, is concerned about the city of Philadelphia’s accelerating violent crime wave. Like so many large urban areas, the City of Brotherly Love is experiencing the natural results of policies such as defunding the police, opening its jails, and failing to prosecute those accused of many offenses.
But never fear, Dr. Wilson has a solution. As he notes . . .
Typical black market prices for an automatic gun are between $800 and $1,000. The price for a revolver or a “throwaway” is between $300 and $500. At those prices, $1 million would be enough to buy at least 1,000 firearms and make a significant reduction in the roughly 300 murders this city sees annually. Philadelphia, it’s time to put our money where our mouth is and embrace data-driven decisions.
Akshully, the number of all murders in Philly last year was 499 and they’re up about 16% so far this year.
Let’s stop playing games. There were 2,200 people shot in 2020, and this year Philadelphia passed the grim mark of 10,000 people shot since 2015, with three-quarters of victims being Black males. We must think outside the box. We need to sweeten city gun buyback offers, which currently do not take in enough guns nor offer enough money for them.
So Dr. Wilson’s plan is to pay more than the black market in order to get guns off the streets. Here’s how much he wants to pay . . .
We must offer at least $1,000 for automatics and ghost guns and $500 for revolvers. Those who oppose this are not wearing their thinking caps — the cost is but a fraction of the price needed to prosecute a homicide case or to incarcerate someone convicted of homicide for the rest of their life. Moreover, there is no price comparable to one life saved.
Hmm. We took Wilson’s advice put on our thinking cap on. Once the smoke cleared, we concluded that paying that much for guns — Wilson doesn’t say who’d foot the bill, but it seems safe to assume he means taxpayers — would empty out gun store display counters at least as fast as it would take guns off of Philly’s mean streets.
Keep in mind that the average price of a new semi-automatic gun these days is somewhere between $500 and $700. Used obviously go for significantly less.
We searched the web sites of some Philadelphia area gun stores and found prices like these . . .
- Taurus G2C $299
- GLOCK G19 Gen5 $579
- Used CZ P-07 $379
- Ruger Wrangler revolver $249
- Heritage Rough Rider revolver $170.45
If Philadelphia announces a “buyback” offering “at least $1,000 for [semi]automatics and ghost guns and $500 for revolvers” they’d better have a lot more than $1 million to spend or they’re going to turn away a lot of motivated sellers. There’d plenty of gun arbitrage profits to be made at those prices.
Of course, the firearms the city would be buying would not, for the most part, be the gats that are used in street crimes. Instead, they’d be guns fresh out of retailers’ new and used guns inventories. Not to mention plenty of broken or otherwise undesirable safe dwellers Philly area residents would dig up in order to cash in. And gun owners would likely use the profits to buy new guns…or top off their ammo supplies.
In short, Dr. Wilson’s big idea for reducing crime in Philly wouldn’t accomplish what he thinks it would. Instead, it would put plenty of money in the hands of opportunistic gun owners and entrepreneurs looking to cash in on a feel-good attempt to do something about “gun violence.” It would also likely clear out local retailers’ used and lower-priced gun inventories.
Again, more unintended consequences. So which of the four types would you call this?