Cuomo’s ‘gun emergency’: Illusion disguised as action

Cuomo's 'gun emergency': Illusion disguised as action

Much of politics is based on what behavioral economists call “ action bias ,” the compulsion “to act even if there’s no evidence that it will lead to a better outcome.” That bias was evident this week when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a gun-violence emergency , explaining that “we went from one epidemic to another epidemic.” Cuomo’s declaration will do little beyond satisfying a need to act. Indeed, its main component — a law allowing citizens to sue gun manufacturers — will be as productive as trying to win the New York Marathon by running furiously in place. Yet Cuomo noted that crime fears have drained New York City of people and “they’re not coming back unless they feel safe.” That demands action, even when it is purely illusory. To be fair, politicians are not alone in action bias. A 2007 study showed the same bias among soccer goaltenders who instinctively jump to the right (44.4 percent) or the left (49.3 percent) without knowing where a penalty kick will land, even though staying in the center (6.3 percent) is the optimal choice. But politics is about perception so “doing something is better than nothing,” even when nothing will likely be achieved. Cuomo’s gun emergency package does include some concrete benefits not directly tied to gun violence. Of the $138.7 million in funding, for example, $58 million will go to summer youth programs. The highlight of the package, though, is a new law allowing people harmed by firearms […]

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