An article in the Economic Journal suggests that the demand for illegal guns in the U.S. is not met so easily as people might believe, reports The Economist. Sudhir Venkatesh, now of Columbia University, talked to 132 gang-members, 77 prostitutes, 116 gun-owning youths, 23 gun-dealers, and others in two Chicago neighborhoods. He did not find many satisfied customers.
Despite Chicago’s unusually tough restrictions on legal handguns, the black market is surprisingly thin, attracting relatively few buyers and sellers. The authors reckon that the 48,000 residents of the two neighbourhoods buy perhaps 1,400 guns a year, compared with at least 200,000 cocaine purchases. Underground brokers sell guns for $150-350, a mark-up of perhaps 200 percent over the legal price. They also demand a fee of $30-50 for orchestrating the deal. Even then, 30-40 percent of the transactions fall through because the seller cannot secure a gun, gets cold feet or cannot agree on a location for the deal. the authors argue that the gun market may be threadbare partly because the drug market is so plump. Gang-leaders are wary of gun-dealing because the extra police scrutiny that guns attract would jeopardize their earnings from coke and dope.