Do high fees help prevent poor people from getting guns for protection?
High fees to obtain a gun prevent poor people from getting guns. I have pointed to panel evidence of this not only in my book, More Guns, Less Crime, but in cross-sectional data (see for example this data from Texas). Here is some new evidence for Chicago from the Chicago Reader. The panel data allows for better controls for the different reasons that people own guns, but, at least in this case, the cross-sectional data is still consistent.
John Lott, an economist who argues that gun control laws like Chicago's actually lead to higher crime, says the cost of meeting the gun application's training and registration requirements essentially discriminates against low-income black communities. In Chicago, the training and permit fees cost about $250 on top of the price of the gun.
"Those who are most likely to be victims of crime benefit the most from owning guns, and unfortunately, that is one very well defined group in our country, poor blacks who live in high crime urban areas such as Chicago," Lott wrote in an e-mail. "But these white, middle class areas can much more easily afford the fees to register their guns and to go through the training requirements."
Roderick Sawyer, alderman of the Sixth Ward, is skeptical of that theory. "It's like buying a car," he says. "If you want one you'll find a way to do it."
A surveys of readers on the question "Does the city's gun registration law discriminate against low-income residents?" is available at ChicagoNow.