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The Bias Against Guns
John Lott

Review by George Landrith
Frontiers of Freedom Institute

Recently I toured a practice firing range for local police officers. The lead instructor and I talked at length about gun training, safety and technique. As the tour ended, our conversation turned to women and guns. I asked how many women actually carried guns. His answer, “Not enough.” I was taken back. He pointed out that more women should to be trained and carry a concealed weapon, which is legal in our state. The reason being that those who are physically weaker (usually women are compared to an attacker) gain the most benefits by protecting themselves.

The logic of the firearms instructor, although counter to the logic of our Million-Mom March culture, is consistent with the evidence of scholar John Lott. In his newest book, The Bias Against Guns, Lott turns the policies and arguments from the anti-gun crowd inside out to show that their solutions are not solutions, but perpetuators of the problem. In his previous book, More Guns, Less Crime, Lott presented research on defensive gun use. In this follow-up, he comes back to answer many of the questions that fill the debate about gun control.

Anti-gunners will definitely get hot under the collar at the conclusive research by Lott on defensive gun use. Facts are stubborn things and John Lott presents a wide array of stubborn facts to prove his point. From bias in government research and media reporting to the false premise behind policy initiatives like gunlocks and arming pilots, the book covers the hot button topics of the debate. Lott moves between anecdotal news and hard statistical evidence to uncover the bias against guns.

Of course most pro-gun Americans perceive a general loathing by the media. News stories and columnists usually seem to preach as truth that an armed public is a dangerous public. In analysis of news story after news story, Lott uncovers the reality of this bias. A memorable example was the reporting of a shooting in January of 2002 at a Virginia law school. A gunman opened fire on the campus and killed three students. He was stopped by three other students, two of whom had retrieved guns from their cars, were able to disarm the gunman and restrain him until the police arrived. During the week following the incident, over 200 news stories were written across the country. Of these, less than a hand full mention that these students were armed despite their heroics.

The bias is not limited to those in media. Recently, federal, state and local governments have jumped on the bandwagon of safe storage laws, and more specifically gun locks. Locks seem a viable solution to the headline news stories of accidental deaths among children because of a loaded and poorly stored weapons. In the last few years these stories, combined with school shootings, always seem to make national news. While the death of any individual is tragic, it is important that politicians not lose their heads by turning to emotional, reaction policies. Center for Disease Control statistics from 1999, show that more children under fifteen died from falls or bicycle accidents than from accidental gunfire. With the response we have seen to accidental gun deaths, it is surprising that more legislative work has not gone into bike safety, including helmets, training wheels, and bike lane requirements for our communities by the Department of Transportation. Additionally, more children die in backyard pools each year than from accidental shootings. The point is not to minimize any death, but to ask why some deaths are so publicized and so politicized and others which happen with much greater frequency are largely ignored.

On the surface, safe storage laws imply any home will be safer. Why not encourage gun owners to have and use locks? Why not encourage others, neighbors and family to use gun locks? Logic tells us that a gun in the home must be safer if it has a trigger lock.

Lott observes that the most obvious problem with locks is that they make it extremely difficult to use a gun defensively. The best example of this is an incident with former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening. At a news conference to roll out his proposal for gun locks, the Governor attempted to show how easy locks are to use. However, the demonstration backfired when he could not remove it. Finally several police officers had to step in and assist with the removal of the lock. With locks being this difficult to use, most people will quickly forego the lock. Moreover, if an attacker is on the scene, we can’t reasonably count on his patience as we try to unlock the gun or on his assistance to get the gunlock off.

Those who swear by gun bans and waiting periods as well as card-carrying members of the NRA, will find Lott’s work fascinating. Lott acknowledges that there are costs associated with having guns in society. However, there are also clear advantages that most fail to recognize. For example, in Great Britain, where there are strict gun control laws, nearly 60% of the burglaries occur when the residents are at home. Leaving citizens much more prone to being injured or killed while also being burguralized. Compare this to 13% in the US, where our laws still allow residence to have and use guns. The incentive to “case a house” is much higher when a criminal considers that he might end up on the wrong side of a gun. Thus, far fewer Americans are victimized while their television and stereo are being stolen. Simply stated, there are advantages to having guns. It is high time, we not only weigh the costs of having guns, and begin to consider the advantages that gun ownership can bring to individuals and to our society.

John Lott takes a stand against the tide of popular opinion armed with stubborn facts. The most important of which is this—tighter gun restrictions not only hurt law-abiding citizens, but also perpetuate crime, adding to the problems they were supposed to have solved.

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The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at www.johnlott.org:

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper