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Guns, gangs, and supply and demand

Interesting bit on Chicago’s gang culture:

Another starling fact: in New York and most other big cities the gang members will throw away the guns as they are being chased but, in Chicago, where police confiscated over 3,200 guns during the first half of the year, they shoot back instead. The top cop says that is because “there is a greater sanction for the gang members to lose that firearm from their gang than there is to go to jail.”

In Chicago a gang member will fire back instead of discard his weapon because members face “severe beatings” and financial punishment if they lose their gun. “There are way too many guns. On any given weekend, our police officers take more guns off the streets than either New York or LA. It’s too easy for anybody to get a gun.”

If guns were easy to get, why would there be such penalties for losing one? Sure, there are other reasons they might do that but the first thought to come to mind was that they were hard to replace and, therefore, the risk of it being evidence outweighed that cost. As reader JKB, who emailed it to me, said:

The gang crime in Chicago is so bad they are violating the law of supply and demand. An op/ed in the Chattanoogan has the following quotes from the Chicago police superintendent.

Notice the “It’s too easy for anybody to get a gun”, which seems to indicate a large supply compared to demand. But the gang members shoot it out with the cops rather than throw away the gun because the gangs will exact a high price for the loss of the gun, which seems to indicate that guns are not easy to replace.

It just doesn’t make sense. Once a gun is discharged in the commission of a felony, it is known as evidence. Evidence is something the smart criminal tries not to keep on them. Throwing away guns is the cost of doing crime. Perhaps the Great Recession is hard all over. Guns are plentiful?, but hard for a gang to afford? Maybe private citizens in the gang areas are buying up the supply?

Isn’t there a big economics school in Chicago? Perhaps they should look into this failure of economics?

17 Responses to “Guns, gangs, and supply and demand”

  1. Robert Says:

    I’d say it’s more likely that the cop is lying.

  2. Jim W Says:

    My guess is that either:

    a) the cops in Chicago are lying, as usual. Chicago doesn’t confiscate an adequate amount of guns to affect the supply. That isn’t even theoretically possible because the more they confiscate, the more will flood into the area to satisfy demand. Secondly, it’s unlikely that gang members are shooting at cops unless there is an extremely low likelihood of apprehension. Even in IL, attempted murder of a police officer is super serious and not the sort of think criminals do unless they’re already facing life in prison.

    b) the criminals aren’t rational actors- they aren’t correctly calculating the cost of engaging police in a firefight or they aren’t correctly calculating the cost of acquiring a replacement firearm.

    My guess is that the answer is 75 percent of a, 25 percent of b. The cops are lying, but there might be a few anecdotes that match their version of events because many violent criminals possess amazingly poor judgment (criminal defense attorney here, I would know).

  3. Akatsukami Says:

    I offer c): the gang-bangers (rightfully?) have such contempt for the cops that those who throw away their guns are treated like Spartans who threw away their shields.

  4. Matthew Carberry Says:

    I was going to go with “C” as well.

    After all, soldiers have a theoretically endless supply of rifles, yet they are expected to retain them even in retreat. Not all costs are tangible or monetary.

  5. nk Says:

    McCarthy is lying.

  6. JTC Says:

    Again, the whole strawman issue of the existence and/or availability of firearms is irrelevant to the use/misuse of them in the hands of criminals, and is an evil (albeit vain and losing) ruse in the effort to remove them from the hands of non-criminals.

  7. CaptDMO Says:

    WAit, how many of those guns are “rentals”?
    THAT might explain the extreme “deposit” fee.

  8. Jim Says:

    The Chicago gang leadership could be enforcing discipline to encourage aggressiveness. The very idea of leadership and discipline is seldom mentioned with gangs. I wouldn’t want to roll with anyone that wont fight.

  9. Gerry Says:

    +1 for C

    They are trying to instill discipline and “warrior spirit” among the ranks. Some how I don’t think the bosses will fight it out when the SWAT team shows up.

  10. JKB Says:

    8. Jim,

    If your reasoning is correct, then Chicago gangs are not in it for the money as NY gangs are. It is counter productive to constantly provoke the police with violence. The police just up their actions which raises the cost of doing business.

    I seen no evidence that the gangs are providing social services or other services to the people in the territory they control even as the Chicago provision of such falls apart. As such, the gangs cannot hope to retrain the loyalty of the population as an insurgency might. Eventually, the population will side with the police for a very violent action against the gangs.

    It is possible that the Obama Justice department is providing protection to the gangs by being a threat to local authorities but, eventually that will collapse. Either the DOJ’s involvement will be exposed, or they will abandon the gangs when the threat to the Democrat machine becomes critical.

  11. Leatherwing Says:

    Option D: The gang members have concluded that any Police encounter has a high probability of ending with gang member killed by Police, so they have adopted a shoot first policy that is being enforced by upper management.

  12. mikee Says:

    Just a slightly different take on the “keep the gun”
    issue: The gang’s guns have been used in multiple crimes, by a large number of gang members. Sort of like a library book, loaned out to individuals for use then returned to the gang until used again.

    Any single gun in the possession of a gang member can be linked via ballistics to so many crimes that the possessor, if arrested, can be threatened with enough prosecution to force his testimony against the gang.

    So the gang is acting rationally: no member can be caught with a gun, it could hurt the gang too much.

    Either the cops kill the gangbanger in a shootout, problem eliminated, or the gangbanger escapes the cops, problem eliminated. Lose the gun to the cops, gang gets punitive on you because you caused the gang lotsa problems.

    Economics still rules for this explanation, so I say it is the correct one.

  13. dustydog Says:

    Option E: Dirty cops are keeping the found guns to resell them on the street, and need an excuse as to why they are turning in fewer guns to Evidence.

  14. Cargosquid Says:

    “It’s too easy for anybody to get a gun”

    This is the key statement in that entire piece.
    If ANYONE besides a cop has a gun, its too easy for anybody to get a gun.

    That is what they mean.

    Everything else is irrelevant.

  15. Geodkyt Says:

    I think Mikee has it nailed, honestly.

    Gangs DO have “pool” guns.

  16. Chris Says:

    They resell the weapon back into the iron pipeline. The gun is then transported and resold to other gang members and or other gangs. If a gang banger loses his weapon it cost them money if he keeps it and get arrested that gains him respect within the gang. If he tosses it he proves he is not a man.

  17. chris Says:

    The magnitude of the gangs of Chicago is too much for me to even comprehend.

    I was reading about El Rukin the other day and read that it had 30,000 members.

    We need to send these guys to our Souther border if the Federal government won’t protect our border.

    Just give each gang 50 miles of “turf” to cover.

    They could steal and sell the drugs that Latinos are trying to smuggle over the border.

    The border would become impenetrable.

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