Fu, Feng and Daniel N. Rockmore

In the United States the laws regulating the carrying of firearms in public vary state-to-state. In a highly publicized event, the Governor of New Mexico recently issued an emergency order temporarily banning the carrying of firearms in some areas – and thus rescinding the right-to-carry law in New Mexico – after a spate of gun violence, citing a statistical threshold of general societal violence under which right-to-carry laws should be superseded. In this paper we frame this policy intervention as a dynamical systems model that measures the incidence of gun violence as a function of gun prevalence. We show that the Governor's emergency order – fittingly issued as an emergency health order – is effectively like trying to stop an epidemic after it has become viral in that with this kind of instantaneous stopping condition, under simple assumptions, such a regulation is too little, too late. On the other hand, a graduated response that scales with increasing violence can drive equilibrium gun prevalence to zero. This is a new mathematical model relating gun violence with gun prevalence which we hope continues to spur the modeling community to bring its tools and techniques to bear on this important and challenging social problem. More importantly, our model, despite its simplicity, exhibits complex dynamics and has substantial research and educational value in promoting the application of mathematics in the social sciences, extending beyond gun control issues.