Follow by Email

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Guns, Guns, Guns

When economist Steven Levitt was a young professor at the University of Chicago, his wife gave birth to their first child, Andrew. When Andrew was about one year old, he came down with a fever, and a day later he died of pneumococcal meningitis. Overcome by their loss, Levitt and his wife joined a support group for grieving parents, and Levitt was struck by how many children had drowned in swimming pools. He wondered whether this was merely a coincidence or reflective of some larger pattern. And after digging into the relevant data, he discovered was that swimming pools are far more hazardous to children's lives than are guns.  More children die from drowning in swimming pools than they do from being shot by a gun. Indeed, as Levitt himself has noted, "If you both own a gun and have a swimming pool in the backyard, the swimming pool is about 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is" (Freakonomics, p. 146). It's curious that more people aren't clamoring for swimming pool control.

Levitt, of course, is the co-author of Freakonomics, and few have studied the relationship between guns, crime, and violence as much as he has, which is why his Freakonomics co-author and regular host of the Freakonomics podcast, Stephen Dubner, decided to interview Levitt for one of the Freakonomics podcasts after the shootings at Newtown back in December. Not surprisingly, Levitt holds some unconventional views. For example, he’s skeptical of most proposed gun control legislation, he doesn’t think gun buy-back programs work, and as I have noted in previous posts ("The Surprising Decline in Violence"; "Sandy Hook, Gun Control, and America's Gun Culture"), gun violence has been in decline for some time.

You, of course, can listen (or read the audio transcript) to Dubner’s interview of Levitt for yourselves, either by downloading from iTunes or listening to it at the Freakonomics website (“How to Think About Guns”). As always (or at least, almost always), the podcast is very entertaining.

No comments:

Post a Comment