Book's Premise: More Guns, Less Crimeby Dr. Paul Gallant
"Does allowing people to own or carry guns deter violent crime? Or does it simply cause more citizens to harm each other?" That's the opening to a remarkable new book, "More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws", by Dr. John R. Lott, Jr., an economist at the University of Chicago.
The question concerns us all, and the answer can not be just somebody's guess, or personal opinion - it must be one we can bet our lives on, perhaps even the lives of our loved ones. The senseless tragedy which recently unfolded in Jonesboro, Arkansas, only serves to punctuate the need for that indisputable answer with a sense of urgency. Lott devotes the rest of his book to giving us that answer.
Lott's research - based on 54,000 separate observations from over 3,000 counties, spaced over 18 years - gives scientific validation to a very politically-incorrect premise: society benefits from ordinary people who accept the responsibilities of firearm ownership - not from gun-control laws. Preventing law-abiding citizens from carrying firearms for self-defense does not end violent crime - "it merely makes victims more vulnerable...".
Lott's findings, replicated independently by other researchers, challenge virtually every claim of traditional gun-control dogma. Here are some of his myth-shattering conclusions.
- Allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns reduces violent crime. The reduction corresponds very closely to the number of concealed-handgun permits issued. On average, murder rates in states banning concealed-carry are 127% higher than in states having the most liberal carry laws. A 1% increase in firearm ownership reduces violent crime by 4.1%.
- Passage of the Brady Law in 1994 has not been accompanied by a statistically significant decline in murder or robbery. It has, however, been associated with significant increases in rape and aggravated assaults, presumably from the increased difficulty encountered by law-abiding citizens in obtaining firearms for self-defense.
- Of particular interest, in the wake of Jonesboro, is Lott's research on mass public shootings. Lott found that deaths and injuries from mass public shootings - incidents in which at least 2 people were killed or injured in a public place - fall dramatically after right-to-carry concealed-handgun laws are passed. In states where data was available both before and after passage of such laws, the average death rate from mass public shootings plummeted 69%!
Lott explained: "People who engage in mass public shootings are deterred by the possibility that law-abiding citizens may be carrying guns. Such people may be deranged, but they still appear to care whether they will themselves be shot as they attempt to kill others." Lott pointed out that efforts to ban all guns from schools, like "gun-free school zones", make schools safe - not for our children, but for those intent on harming them!
In fact, the one factor common to all three states which had such shootings since early last year, is that each had provisions for the concealed-carry of handguns - except in and around public schools! Allowing responsible adults and teachers access to guns would serve to make schools less vulnerable to mass shootings. That's exactly what stopped a 1997 shooting spree in Pearl, Mississippi, when an assistant principal retrieved a gun from his car, and immobilized the gunman until police arrived.
- Large, urban, densely populated areas benefit the most from concealed-carry laws. Ironically, these are the areas where opposition to such laws by politicians is greatest. When allowed the means to defend themselves, law-abiding minorities in the most crime-prone areas produced the greatest reductions in crime. Lott noted that laws which seek to ban low-cost firearms - i.e. so-called "Saturday-Night-Specials" - only serve to disarm those very people.
- Women who carry concealed handguns provide a greater margin of safety for other women. While murder rates decline when either more men or more women carry concealed handguns, the drop is even greater among women than among men. Rapists are particularly susceptible to the deterrence of a potentially armed woman.
- Firearm-prohibitionists often argue that, as more people carry handguns, accidents are bound to increase. However, Lott found that accident and suicide rates are unaltered by the presence of concealed handguns.
More Guns, Less Crime should be mandatory reading for every legislator or bureaucrat who has input into public policy-making. Some may not like what Lott has to say, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be held accountable to the truth. Public policy ought not be held hostage to bias, hysteria, or ignorance.
Dr. Lott's book ends with a question: "Will allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns save lives?" The answer he gives is a very definite "yes, it will." As Lott demonstrates, even those bent on disarming their fellow Americans are made safer by the choice of responsible citizens to own and carry firearms for protection.
The writer lives in Wesley Hills and is chairman, Committee for Law-Abiding Gun Owners, Rockland
Reprinted from the Rockland Journal-News (Rockland County, NY), May 1, 1998.