Externalities are unpaid-for side effects that accrue to third parties from the use of property by its owners. The effects may be beneficial or harmful to the third parties. If beneficial, the effects are known as “positive externalities”; if harmful, they are called “negative externalities.”

An example is a homeowner who has a beautifully landscaped lawn with lilac bushes. People walking by get the fragrance of lilacs in bloom. This fragrance is a benefit to anyone walking past those lilacs, so it is known as a “positive externality”. Another example is another homeowner dumping trash along the curb awaiting pickup by the city. People walking by get the stench of the trash rotting in the summer sun. This stench is not a benefit to anyone, so it is known as a “negative externality”.

Advocates of gun control are continuously pointing out how innocent victims are hurt or killed by the negligent or criminal use of guns. Yes, these are negative externalities. But what these same gun control advocates never acknowledge is the positive externalities of civilian gun ownership. The media never recognizes them, but they far outweigh the negative externalities.

Millions of people awake each morning to discover their homes have not been burglarized. Store owners arrive at their places of business to discover their stores have not been robbed. Women can walk alone or live alone without being raped. Yes, much is due to an increase in burglar alarms, door locks, doorbell cameras, and increased police patrols, but many are due, in part, to an increase in civilian gun ownership.

Millions of times each year homeowners and storekeepers protect themselves and their property using guns, often without a shot being fired. More often than not, the mere presence of a firearm sends a robber fleeing.

Now, here is where the positive externalities come in with respect to civilian gun ownership. If a criminal is killed by a gun during the commission of a crime, that is positive externality #1, because he will commit no more crimes, for which everyone benefits. If a criminal is wounded or captured during the commission of a crime, that is positive externality #2, because the criminal’s desire to commit a similar crime in the future is lessened, again, for which everyone benefits when the criminal is off the streets.

A survey of criminals asserted that criminals are more afraid of civilians with guns than they are of the police. In fact, the majority of home break-ins occur during the day, when the homeowners are at work. Do you ever see active shooter incidents at NRA conventions or bike week in Sturgis? No. Criminals will shy away from places where people can be armed. This is a positive externality never reported in the news.

Back in 1967, there was a well-publicized transformation in Orlando where burglaries and rapes dropped dramatically after 2500 women went through a training program on the use of handguns. Now that…was a positive externality!

Here is where the real positive externality is realized. Suppose you live in a planned subdivision in the suburbs. Word on the street or social media is that many of the homeowners own guns. But criminals desiring to burglarize those homes have no idea which homeowners own guns and which do not. So the criminal rolls the dice or goes to another community. Those homeowners who do not own guns reap a benefit of positive externality by some of their neighbors owning guns. Of that group of non-gun owners, not one of them has a sign in their front yard which reads “the owners of this house will not defend it with armed force.” They rely on the unspoken benefit.

Another effect, but less thought of, is the positive externalities realized with restrictions on government. Can you imagine what federal, state and local policies would have been put in place if there were no gun laws and the government bureaucrats had unrestricted access to policy-making in which they did not fear a potential armed revolt by the masses? Imagine if the government could institute massive tax hikes or limit civil rights. This country will be turned into Nazi Germany. Imagine if the government can haul you away for your beliefs, your race, your ethnicity, your political affiliation…just like Nazi Germany did to their Jews. One of the the first things the Nazis did upon coming to power was to seize guns…preventing citizens from defending themselves, even those Germans who abhorred guns. Imagine the positive externality we have that we are not Nazi Germany.