Wednesday, January 02, 2013

What is the Tipping Point for Increased Safety Through Gun Ownership?

As Malcolm Gladwell famously noted, in any trend there is a tipping point, a point in time and development where a growing trend begins to make an impact on society as a whole.  There is a point in which a fashion trend, for example, goes "viral" seemingly exploding on the scene when in fact it has been bubbling in certain circles for months, years even.

In the aftermath of a rape in an Indian bus that lead to the death of the victim, Indian authorities have seen a big jump in inquiries among women for gun licenses.  In the wake of reports of sexual abuse of women and girls as young as 11 in the media, the fact that women distrust law enforcement in India is not surprising and a push to have more self-protection is to be understood.

As Glenn Reynolds put it: "Smart move. And if enough women carry guns, this sort of thing won’t happen much."  Which leads to the question, how many is enough women?

Clearly, if all women were carrying weapons, no man in his right mind would attempt a rape, or any other kind of assault, after all, even idiotic men have some sense of self-protection.  At the other end of the spectrum, if no women are carrying weapons then attackers may act largely with impunity--particularly in light of a dearth of law enforcement on the matter.

But somewhere in between none and all is a magic number, a certain percentage of women who are carrying weapons that will begin tipping the scales to safety for ALL women.  What is that number?  Is it one in five, one in ten, one in a hundred?  If on a given bus if one woman is carrying a weapon, but the potential attacker doesn't know who, how many women are protected by that uncertainty?  If that figure is then extrapolated to society as a whole, then there does not need to be an entirely armed population, only that portion of the population necessary for would be rapists, muggers or other assailants to think twice.

In the United States, where gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right (at least in most of the United States), not everyone needs to be carrying a weapon in order for there to be enough risk for an assailant to be prevented by the presence and potential use of a weapon against the assailant to be a deterrent force.  this seems to be a fairly good example of the free rider feature of society.  Not everyone needs to be armed to have a safer society, just enough of us.  

So what is that magical percentage?  Any one have any ideas?  

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