Friday, October 09, 2015

Bullets For Better Brains Law [Reposted Slightly Amended]

In a piece in The Hill, Anhvinh Doanvo questions the Republican response that mental illness kills, not guns.

    "the record and policy proposals of most leading Republicans indicate  their interest in mental health is more of an excuse to not talk about gun control than a genuine effort to develop nuanced systems that reduce the federal budget and protect the safety of the public." 

The Republicans are strong on cutting the budget and strong on preventing any form of gun control.  Actually, I don't think that many of them care that much about stopping gun control, but their funders do.  So, here's my modest proposal to tie mental health funding to gun deaths:

Bullets For Better Brains Law

This federal law would commit $1 million dollars to mental health research, education, and treatment for every person killed in the United States by a gun.  The amount per death would increase by the number of people killed in a specific incident.  Thus, if two people were killed, it would require $2 million per death,  three people would be $3 million per death, four people would be $4 per death, etc.  So the recent Oregon shooting where ten people were killed would cost $10 million per death or $100 million.

A commission of educators, mental health experts, police, judges, social workers, family of gun victims, mental health patients, and suicide survivors would determine how the money is spent.

The intent of the law is to:

1.  Reduce mental illness in the US
2.  Increase understanding of mental illness
3.  Give budget cutting legislators more incentive to reduce gun deaths in the US

If the Republican theory is right, the more money spent well on mental health, the fewer gun deaths there would be.  As gun deaths drop, so would the budget.  For Republicans, it's win/win.  Gun deaths go down and the budget goes down with them.  (Not to mention the dropping of all the police, court, hospital, and emotional costs that are associated with each gun death.)  If the initial costs are a problem for Republican legislators, the money can be raised by taxing gun manufacturers to collectively cover the costs.  It would simply cover the externalities of their business which now are passed on to the public and not recaptured in the cost of guns.  That simply covers a basic market failure identified by Milton Friedman and other market economists.

However if their theory doesn't hold up and gun deaths don't go down, then mental health will prove not to be the critical issue, and the Republicans will have to face the possibilities that guns are the real problem.

Fiscal Note:  According to USConservatives (and supported elsewhere) there are about 32,000 gun deaths per year.   Thus, this bill would, to start, require an expenditure $32,000,000,000, though that number doesn't include the extra costs for multiple death shootings.  With every thousand deaths reduced, there would be a $1 billion cut to the budget. 

[Repost yet again cause Feedburner isn't feeding. For those of you who have already gotten here, I apologize. I've tried reposting it and pinging Feedburner manually.  This last attempt I've recopied it to word processing to get rid of any code and created a new post from there.  Let's see if it finally works.  All this assumes the problem is in the post, not with Feedburner.  Also, I'm doing it on Safari this time instead of Firefox.] 

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