Do Firearms Harm Economic Development?

The international gun prohibition movement has been working hard the past several years to pick up allies from other international interest groups. The prohibitionist tactic is to argue that civilian possession of firearms harms "X", where "X=the particular concern of the interest group." Thus, feminists are targeted with the claim that firearms possession harms women (even though firearms possession by women harms rapists); and human rights advocates are told that firearms possession harms human rights (even though firearms prohibition is the sine qua non for genocide). Similarly, economic development supporters are told that firearms possession by citizens harms economic development.

In the next issue of Engage, the journal of the Federalist Society, my co-authors Paul Gallant, Joanne Eisen, and I investigate the claim. We find that in Latin America, development failure long-preceded the proliferation of firearms among civilians. In Africa, the key impediments to development are malaria and AIDS, which thrive in Africa partly because of harmful policies encouraged by the United Nations bureaucracy. Finally, we conduct case studies of Kenya and Zambia, and detail how corrupt, undemocratic governments are the fundamental impediments to development. The international gun prohibition movement aggravates the problem, by allowing kleptocracies to shift the blame away from themselves, and to instead blame good citizens who only want to protect their families from government-sponsored violence.