View Full Version : More Guns, Less Crime: Reprise

06-21-2010, 3:12 PM
In 1998, John R. Lott Jr. dropped a bombshell on the academic and legal worlds with More Guns, Less Crime. Lott had conducted perhaps the most detailed study of crime in history, using data from every county in America, and concluded that right-to-carry (RTC) laws -- which allow citizens to carry concealed guns, but typically require them to receive training and pass a background check first -- reduce crime.

The University of Chicago Press has just released a third edition of the book, with updated numbers and more than 100 pages of new material. In addition to expanding Lott's argument with data from the last decade, it provides an excellent chance to look at the current state of the gun-policy debate.

Three things are clear. One, despite years in the academic spotlight, this book's central argument about right-to-carry laws has failed to create any kind of consensus. Two, the dire predictions of right-to-carry opponents have not come true. Three, the next great gun-control debate will concern handgun bans -- and, Lott's attempt to demonstrate that they increase murder notwithstanding, their effect on crime rates is no clearer than right-to-carry laws'.


06-21-2010, 3:28 PM
Three, the next great gun-control debate will concern handgun bans -- and, Lott's attempt to demonstrate that they increase murder notwithstanding, their effect on crime rates is no clearer than right-to-carry laws'.

How does one argue this?

Nose Nuggets
06-21-2010, 4:16 PM
That, was a really good article. It brings up a lot of good points about the possible issues with a lot of the statistical over-time data presented in the book. However, the greatest pieces sum up the debate very well, in that there should be no debate.

With the econometricians still going back and forth after more than a decade, there's really no way for everyday citizens to choose sides -- as much as we may want to, and as much as activist organizations might urge us to. And as the National Academies panel suggested, it may be that econometric techniques are not precise enough to settle this debate, no matter how long we let the professionals fight it out.

The most important question is this: When people get concealed-carry permits, do they go on to misuse their guns? People often express concern, for example, that in the adrenaline rush of a car accident, an angry armed motorist might shoot the guy who ran into him.

Lott has been reporting on the behavior of permit holders for years, but the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime includes his most comprehensive list to date. Very few concealed-carry permits are revoked: In the 14 states that keep detailed records, revocation totals range from .01 to .25 percent, and overwhelmingly, revocations occur not because the permit holder misused a gun, but because he violated some other law. (In Kentucky, for example, the most common reason for revocation is a lack of vehicle insurance. In Utah, it's "alcohol violations.") Lott was able to find only 23 examples of permit holders committing murder with guns from 1990 to July 2008 -- assuming his list is comprehensive, that's a murder rate of 1/182nd that of the general population.

Meanwhile, in a much shorter period of time -- Dec. 14, 2008, to Jan. 11, 2009 -- ten permit holders stopped violent crimes. So, without resorting to regression analysis, we can prove reasonably convincingly that RTC does virtually no harm and some good.

This methodology, of course, fails to count the crimes that RTC deters -- the times when criminals don't even attack, out of fear that their victims might be armed. But once one has shown that permit holders don't commit crimes -- and thus that granting them additional freedom doesn't harm society -- any deterrence they provide is simply icing on the cake.

Gun-rights supporters shouldn't have to prove anything. They are on the side of freedom. Gun controllers, by contrast, want to restrict freedom, and thus must prove that their policies provide benefits that are worth that freedom. Whether the topic is RTC, handgun bans, buyback programs, assault-weapon restrictions, or registries, there is simply no evidence whatsoever indicating that to be the case. That's one thing that Lott and the debate he inspired have proven -- whatever the merits of the claim that gun control actually increases crime.

06-21-2010, 6:43 PM
That was a good read. The sad and unfortunate part is, that the people that are elected and cram useless and unnecessary laws down our throats, don't really care about crime rates or our safety. I am convinced that these findings are the unbiased truths. How the heck do you convince the rest of society?

06-21-2010, 8:51 PM
Oh, they care about crime rates... making them as high as possible, and destroying every last vestige of safety we can bestow upon ourselves.

06-21-2010, 8:59 PM
I literally finished the Second edition of this book yesterday. Now they go add 100 more pages to it. Guess that'll just have to be added to the pile of reading...