My latest post is up on Medium – read about how an extremely low tax on net worth (0.25%) could generate more revenue than capital gains taxes, enabling reform of the tax code.
This morning’s New York Times’ piece on diabetes care annoyed me, and highlights the vast differences in costs for caring for the same kind of illness:
In the article, a type I diabetic incurs over $26,000 for her routine diabetes care annually. She uses much of the latest technology, and it costs a fortune.
I pay around $750 a year to manage my type I diabetes. 
I don’t say this to brag, and every patient is different – some may genuinely require insulin pumps and the like. But my doctors pushed the insulin pump idea on me from day one, without considering other options. I could afford a pump, out-of-pocket if need be. So why did I refuse one and opt to try the “old-fashioned” way? Here are a few simple reasons:
- I desired the simplest and least intrusive treatment that would work. No machines strapped to me 24/7, no intrusive wires.
- New treatments are not time-tested, and are later found to have serious flaws. Note Avandia, a popular diabetes drug until it was pulled from the market for elevating heart risks.
- Why not try a simple solution, and only escalate to a complex (and expensive) solution if it fails?
My treatment plan is working, as my A1C is low (generally under 6). While my approach wouldn’t work for every patient, shouldn’t doctors start simple and work up from there? Of course not – there’s no financial incentive to do so. But converting, say, 1 million diabetics (there are tens of millions in the US) from 25k/year to 1k/year treatment would save $24 Billion per year. At some point insurance companies, payors, and the government are going to have to wake up, and make cost-effectiveness a metric in health care decision-making.
 Since I use mostly generics, all of my expenses are out of pocket save my annual doctor’s appointment. Including the doctor’s appointment, associated tests, and both out-of-pockent and insurance reimbursements, the total cost of care is still less than $1000/year.
 I virtually never link to commercial interests in my posts, and I have never received compensation for doing so. I linked to Relion and American Wholesale Diabetes in this post simply to inform those who might benefit from the information.
Go to www.irs.gov. Look for the File Now button to file your taxes. You’ll find a list of options for filing, including software companies providing tax filing web sites and software. The IRS makes fillable online tax forms, and the instructions for completing them – so why not cut out the middleman and deliver a free irs.gov tax filing portal? Healthcare.gov is just the latest answer to that question – the government has a poor track record of delivering technology solutions, with IRS, FBI, and DHS systems as just a few examples of failure .
The department (Health & Human Services) managing the Obamacare rollout should take a lesson from the IRS: if you set the rules, and let the private market deliver the software, you can offload the expense and risk of technology development while still receiving the benefits of automation. Turbotax and its competitors receive not one dime from the IRS, and yet have taken a huge share in the multi-billion dollar tax filing preparation market. In addition, these companies have agreed to give their software away for free to low-income individuals, eliminating any criticism on fairness or access grounds.
Healthcare.gov could easily move to the same model, and here’s the crazy part – several companies, including eHealthInsurance.com and GetInsured.com, already have healthcare exchanges certified to sell ACA plans WITH subsidies! While any licensed insurance agent (including websites) can sell ACA-compliant policies, a handful have built out their technology to work with the federal government and provide access to subsidized ACA insurance. Rather than competing with these firms, Healthcare.gov could terminate many of its bloated IT contracts and simply list certified private exchanges on its site. These exchanges would provide a free shopping experience for consumers, and earn a commission on policies sold in a manner similar to the financing system for healthcare.gov itself . Let HHS & CMS employees set and administer the rules of the ACA, and leave the exchanges themselves to the private sector – leading to benefits for taxpayers and health insurance shoppers alike.
 This paper found that 70% of government-run software projects failed to meet stated objectives. Government contract reform has become a hot topic as a result of healthcare.gov’s failure, but these problems have been going on for years.
 The ACA exchanges will charge insurers 3.5% of each policy premium sold on exchanges to finance the marketplace. While this “user fee” is lower than the commissions many private insurance brokers receive, many would likely still jump at the opportunity given the size of the new market on offer (perhaps 7 million individual policies through 2014).
The Tesla Model S saves owners roughly 15k over an 8 year ownership period when compared to similar luxury sedans – this analysis excludes government subsidies.
I’ll be taking delivery of a Tesla Model S in a few weeks, making it a great time for me to revisit the cost-benefit of purchasing an electric vehicle. Ignoring externalities  (pollution), and range limitations for a moment , an electric vehicle is a cost-effective purchase only if the total present value of gasoline savings equals the price premium paid for the technology. A number of factors impact the calculation:
- Price of gasoline and price of electricity
- Annual mileage driven
- Comparable gasoline care MPG and electric vehicle MPGe
- Risk-free discount rate
- Projected annual increase in gasoline prices
- Electric car price premium / discount
- Length of car ownership
- Time savings from elimination of gas station stops
It’s possible to come up with a quick best-case estimate without a whole lot of math. Assume that premium gasoline costs $4 a gallon, that we drive 12,000 miles per year, that a comparable non-electric vehicle gets 20 MPG, and that the risk-free discount rate (currently in the 1-2% range) and gas price inflation roughly cancel out. Driving the non-electric vehicle for a year would require 600 gallons of gas for $2400. If we owned the Tesla for eight years, that makes $19,200 in maximum possible gas savings – if the Model S were to cost nothing to charge! The spreadsheet analysis shows that owning a Tesla for eight years might actually produce $15,000 in savings.
Does this make the Tesla a good deal? It depends on the frame of reference – what conventional vehicles are its competitors? Mid-sized and large sedans from Mercedes, BMW, and similar would seem to be appropriate benchmarks. The average base MSRP across a range of luxury sedans is around $71,000 , while the Model S starts at $69,900. When fuel savings are included, this makes the Tesla over $16,000 cheaper than its competitors!
- If owned for eight years, a Tesla saves owners $15,000 when compared to a comparable ICE-powered luxury car – without counting government tax credits
- The Model S already has superior ROI when compared to competitors like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, and Audi
- The Model S (and all electric vehicles) do not yet possess the rapid refill capability of traditional vehicles, which limits their market appeal for single-car households 
 Why leave out externalities like pollution from the analysis? True externalities are outside the traditional economic transaction, and so a car buyer doesn’t take them into account when making a purchasing decision. In reality, many Tesla buyers purchase the vehicles in part because they value the environmental benefits of the vehicle. But in order to scale past the early adopters, electric vehicles will have to be cost-effective for the rest of consumers – so it makes sense to leave out environmental benefits here.
 Range limitation is the principle downside to electric vehicle ownership at the moment. While Tesla is quickly building a network of high speed charging stations, these stations provide only 150 miles of range per half hour, while a traditional vehicle can add 300+ miles of range in less than five minutes at a gas station. For households with one electric vehicle and one conventional vehicle, this limitation may not be of concern, making this a good target market for electric vehicle makers.
 The Tesla seems to compete with a broad range of luxury sedans from mid-level vehicles like the A6 and 5 series to upper-end vehicles like the Mercedes S class. Based on its size and performance characteristics, however, it seems that the larger vehicles are a more appropriate comparison. The average base MSRP of the BMW 5 series, 7 series, Mercedes E class, S class, Audi A8, Porsche Panamera, Lexus LS460, and Jaguar XJ is $71,000. Since this number is quite close to the Tesla’s starting MSRP, and since this calculation varies based on the comparison list, a price premium of $0 was used in all calculations.
Disclosure: The author has a paid reservation for a Tesla Model S
An analysis of every US mass shooting over the past 30 years shows that two small policy changes, restricting high-capacity magazines and introducing stringent background checks, might have saved over 500 injuries and deaths, reducing total casualties in mass shootings by 50%.
Various proposals have been set forth since 2012’s numerous mass shootings, ranging from much stricter gun regulations to arming more individuals in public spaces. Starting from Mother Jones’ list of US mass shootings over the past 30 years, I analyzed the potential impact of two proposals in particular: would a ban on high-capacity gun magazines have reduced casualties, and would stringent background checks of gun purchasers have reduced the number of shootings? I researched the incidents surrounding each shooting to determine whether each proposal would have had any impact. The data are summarized in the table below, with the full research spreadsheet available here.
|Shooting||Deaths||Injuries||Lives Saved||Injuries Prevented||Weapon Legally Acquired?||Notes|
|Totals:||459||481||250||324||Legal in 58 of 63 cases||54% of deaths and 67% of injuries might have been prevented with the policies analyzed.|
|Newtown, CT Sandy Hook Elementary||27||2||17||0||Yes – legal weapons in same household||The shooter’s rampage was stopped by a quick police response. If the shooter had to reload 3 times as often, he would hit many less victims, as he fired on each victim multiple times.|
|Minneapolis, MN Sign Company||6||2||1||0||Yes||The shooter reloaded at least once during the shooting, and initially struggled with victims.|
|Oak Creek, WI Sikh Temple||6||4||3||2||Yes||In a public setting with many adults, it’s possible shooter would have been stopped while attempting to reload, or would have retreated outside more quickly if he had less capacity.|
|Aurora, CO Theater||12||59||12||59||Yes||A lucky form of weapon capacity control prevented a larger disaster, as the shooter’s weapon jammed and he was only able to fire roughly 1/3 of the 100 round magazine. A properly integrated background check system might have stopped the incident entirely.|
|Seattle, WA Cafe||5||1||0||0||Yes||It’s not clear that the gunman ever needed to reload, and though he had a history of mental health problems, he was never treated and never convicted of a felony.|
|Oakland, CA – Oikos University||7||3||7||3||Yes||HCM limit would have no impact here, but the shooter was expelled from school for behavioral issues, which might have been caught if this data were submitted to a comprehensive background check system.|
|Atlanta, GA – Health Spa||4||0||4||0||Yes||HCM limit and background check would have no impact here|
|Seal Beach, CA – Salon||8||1||3||0||Yes||The shooter reloaded during the shooting per police reports, so lowering weapon capacity would likely have lowered casualties.|
|Carson City, NV – IHOP||4||7||2||3||Yes||The shooter fired over 30 rounds per eyewitness accounts – lower capacity would have constrained him.|
|Tucson, AZ – Giffords shooting||6||13||4||9||Yes||Shooter was tackled and stopped while he tried to reload – direct evidence that lower capacity would have decreased the toll.|
|Manchester, CT – Beer Company||8||2||4||1||Yes||Shooter used two weapons and fired multiple rounds at many victims – had he been limited, he would have run out of ammunition earlier|
|Lakewood, WA – police officer shooting||4||0||0||0||No||Capacity limits might not have helped, as the shooter fired on four victims seated at one table, and hit all of them with his initial salvo.|
|Ford Hood, TX – army base||13||29||9||19||Yes||Shooter reloaded many times, and 30 round magazines enabled him to fire roughly 170 rounds before being shot himself by military police. Multiple soldiers attempted to charge the shooter – if he had only a 10 round magazine, it’s entirely possible that he would have been tackled and stopped upon initial reload.|
|Binghamton, NY – civic association||13||4||9||3||Yes||Shooter fired 99 rounds in total – this would likelybeen reduced if his weapon capacity were 1/3 as large|
|Carthage, NC – nursing home||8||3||0||0||Yes||Since shooter used multiple weapons and never reloaded, it’s unlikely capacity limits would have mattered.|
|Henderson, KY – Atlantis Plastics||5||1||0||0||Yes||Shooter did not use a high capacity weapon|
|Dekalb, IL – Northern Illinois University||5||17||5||17||Yes||This incident’s casualty count is quite low because the shooter first fired with a very low capacity weapon, his 6-round shotgun – enabling many students to escape the classroom. Shooter also had a long, documented mental health history.|
|Kirkwood, MO – City Council||6||1||0||0||Yes||Shooter used low-capacity revolver initially, and took a higher capacity weapon from a victim (police officer).|
|Omaha, NE – Westroads Mall||8||4||5||3||No||Shooter appears to have emptied one magazine and then taken his own life.|
|Crandon, WI – sheriff’s rampage||6||1||0||0||Yes||Shooter used a service weapon, so proposed rules/limitations would have had no effect.|
|Blacksburg, VA – Va. Tech||32||23||32||23||Yes||Shooter reloaded many times, and used multiple weapons. Mental health check would have prevented weapons acquisition.|
|Salt Lake City, UT – Trolley Square||5||4||5||4||Yes||Shooter did not use high capacity weapons|
|Nickel Mines, PA – Amish School||5||5||2||2||Yes||Once shooter started firing, sheriffs approached – he killed himself as they arrived, and likely would not have had a chance to reload.|
|Seattle, WA – Capitol Hill||6||2||6||2||Yes||Shooter had a weapons-related felony charge, which was reduced to a misdemeanor.|
|Goleta, CA – postal shooting||6||0||6||0||Yes||Shooter had a previous history of mental illness|
|Red Lake, MN – high school||9||5||3||2||Yes||Shooter possessed a gun in his bedroom despite being treated with Prozac. Since he was an adolescent, and his parents/guardians chose to give him a gun, background checks would be ineffective. Shooter shot his grandfather who was a police officer, and took his weapons.|
|Brookfield, WI – Church group||7||4||2||1||Yes||Shooter suffered depression, but had no mental health or criminal records.|
|Columbus, OH – concert||4||7||0||0||Yes||No HCM used, and no medical or criminal record. Nearby police stormed the concert and shot suspect|
|Meridian, MS – Lockheed Martin||8||7||4||3||Yes||Shooter used military-style weapon with high-capacity|
|Melrose Park, IL – Navistar||4||4||4||4||Yes||Shooter used military-style weapon with high-capacity, and was also a convicted felon|
|Wakefield, MA||7||0||5||0||Yes||Shooter used high-capacity weapon and also had a history of mental illness, but with the mental illness far in his past and no criminal record, even stringent checks might not have denied him weapons. Shooter stopped firing at an arbitrary point and sat calmly til arrested. If he had lower capacity weapons, stopping to reload multiple times might have caused him to sit and wait for arrest earlier.|
|Tampa, FL – hotel||5||3||5||3||Yes||Shooter was arrested for assault only a few months earlier, and bought weapon at a gun dealer|
|Honululu, HI – Xerox||7||0||3||0||Yes||Shooter acquired a large number of weapons long before mental issues began.|
|Fort Worth, TX – Wedgwood Baptist Church||7||7||2||2||Yes||Shooter committed suicide after emptying three magazines – but he had six more loaded. Has the magazines been 1/3 smaller, that would have lowered the toll proportionally.|
|Atlanta, GA – Day trading||9||13||0||0||Yes||The shootings happened in multiple separate incidents, making it less likely that HCM limits would have had an impact. Barton was suspected but never charged in earlier murders, so background checks would have had no impact.|
|Littleton, CO – Columbine High||13||21||6||10||No||Shooters used a high capacity Tec-9 and standard capacity 9mm, so avg capacity is used here. Details of the shooting indicate that in many cases shooters fired at the same victim multiple times – if limited in capacity, this would have reduced their ability to fire on additional victims.|
|Springfield, OR – Thurston High||2||24||1||19||Yes||Shooter was tackled and stopped when he first tried to reload – a clear indication that lower capacity would have further limited casualties.|
|Jonesboro, AR – Westside Middle School||5||10||2||3||Yes||Shooters ran away after firing 30 rounds – lower capacity might have reduced total rounds fired.|
|Newington, CT – Lottery worker||4||0||0||0||Yes||Shooter chose specific victims and fired relatively few rounds, so capacity limits make no difference here.|
|Orange, CA – Caltrans||4||2||3||1||Yes||Shooter entered shootout with police shortly after initial incident, lower capacity might have shortened his attack|
|Aiken, SC – RE Phelon Co||4||3||0||0||No||Standard capacity weapon (illegally acquired) used|
|Fort Lauderdale, FL – city employee||5||1||0||0||Yes||Standard capacity weapon used|
|Corpus Christi, TX – Walter Rossler Co||5||0||0||0||Yes||Standard capacity weapon used|
|Fairchild AFB, WA – hospital||5||22||5||22||Yes||Shooter possessed only one 75 round drum magazine – so he would never have to reload. Military police arrived quickly and killed perpetrator.|
|Aurora, CO – Chuck E Cheese||5||0||0||0||No||Shooter fired less than 10 times, executing each victim, usually with a single shot|
|Garden City, NY – LIRR||6||19||2||6||Yes||Shooter emptied two 15 round magazines and was tackled while reloading with a third magazine. Total rounds fired would have been decreased by 1/3 were magazine capacity limits in place.|
|Fayetteville, NC – Luigi’s Restaurant||4||6||2||3||Yes||Shooter used a high capacity rifle, shooting was stopped by nearby police|
|San Francisco, CA – 101 California St office building||8||6||4||3||Yes||Shooter used a 32 round Tec-9 in the shooting, and fired hundreds of rounds|
|Watkins Glen, NY – office||4||0||0||0||Yes||Shooter killed four intentional targets with relatively few shots, and then waited for police to arrive – perhaps less than 10 shots total fired.|
|Olivehurst, CA – Lindhurst High School||4||10||0||0||Yes||Shooter used two weapons and fired relatively few shots, so high capacity weapon limits would have no effect here. Shooter also had no prior criminal or mental history.|
|Royal Oak, MI – postal||4||6||4||6||Yes||Shooter had his concealed weapons permit revoked on concern of mental illness. Shooter also used high-capacity magazines with his rifle and fired scores of rounds according to police.|
|Iowa City, IA – Univ of Iowa||5||1||0||0||Yes||Did not use a high-capacity weapon, and did not display sufficient signs of mental illness prior to shooting to warrant attention|
|Killeen, TX – Luby’s Cafeteria||20||24||8||10||Yes||Used high capacity pistols and reloaded multiple times – capacity limits would have enabled more victims to escape, as many escaped by exiting the restaurant.|
|Jacksonville, FL – GMAC plant||9||4||9||4||Yes||Shooter had a history of violence and convictions, and yet legally purchased multiple weapons. Used a high capacity weapon in shooting|
|Louisville, KY – Standard Gravure Co||8||12||8||12||Yes||Shooter used high capacity weapon, emptying its magazine and committing suicide with his second weapon. Shooter also had a lengthy psychiatric history including hospitalization|
|Stockton, CA – schoolyard||5||29||5||29||Yes||Shooter had a lengthy arrest history and had served time in jail as an accomplice to armed robbery, and yet was allowed to buy weapons.|
|Sunnyvale, CA – ESL Co shooting||7||4||7||4||Yes||Shooter was able to purchase guns while under a court restraining order|
|Palm Bay, FL – shopping center||6||14||6||14||Yes||Shooter used a high capacity .223 caliber rifle, and killed two police officers during the shooting – one of them as the officer was trying to reload. Perhaps if the shooter’s capacity were lower, the officer might have himself fared better. Gunman also had prior assault conviction.|
|Edmond, OK – USPS||14||6||0||0||Yes||Shooter was in National Guard and would have had access to weapons. Though he was referred to as “Crazy Pat”, he had no history of crime or treated mental illness|
|San Ysidro, CA – McDonalds||21||19||14||13||Yes||Shooter used a high capacity weapon, Uzi, pinning down a quick-responding officer with 30 rounds of fire before re-entering restaurant|
|Dallas, TX – nightclub||6||1||0||0||Yes||Shooter used an unknown handgun, emptying it into crowd and then rushing out – unclear that capacity limit would have any impact here.|
|Miami, FL – welding shop||8||3||8||3||Yes||Shooter did not use a high capacity weapon, but purchased his weapons one day after failing a psychiatric exam ordered by his employer, the school district, and after incidents in which he appeared to be a threat to students|
|Birchwood, WI – hunting altercation||6||2||3||1||Yes||Shooter fired 20 rounds at other hunters – if he had a lower capacity, it’s likely that another hunter would have been able to respond with fire|
The analysis above attempts to answer the question – what would have happened in these incidents had the proposed laws been in place? Of 459 deaths and 481 injuries in 63 shootings, I estimate that 250 deaths and 324 injuries (54% of deaths and 67% of injuries) might have been prevented with the analyzed proposals. Each proposal, its method of action, and the analysis approach is described further below.
High-Capacity Magazine Ban:
Definition: Sales of high-capacity magazines to and between private citizens would be completely banned, and imports of high-capacity magazines for private use would be banned as well. While many magazines would exist in private hands, a magazine buyback could then be used effectively, as magazines are relatively inexpensive.
Method of Action:
- In some instances, the shooter was disarmed by potential victims while trying to reload – smaller magazine size clearly would have limited total impact in these shootings.
- In some instances, potential victims fled during breaks in the shooting enabled by reloading – if a shooter has to reload 2 or 3 times as often, this effect is multiplied.
- In some instances, law enforcement arrived relatively quickly, and most damage in the shooting was done via the initial magazine – a smaller magazine would have limited impact in the shooting in these instances.
- In a few instances, victims attempted to rush the shooter immediately. If a shooter could only fire 10 shots instead of 20-50, it’s possible that he might be tackled quickly rather than be able to continue shooting.
- In most instances, the shooter committed suicide after doing a certain amount of shooting, but always before exhausting ammunition. Since each reloading represents a break in the act, some shooters would commit suicide after having fired fewer total rounds if they were capacity constrained.
- In a few instances, the shooter appeared to choose a specific weapon because of its high capacity. If high capacity magazines were not available, would the shooter still go forward with the attack?
- In 18 of 63 shootings, shooters fired relatively few rounds, chose a small number of specific victims, or used standard capacity weapons. In these instances the high-capacity magazine ban has no impact. 29% of actual mass shootings fell into this category.
Analysis Method: If the shooting fell into the last category above, then zero impact is noted in the analysis. Otherwise, the casualty count is reduced by the ratio of the shooter’s magazine size to standard magazine size – if the shooter used a 30 round magazine, then the casualty count is estimated at 2/3ds lower (rounded up) with a standard capacity magazine. This approach will tend to underestimate the effect of a ban in instances like 1,4, and 6 above, while providing an accurate estimate or an overestimate in instances like 2, 3, and 5 above. In aggregate, I think this approach is unbiased.
Stringent Background Checks:
Definition: Create a mandatory national database of all felons, mentally ill, and others posing threats (anti-terror lists, those who have made threats against schools or other institutions). Mandate that all firearms transactions for new and used weapons, in public and private transactions, be checked against this database, with instant results. This stands in contrast to the current background check system, which is done on paper and via telephone call, not electronically.
Method of Action:
- Out of 63 mass shootings over the past 30 years, only 5 have involved illegally purchased weapons. Some of the shooters had a history of mental illness or a criminal record – preventing a sale of firearms to these individuals would reduce the frequency of shootings.
- Many of the shooters with a history of mental illness had no criminal record – it’s unlikely that they would know how to obtain an illegal firearm.
- Some of the shooters purchased weapons in the days after making threats against a school or other institution – in these cases, a properly implemented stringent background check system would have prevented the weapon sales.
Analysis Method: Shootings were identified in which a shooter had a documented history of mental illness, a criminal record, or had made threats against an institution prior to buying a weapon. In these cases (17 instances total) it’s assumed that the casualty count is reduced to 0, as the shooter would have been unable to obtain a weapon. In reality a certain number of shooters would then try to acquire weapons illegally, and some might succeed. But a certain number of mentally-ill or former felons might never try to obtain a weapon if they knew they had no easy or legal means to do so, providing an offset.
Analysis of Assault Weapons Ban and Armed Civilian Presence
Two other proposals have been mentioned in the last several months – a ban on assault weapons and the placement of more armed guards or civilians in public places. On the question of assault weapons, the data from mass shootings shows that shooters preferred a range of semi-automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines. Weapon capacity makes a difference, but the type of weapon (handgun vs rifle) does not.
With regard to armed bystanders, in 9 of 63 shootings armed individuals (often police officers) were present. In several cases armed individuals became victims in the shooting, and the presence of armed individuals did not prevent the shooting from taking place. However, this analysis is by definition incomplete – this is an analysis of shootings that actually did take place, and doesn’t include data on shootings that were stopped by armed individuals. The evidence here suggests that the element of surprise may render concealed weapons somewhat ineffective, but this is not a conclusive finding.
In the wake of yet another mass shooting tragedy today, let’s examine the costs and benefits of high capacity gun magazines. I previously examined the cost-benefit of private gun ownership in the US, and noted at that time that the extraordinarily negative cost-benefit ratio might eventually become an issue for the pro-gun lobby (the industry generates economy-wide economic losses of over $15B/year) .
High capacity magazines  seem to have become a feature of virtually every recent mass-shooting in the US . How many lives might have been saved by eliminating high-capacity magazines? Let us conservatively assume 10 deaths per year might be reduced through this policy (a rounding error compared to the roughly 10,000 annual gun homicides in the US). The economic value of 10 lives can be estimated at $80 million, while the annual sales revenue of high-capacity magazines might be less than $20 million (since gun magazine sales are a tiny fraction of gun sales, and magazines can be had for as little as $15) .
Measuring tragedy on an economic basis might seem crass, but it helps establish a key point: not only are high capacity magazines empowering individuals in mass shootings – but they are also provably hurting America as a whole, as they subtract value from our nation! An outright ban on possession of high capacity magazines is thus a reasonable step to limit further damage to America’s citizens and economy.
Let me address a number of potential criticisms here:
- Would-be mass shooters will acquire weapons and high-capacity magazines illegally, so you are only affecting law abiding citizens. Actually, 75% of weapons used in mass shootings were acquired legally, and recent shooters acquired their weapons legally. Most of these shooters had no previous criminal record, so in the event high-capacity magazines were illegal, it’s unlikely that they would even know how to find them illegally.
- Banning high-capacity magazines would have no effect on death rates, as shooters would simply reload. In the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, the gunman was stopped in his rampage once he stopped to reload. Reducing magazine capacity to 10 rounds reduces total firing capacity – this is simple arithmetic. In both of these shootings and many other incidents, lives would have been saved. For that matter, lives might be saved in incidents like drive-by shootings where the rapid fire of multiple rounds makes victims of innocent bystanders.
- High capacity magazines are needed for self-defense. Even the police rarely find need to fire large numbers of rounds. Is there even one documented case of self defense where the potential victim needed more than 10 rounds to deter his attackers? There are outliers in everything, but I’d be surprised to hear of such a case.
- I have a 2nd-Amendment right to whatever capacity magazine I like. The recent Supreme Court case upholding an individual right to a firearm also upheld the right to ban American citizens’ access to fully automatic weapons, grenades, tanks, and all other manner of military weapons. Even Justice Scalia admits that there are restrictions on the 2nd Amendment. Your right to purchase whatever weapon you like has long since been curtailed, and the government retains the right to enact reasonable restrictions on access to arms.
 Using more recent numbers on the economic value of human life at $8M per life, the gun industry may actually cause annual economic losses in the US of $200B per year (8M * 30k lives lost – economic value of gun trade). I republished the more conservative estimate above to remain consistent with the original analysis that I referenced.
 I am defining high-capacity magazines as those holding more than 10 rounds, as defined in the original assault weapons ban.
 Limiting gun capacity would have reduced casualties in a number of recent tragedies:
- Today’s CT school shooting – the shooter used both Glock and Sig Sauer handguns. Glock handguns typically hold 17+ rounds, and so are always capable of discharging a high number of rounds before reloading.
- Gabrielle Giffords shooting – Jared Loughner used a 33-round magazine with his Glock handgun.
- Virginia Tech – Multiple Glock handguns were used in this and many other mass shootings.
- Columbine, CO – The perpetrators were armed with a TEC-9 with multiple high-capacity magazines, among other weapons.
- Aurora, CO – James Holmes used multiple weapons, one of which had a 100 round magazine, and produced a steady stream of fire rendering it difficult for victims to escape.
- If you’re still reading this list, and can’t comprehend the simple arithmetic involved – that greater firing capacity leads to greater damage in mass shootings – then you are willfully ignorant.
 Gun sales are estimated to have reached an annual rate around 12 million this year. If separate high-capacity magazine sales are in the neighborhood of 10% of all gun sales, and magazines cost around $15, then total annual revenue from this business might be 1.2M * 15 = $18M. This is an imprecise estimate, since gun sales are not tracked, but conveys the order of magnitude, and illustrates the tiny economic benefit supplied by this particular product relative to its cost in human life.
9 of the top 10 hottest years globally have occurred over the past decade, when measured using three different global temperature data sets. The top 20 warmest years have all occurred during the last 24 years.
How do the record high temperatures over the spring and summer in the US compare on a global basis? While numerous articles on global temperature trends exist , I decided to go to the primary temperature data sources to find out. Below I have created a list of the 20 warmest years on record globally, using three data sets: NASA GISS, the UK Meteorogical Office, and NOAA / UAH . While the three data sets vary in length from 40 to 150 years, the 20 warmest years turn out to have all occurred in the last 24, making it possible to construct an average temperature for the hottest 20 years.
|Rank||Year||Global Avg Temp (F) |
Since this is a divisive topic prone to political obfuscation, it’s worth noting that both the NASA Goddard Institute and the UK Meteorological Office officially support the theory of anthropogenic global-warming, while the research scientist responsible for the University of Alabama-Huntsville data set does not support this theory.
 Here are the original data sets:
Hadley Meteorological Centre UK: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcrut4/data/download.html#regional_series
 The data in this blog post was constructed by averaging data from the three underlying data series. The NASA GISS estimate of global mean baseline temperature of 14 degrees Celsius was used to adjust the temperature deltas provided by the original data series in order to show global mean temperature in Fahrenheit terms here.