More Gun Crimes, Less Sanity About Gun Control
Every time a gun crime happens in this country, the mainstream media give it sensationalistic coverage, and liberals cover their mouths with their hands like little girls and then remove them and start howling about the necessity of even more gun control legislation than the historically high levels we have now.
As the just published third edition of John Lott’s classic More Guns, Less Crime exhaustively demonstrates, liberals are moving in exactly the wrong direction in their zeal to stop gun crime.
Lott’s central thesis is that (1) criminals are less likely to commit violent crimes if they know there are significant numbers of concealed carry permit holders with weapons, (2) gun restrictions make it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns for self-defense, (3) gun restrictions have no effect on criminals’ intent or ability to obtain weapons, and (4) gun restrictions thus disarm only potential crime victims, whereas reduced gun restrictions arm citizens and frighten off criminals.
Lott supports his hypothesis via mountains of data analyzed at the national, state, and county level, looking at both overall rates of crimes and the more relevant changes in trends before and after permissive nondiscretionary laws are passed. He examines multiple categories of crime including murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. He shows that his results hold, both controlling and not controlling for every demographic variable under the sun, as well as unrelated but important crime rate indicators such as arrest rates, policing strategies, and national trends.
Lott shows that the number of accidental deaths from increased possession of licensed weapons is so minor that it is dwarfed by the number of additional lives saved via increased citizen defense against would-be criminals.
Lott notes the astonishing fact that loosening gun restrictions has had such a positive impact on reducing states’ crime rates over the last two decades that not a single state legislature has even scheduled a debate on repealing nondiscretionary gun laws once they have been passed.
In her semiweekly snarkfest in The New York Times, Gail Collins frequently mocks pro-gun legislators for opposing the slightest, most seemingly inconsequential gun control restrictions, such as not recognizing permits across state lines, banning guns in national parks, and instituting gun show sales regulations.
In fact, Lott’s book just about literally shows that having as many law-abiding citizens with permits as possible, with as few restrictions on obtaining and keeping permits as possible, and the carrying of concealed weapons allowed in as many places as possible, reduces crime to the greatest degree.
For example, Lott finds that murder, robbery, and aggravated assault all increase in states that adopt “one-gun-a-month” rules, and that rape increases after the imposition of a mandatory waiting period. Rape, robbery, and burglary rates increase in states that pass “safe-storage” rules, and rape increased significantly after the adoption of the 1994 anti-gun Brady law. The number of permits in a state significantly predicts reduced crime rates for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and violent crime overall.
Lott’s findings are instructive in light of the recent University of Texas-Austin shooting, in which college sophomore Colton Tooley unleashed a hail of bullets from his semiautomatic weapon onto students in the street, then headed to the library and shot himself. The shooting echoed the infamous 1966 shooting on the university’s campus, in which student Charles Whitman climbed to the observation deck of the UT clock tower and fired into the crowd, killing 13 people and injuring 2.
UT Austin, like most college campuses, doesn’t allow concealed carry gun permits for students or even security guards. The state legislature introduced a bill to allow such permits in 2009, but Democrats defeated it. Republican state senators plan to reintroduce the bill in the 2011 session. The recent UT Austin shooting could have been prevented or mitigated by the widespread knowledge on campus that guards and possibly students were carrying concealed weapons.
But the Associated Press reported anti-gun nut John Woods, genius graduate student (and major in a field other than logic), saying, “I can’t think of any way that the situation yesterday would have been improved by additional guns.” Hmm… maybe one of the additional gun holders could have threatened or shot the attacker before he sprayed more bullets into the crowd? Or maybe the gunman wouldn’t have pulled his crazy stunt if he had known there were numerous law-abiding permit holders on campus with concealed weapons ready to stop him?
Woods should know better, given that he was attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute during its 2007 mass shooting—another bloody massacre that could have been prevented or mitigated if the school had allowed guns on campus and one in which several of Woods’ friends were among the 32 killed.
Lott’s book, whose foundational empirical study was comprehensive and prescient enough to be capable of answering virtually every possible objection when it first came out in 1998 (in a chapter containing detailed responses to two dozen hypothetical counterarguments to his work), responded to critics’ actual arguments in the second edition in 2000, and to additional arguments in the third edition released this year. Lott did so via references to his original analyses, new analyses done on the original data, new analyses done on new data, and new analyses done on critics’ data. Thus, the most recent More Guns bears the distinction of featuring Lott’s defense against critics of his defense against critics of his defense against critics of his original study. I think he’s pretty well answered any fair and reasonable person’s concerns by now.
Lott concludes More Guns, 3rd edition thusly: “The gun-control debate has changed dramatically over the last decade. In the past the question was how much guns caused crime. The debate now is over whether there are benefits from gun ownership and how large those benefits are” (emphasis added).
He’s wrong about the debate over whether there are benefits from gun ownership—Lott’s work has conclusively settled the matter.