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More Guns = Less Crime.

  • #1

    So says John Lott, a long-time research scientist, author, and lecturer on the subject of gun control in the US and worldwide.

    See this presentation, as well as many books on the subject, or this interview (below).


    Question: What does the title mean: More Guns, Less Crime?

    John R. Lott, Jr.: States with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest drops in violent crimes. Thirty-one states now have such laws—called "shall-issue" laws. These laws allow adults the right to carry concealed handguns if they do not have a criminal record or a history of significant mental illness.


    Question: It just seems to defy common sense that crimes likely to involve guns would be reduced by allowing more people to carry guns. How do you explain the results?

    Lott: Criminals are deterred by higher penalties. Just as higher arrest and conviction rates deter crime, so does the risk that someone committing a crime will confront someone able to defend him or herself. There is a strong negative relationship between the number of law-abiding citizens with permits and the crime rate—as more people obtain permits there is a greater decline in violent crime rates. For each additional year that a concealed handgun law is in effect the murder rate declines by 3 percent, rape by 2 percent, and robberies by over 2 percent.

    Concealed handgun laws reduce violent crime for two reasons. First, they reduce the number of attempted crimes because criminals are uncertain which potential victims can defend themselves. Second, victims who have guns are in a much better position to defend themselves.


    Question: What is the basis for these numbers?

    Lott: The analysis is based on data for all 3,054 counties in the United States during 18 years from 1977 to 1994.


    Question: Your argument about criminals and deterrence doesn't tell the whole story. Don't statistics show that most people are killed by someone they know?

    Lott: You are referring to the often-cited statistic that 58 percent of murder victims are killed by either relatives or acquaintances. However, what most people don't understand is that this "acquaintance murder" number also includes gang members killing other gang members, drug buyers killing drug pushers, cabdrivers killed by customers they picked up for the first time, prostitutes and their clients, and so on. "Acquaintance" covers a wide range of relationships. The vast majority of murders are not committed by previously law-abiding citizens. Ninety percent of adult murderers have had criminal records as adults.


    Question: But how about children? In March of this year [1998] four children and a teacher were killed by two school boys in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Won't tragedies like this increase if more people are allowed to carry guns? Shouldn't this be taken into consideration before making gun ownership laws more lenient?

    Lott: The horrific shooting in Arkansas occurred in one of the few places where having guns was already illegal. These laws risk creating situations in which the good guys cannot defend themselves from the bad ones. I have studied multiple victim public shootings in the United States from 1977 to 1995. These were incidents in which at least two or more people were killed and or injured in a public place; in order to focus on the type of shooting seen in Arkansas, shootings that were the byproduct of another crime, such as robbery, were excluded. The effect of "shall-issue" laws on these crimes has been dramatic. When states passed these laws, the number of multiple-victim shootings declined by 84 percent. Deaths from these shootings plummeted on average by 90 percent, and injuries by 82 percent.

    For other types of crimes, I find that both children as well as adults are protected when law-abiding adults are allowed to carry concealed handguns.

    Finally, after extensively studying the number of accidental shootings, there is no evidence that increasing the number of concealed handguns increases accidental shootings. We know that the type of person who obtains a permit is extremely law-abiding and possibly they are extremely careful in how they take care of their guns. The total number of accidental gun deaths each year is about 1,300 and each year such accidents take the lives of 200 children 14 years of age and under. However, these regrettable numbers of lives lost need to be put into some perspective with the other risks children face. Despite over 200 million guns owned by between 76 to 85 million people, the children killed is much smaller than the number lost through bicycle accidents, drowning, and fires. Children are 14.5 times more likely to die from car accidents than from accidents involving guns.


    Question: Wouldn't allowing concealed weapons increase the incidents of citizens attacking each other in tense situations? For instance, sometimes in traffic jams or accidents people become very hostile—screaming and shoving at one another. If armed, might people shoot each other in the heat of the moment?

    Lott: During state legislative hearings on concealed-handgun laws, possibly the most commonly raised concern involved fears that armed citizens would attack each other in the heat of the moment following car accidents. The evidence shows that such fears are unfounded. Despite millions of people licensed to carry concealed handguns and many states having these laws for decades, there has only been one case where a person with a permit used a gun after a traffic accident and even in that one case it was in self-defence.


    Question: Violence is often directed at women. Won't more guns put more women at risk?

    Lott: Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but a gun represents a much larger change in a woman's ability to defend herself than it does for a man. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about 3 to 4 times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men.


    Question: Aren't you playing into people's fears and prejudices though? Don't politicians pass these shall-issue laws to mollify middle-class white suburbanites anxious about the encroachment of urban minority crime?

    Lott: I won't speculate about motives, but the results tell a different story. High crime urban areas and neighborhoods with large minority populations have the greatest reductions in violent crime when citizens are legally allowed to carry concealed handguns.


    Question: What about other countries? It's often argued that Britain, for instance, has a lower violent crime rate than the USA because guns are much harder to obtain and own.

    Lott: The data analyzed in this book is from the USA. Many countries, such as Switzerland, New Zealand, Finland, and Israel have high gun-ownership rates and low crime rates, while other countries have low gun ownership rates and either low or high crime rates. It is difficult to obtain comparable data on crime rates both over time and across countries, and to control for all the other differences across the legal systems and cultures across countries. Even the cross country polling data on gun ownership is difficult to assess, because ownership is underreported in countries where gun ownership is illegal and the same polls are never used across countries.


    Question: This is certainly controversial and there are certain to be counter-arguments from those who disagree with you. How will you respond to them?

    Lott: Some people do use guns in horrible ways, but other people use guns to prevent horrible things from happening to them. The ultimate question that concerns us all is: Will allowing law-abiding citizens to own guns save lives? While there are many anecdotal stories illustrating both good and bad uses of guns, this question can only be answered by looking at data to find out what the net effect is.

    All of chapter seven of the book is devoted to answering objections that people have raised to my analysis. There are of course strong feelings on both sides about the issue of gun ownership and gun control laws. The best we can do is to try to discover and understand the facts. If you agree, or especially if you disagree with my conclusions I hope you'll read the book carefully and develop an informed opinion.

  • #2

    As a law enforcement officer, I am a big believer in citizens being afforded the right to own and posess a weapon.

    To those with differing opinions, I phrase this question to them. If your wife, mother, sister, girlfriend, whoever really, was walking down the street and a man was attempting to rob and rape them, would you prefer if they had a weapon on them?

  • #3

    I agree. To remove the right of effective self-defence from people seems fundamentally infantalizing and unlawful to me, regardless of whether or not some group of government officials are in favor of doing so at any particular point in time.

    If the media reported both sides of this story fairly (I have never seen John Lott interviewed or referenced in the mainstream media, despite his obvious expertise on this topic), the US and Canada would have much wiser gun laws than they do at present IMO.

  • #4

    New Jersey has some pretty bad gun laws. Unless your an LEO, there is zero chance of you legally being allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Meanwhile,. any thug on the street can get one with zero problem. Criminals don't have if they have unregistered guns.

  • #5

    This ties into another anti-liberty program IMO, the "war on drugs", as making drugs illegal drives money into the hands of criminals and fills the prisons with drug users/sellers, while diverting police resources away from catching genuine criminals and into persecuting drug users.

    This has resulted in a significant drop in the capture and prosecution of genuine criminals since the "war on drugs" was started (see http://www.chess.com/groups/forumview/the-war-on-drugs-has-been-an-epic-failure), something that should be of great concern to those worried about violent crime IMO.

  • #6

    @ Philman: Sorry if my last post sounded snide in relation to your role as a police officer. I thought the two things (WOD and gun control) went together as described, the post was not meant as a jab at yourself or your colleagues.

    I have great respect for genuine peace officers (those dealing with harm/fraud/loss to others), and even respect those who enforce bad laws with honourable intentions. I do however feel strongly about the WOD as I believe it does tremendous harm to society as described in some detail in the link above, and that the case against it deserves to be made when relevant.

  • #7

    While the Second Amendment is grammatically incorrect, and no one has explained to me what exactly a "well-regulated militia" is, I see no reason to repeal it--the Nazis took away anything resembling weaponry from the Jews (including "pointed sticks"--really) by 1935--but I do see harm in gun ownership.  The excellent investigative reporter Bill Curtis had an hour on how twice as many cops kill themselves with their service weapon that are killed by criminals, and I've read stats that gun owners in the U.S. are far more likely to use it on themselves than on an intruder.


    Vermont is the second-least populated state in the Union with a tiny a hunting culture compared to, say, Mountain time zone states.  The homicide rate is near-zero  Surprisingly, Vermont is an open-carry state, but there are intimidation laws that mollify that law.  In 2010 there were only three murders in the state, none involving guns; in 2011 in a span of two months we had two gun murders in Brattleboro and a nearby town, one a workplace grievance where the perpetrator surrendered his firearm "in an unthreatening manner" to the responding officer, the other a young woman who got involved with local gangbanging crack "prince" pins, to coin a phrase.

  • #8

    So, like many liberties, I empathize with those who disdain the erosion of the Second, but at the same time have no need--for the foreseeable future--to exercise said liberty.

    Last I heard--and I admit this was awhile ago--the NRA recommended that if you choose not to have a firearm, having a pool stick handy is the next best thing.  A bit light but not as unevenly weighted as a baseball bat, if you learn a handful of quarterstaff techniques--and there are many olde books with drawings as well as modern literature--your reflexes could save your skin.

  • #9

    @ Klang: I think that the militia was recognized as a safeguard against the overreach of government power, though I agree that it would have been better if it was described as "the right of lawful citizens to effectively defend themselves with guns shall not be infringed".

    That said, the work of Mr. Lott seems to pretty effectively demonstrate that gun control (of non-criminals) leads to more crime across both the US and indeed the world (see the linked video). I would like to see those arguing the point deal with the data, as well as the research that suggests that criminals don't want to deal with armed - or potential armed - citizens when going about their criminal business, and also the fact that armed non-criminals use their weapons very responsibly indeed.

    As for non-gun weapons I would suggest a machete, as people tend to be more afraid of knives than of almost any other weapon. That said, someone willing and able to use a gun is better defended than one with a knife or pool stick, I see no reason to strip people of this most effective form of self-defence by way of the state.

    As for policing, it is recognized as an intrinsically stressful business (dealing with criminals and victims all day). That said, I think it would be less stressful if criminals were afraid of (armed) potential victims, and if police were more able to effectively deal with actual crimes instead of seeing many of these crimes go unsolved and/or largely unpunished via the diversion of vital resources to the "drug war", which is more rightly dealt with as a medical/psychological issue IMO.

  • #10

    @Tao:  outside of my reference regarding the de-weaponizing of Jews upon the advent of Nazi governmental dominance, I don't believe I spoke towards "policing" nor "the drug war".  As you injected the terms into your response, they are two different domains, and if I did not make myself clear before, I denigrate the drug war, whereas my vastly differenly experiences in different places within both Canuckadom and The Empire makes "policing" a term demanding qualification.


    I think, but am not sure, you disapprove of what I understand to be the NRA's advice.  I merely repeated what I believe I was told still and believe to be true.  Your pseudo-psychological belief in initial fear begets no relevance IMO.  A well-placed quarterstaff whack achieves the same effect.


    Your reply demands that one responds to your opinion of what is most relevant while conspiculously omitting my objection that you are conflating "crime" and "harm".  When I initiated the Libertarianism-compatibility forum, I entertained other models interjected by another member of the group--it was an intellectually sound articulation of lateral thinking.  Omission is not lateral thinking.  That forum stopped dead in its tracks when no one would address quite direct questions.


    In short, issue one more example to make it three times and thus a pattern of behavior and I can write off your comments as simple re-contextualization of the issue raised so you can promote your agenda of choice.  I remain unimpressed by the responses I've read.  We agree in essence, but as a matter of logic/order/call-it-what-you-will, we are far apart.  To assert that armed non-criminals don't commit and probably reduce crime is to assert a tautology, which is fine if asserting that the Sun rises from the East is a talking point more worthy than omphaloskepsis.

  • #11

    @ Klangen: I'm really not sure why you seem mad here. The comments about policing and the "drug war" were in relation to the larger topic (mentioned before you joined) of personal choice and liberty, I was not suggesting you were in favour of either the drug-war nor other forms of policing that would infringe on the decisions of people that do not cause harm others.

    The NRA may be quite right that a quarterstaff is an effective weapon. I don't know what you intended by the term "pseudo-psychological", the prefex "pseudo" tends to imply falseness in common english, though an online dictionary suggests "pseudo-psychological" simply means "pertaining to the mind". The idea of knives inducing a strong fear effect comes from an expert in the field of fear and combat, namely Lt. Col. Dave Grossman as I recall, or if not him then from Dr. Glenn Morris, an accomplished martial artist with a degree in psychology. Lt. Col. Grossman is a former army ranger who has studied the topic for decades, has lectured to West Point, has been published in major military journals, and who has written a number of well-reviewed books on the subject. In retropsect I should have noted this in my first post to better explain the viewpoint, it was not meant as an insult to yourself or the NRA.

    Did you mean to imply that initial fear not be relevant, especially if the goal is to scare off someone (a criminal/attacker) who should not be morally or legally coming at you in the first place, and is likely afraid of death (more likely with a knife than with a blunt instrument) and/or capture should he be disabled or otherwise scarred by a cut that could leave a blood trail and/or require stitching? Also, if an assailant comes with a knife and the intended victim holds a pool cue, and the knife installs more fear than the pool cue does, wouldn't that give the edge to the assailant?

    As for your comment about "crime" vs. "harm", I don't understand what you meant. Initiating force is immoral in my view, taking action that can only hurt oneself is not immoral, and is therefore not rightly termed a criminal act. This is a fundamental tenet of libertarianism, and is certainly not out of place in a forum devoted to that philosophy IMO.


I tried to address your questions and concerns in the Libertarian-compatibility as cleanly and clearly (which sometimes requires context to explain the bigger picture) as I could, the only question I did not answer directly was the "proper role of government" question, to which I would answer that it is to protect individual rights and freedoms. You also came at the question from different angles, and I tried to demonstrate how the good intentions of the socialist angle seem to fail in reality, while the "purer" Libertarian views have succeeded to a tremendous degree in the US and elsewhere. If you have any other direct questions that my links and comments have not addressed feel free to ask them, and I will reply to the best of my abilities.


Re. your "write off my comments as a simple recontextualization to promote an agenda" comment, I again do not understand what you mean, unless you deem my taking things from a broader libertarian viewpoint (including relevant tangents when applicable) as somehow illegitimate. I think in broad terms, and it seems to me that the WOD restricts human rights and produces violence, that gun control also restricts human rights and produces violence, and that both of these things are driven by anti-libertarian mindsets that deserve to be discussed, especially with the tremendous amount of harm being done IMO by both policies. I believe my examples are relevant and well-backed by history, as referenced by the numerous links I tend to provide in most of my responses, and are wholly in line with the goal of a forum on libertarian thought, i.e. to demonstrate how that line of thought can and does via reason and and in reality to improve the lives of individuals and groups within a society.


Mr. Lott who seems very well-qualified (through his scientific training and years of research and writing on the topic) to speak on the topic, and who seems to address most if not all of the concerns that those in favor of gun control bring up in these types of debates. One of the main concerns of the gun-control lobby (perhaps the biggest one from what I've seen) is that non-criminals who purchase guns will use them in moments of rage or "temporary insanity", something that simply does not appear to happen according to the research.  If this is indeed not a problem, and if lawful people owning guns do indeed prevent crime (as does appear to be the case), then this "tautology" itself effectively dismantles the idea that these people should be restricted from owning guns, which strikes at the heart of the matter as I understand it. How this could be deemed irrelevant is therefore quite beyond my understanding…


You suggest you are unimpressed by the responses referencing the work of Mr. Lott, or perhaps my WOD thread(?), or perhaps  in my other thread(s),  but you have not really refuted the claims in any of those as far as I know. If indeed you have the reason and evidence to refute any of my claims, please do, it would benefit everyone here to get to the truth of these matters, as nuanced as it may happen to be. I cannot claim total knowledge or perfect reasoning on these topics, but to accuse me of simply promoting an (illogical?, immoral?) agenda or otherwise debating unfairly when I try my best to back my posts with reasoning and evidence seems - with all due respect - unfair and misguided to me.


    Side note: It seems that either editing a post soon after its initial posting or taking a long time to write a post in the comment section can result in its deletion or non-posting. I suggest that people here witting longer posts that may need editing do so on another document first, and copy it to chess.com afterwards as to not lose their work.

  • #12

    "Tao999 wrote:@ Klangen: I'm really not sure why you seem mad here."

    "mad" as angry or insane? 

    This is not a pedantic question.  Eighth-grade top-shelf 1978 Toronto academia required Latin class with "Fat Harry", a pervert who had his good fortune to be tenured in that position, but neveretheless once a year he taught me and a dozen others disambiguation within an hour.

    I'll respond to the rest if I actually get a genuine answer to the query above.  I stopped reading after the first sentence; your use of language is highly objectionable, and my first but not foremost objection is found in your reply's sentence.

    As an aside assuredly ignored, kindly stick to quality and not quantity and certaiinly not repetiton--as the ninny used to say on the Simpsons,
    "Think of the children" as if it was the end-all to our problems.

     cheers klang

  • #13

    Mad as in angry. As you might have noticed I try hard to avoid personal insults and would be quite unlikely to call someone crazy, especially in a group I adminster (I would consider it to be unprofessional).

    That said, it seems our conversations in this forum have gotten off track in a bad way, perhaps a cooling off period would be wise for both of us?

    Conversely, maybe asking others here of their thoughts on our respective clarity and insight (and any other relevant factors that might come up) would be informative, as per the misunderstanding/miscommunication that seem to have occurred here between us despite our good intentions. If this interests you we could as for said thoughts in a particular thread(s), or perhaps in another group set up specifically for the purpose.

    Peace; Tao999

  • #14



    My ex-girlfriend's father was an Indiana state trooper living in Martinsville.  When the first-born (a boy) found his service revolver, he brought it to his room; naturally, it discharged--thankfully, into the wall.  The father never fixed the hole so the kid would learn a lesson.

  • #15

    As with many things that get debated, I think the gun-control issue suffers from the problem of "the seen and the unseen". While the seen (children getting a hold of guns with terrible outcomes) gets plenty of media coverage, the unseen (1.5 million violent crimes per year in the US prevented by guns, states with the highest gun ownership showing the lowest violent crime rate, etc. - see below) is not easily nor prominently reported on.


    From http://www.aim.org/media-monitor/anti-gun-propaganda/

    John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” spoke at the recent AIM 30th anniversary conference ...

    In 1997, he said there were about 440,000 violent crimes and 9,000 murders committed with guns. By contrast, there were over 2 million violent crimes prevented through the use of guns. The media, Lott said, focus on the former category because it produces an actual victim or a dead body. The latter usually produces no rapist or murderer or actual crime. He said the media's emphasis on the bad things that happen with guns causes the public to think that guns are more of a problem than a solution. After the Atlanta day-trader attack in the summer, which was widely publicized by the media, Lott said there were three incidents in Atlanta within ten days where citizens used guns to stop similar attacks. “Those get very little attention,” he pointed out.

    ... Another myth about guns is that friends or relatives can easily pick up a gun and kill someone. This is based on figures showing that acquaintances carry out many murders. But the term “acquaintances” refers in most cases to rival gang members who know each other, rival drug dealers, prostitutes and their clients or pimps, and taxi cab drivers and their passengers.

    ... Another myth—that America has a high murder rate because Americans own so many guns—also crumbles under scrutiny. Lott said that while the overall international data are inconclusive, the facts show that states in the U.S. with the highest gun ownership rate have the lowest violent crime rate. More significantly, states with the biggest increases in gun ownership have had the biggest relative drops in violent crime.

    Another misleading claim is that 13 children a day die from guns. But these “children” can be up to 19 years of age. Nine of those 13 deaths a day involve 17,18, or 19 year-olds—primarily gang members fighting each other. But pictures of innocent 7 or 8 year-old victims are typically shown.

  • #16

    From reddit user eighthgear (via http://www.reddit.com/r/AdviceAnimals/comments/x0iji/time_for_a_war_on_guns/c5i5wx7?context=2) (underlining is mine)


    Norway has far more guns than the UK but less crime. The fact is, crime rates depend on multiple social and economic factors. It isn't as simple as more guns = more crime, as many liberals advocate, or more guns = less crime, as many conservatives advocate. Don't believe me? Take a gander at this interesting study published by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.


    Murder rates are determined by socio‐economic and cultural factors. In the United States, those factors include that the number of civilian‐owned guns nearly equals the population— triple the ownership rate in even the highest European gun ownership nations—and that vast numbers of guns are kept for personal defense. That is not a factor in other nations with comparatively high firearm ownership. High gun ownership may well be a factor in the recent drastic decline in American homicide. But even so, American homicide is driven by socio‐economic and cultural factors that keep it far higher than the comparable rate of homicide in most European nations.

    In sum, though many nations with widespread gun ownership have much lower murder rates than nations that severely restrict gun ownership, it would be simplistic to assume that at all times and in all places widespread gun ownership depresses violence by deterring many criminals into nonconfrontation crime. There is evidence that it does so in the United States, where defensive gun ownership is a substantial socio‐cultural phenomenon. But the more plausible explanation for many nations having widespread gun ownership with low violence is that these nations never had high murder and violence rates and so never had occasion to enact severe anti‐gun laws. On the other hand, in nations that have experienced high and rising violent crime rates, the legislative reaction has generally been to enact increasingly severe antigun laws. This is futile, for reducing gun ownership by the law‐abiding citizenry—the only ones who obey gun laws—does not reduce violence or murder. The result is that high crime nations that ban guns to reduce crime end up having both high crime and stringent gun laws, while it appears that low crime nations that do not significantly restrict guns continue to have low violence rates.

    Thus both sides of the gun prohibition debate are likely wrong in viewing the availability of guns as a major factor in the incidence of murder in any particular society. Though many people may still cling to that belief, the historical, geographic, and demographic evidence explored in this Article provides a clear admonishment. Whether gun availability is viewed as a cause or as a mere coincidence, the long term macrocosmic evidence is that gun ownership spread widely throughout societies consistently correlates with stable or declining murder rates. Whether causative or not, the consistent international pattern is that more guns equal less murder and other violent crime. Even if one is inclined to think that gun availability is an important factor, the available international data cannot be squared with the mantra that more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death. Rather, if firearms availability does matter, the data consistently show that the way it matters is that more guns equal less violent crime.

  • #17

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