This Week in Research: Scalped Tickets and Illegal Firearms

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Ticket scalpers are widely considered to be bad guys, driving up prices and taking profits away from promoters who feel entitled to them — about $3 billion worth, in fact. But according to recent research out of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, the ticket resale market might actually be a good thing for promoters, entertainers, and consumers alike.

“With the existence of the resale market,” explains Ozge Sahin, Hopkins professor and co-author of the study, “consumers are more willing to buy fixed-price tickets well in advance, and pay more for them, because they know they can always resell them through Stub Hub or another broker if they find later they can’t attend the event. This benefits the promoters and performers because it enables them to sell a higher number of advance tickets, and at higher prices.”

In other words, since the ticket resale market seems unlikely to go away, event promoters should find ways to benefit from it. Sahin points out that dynamic pricing (in which ticket prices fluctuate according to demand — highly-desired tickets cost more than ones that are selling sluggishly) allows for a flexible market, and is benefitted by the presence of a secondary market. Another method is the ticket option, in which a spectator pays for the right to purchase a full-price ticket later. Think of it as a “I don’t want to decide right now” fee. Then the customer has until a pre-determined deadline to decide whether or not they actually want to make the purchase. “Ticket options should be part of every event organizer’s portfolio,” said Sahin. “They would reduce the organizers’ risk and give consumers another buying alternative.”

The recent shootings in Illinois and Michigan have caused many to wonder just how these men came by the guns they used to kill dozens of people. Recent research out of Johns Hopkins might give a clue as to why.

Researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the 13 states with the most lax standards for who can legally own a gun had jails that were — surprise surprise — full of people who committed crimes using guns they possessed legally. However, if those states had laws that resembled those in stricter states, nearly a third of them wouldn’t have been legally able to own a gun.

“Our findings indicate that more-stringent restrictions on firearm possession in states with the lowest standards would have made firearm possession illegal for many individuals who went on to commit a crime with a gun,” said Katherine Vittes, a Hopkins prof and lead author of the study. “It may be especially important to focus on laws that raise the legal age of handgun possession to 21 because many gun offenders are between 18 and 20 years old. Such laws are currently in place in five states.”

Furthermore, gun offenders were more likely to purchase their firearms from suppliers (who often don’t have to do criminal background checks), as opposed to licensed dealers. “That so many who committed gun crimes serious enough to lead to their incarceration in a state prison obtained their guns from sellers not required to keep records or verify the legal status of the buyer underscores the need to address loopholes in current gun policies,” said co-author Daniel Webster.

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