Published at townhall.com

The Bias Against Guns
Why Almost Everything You've Heard about Gun Control is Wrong
By John R. Lott, Jr.

Review by Sunni Maravillosa:

John Lott certainly doesn't pull any punches with the title of his latest book, and with good reason. Turns out it hasn't been our imaginations that the U.S. media has a bias against guns and gun usage: they do, and Lott clearly documents it. However, the issue goes deeper than "knee-jerk liberal hatred" of firearms and the Second Amendment, and he pursues it to its ugly depths in The Bias Against Guns .

Once again, John Lott looks at firearms ownership and use from the perspective of an economist, and asks the questions that others either don't think to, or refuse to because they don't want the answers revealed. While it's accurate to say that many journalists let a bias against firearms influence their writing and the coverage a given story gets, Lott reminds us that what is newsworthy also influences airtime and column-inches. Gory crime scenes and distraught survivors get attention; a crime stopped before it can even start because the potential victim pulls out her Glock does not. In this sense the media can be forgiven for their slant.

In other areas, they cannot, and Lott probes the unforgivable biases, often using the media's own words to document them. One common bias is to downplay or outright ignore the use of firearms in stopping crimes in progress. One of the best-known examples is the shooting at Appalachian Law School in 2002, in which two students used their handguns to subdue the shooter. An even more insidious bias is revealed and perpetuated in so-called scientific polls that the media commission, and then report as news. Invariably the questions are constructed in such a way as to favor a gun control stance. For example, Lott found that questions that address gun control never include an option that more gun control would increase crime (which is what he has found to be the case). Such bias is particularly disturbing for three reasons: it artificially skews the results of the study because those who want less gun control have no option to select that reflect their belief; it decreases the validity of the study; and it also can have the effect of causing individuals to second-guess their beliefs. Government statistics are also shown by Lott to be flawed toward favoring a gun control position. All these biases heavily skew the public view toward firearms as instruments of evil that only criminals and "sickos" value, when in fact they are the best crime deterrent available for law-abiding individuals, particularly women. Documenting the anti-gun bias is actually only one area Lott examines in The Bias Against Guns . The second section of the book delves into other pertinent questions regarding gun safety and use. Lott addresses the effects of gun locks and other "safe storage" measures, gun shows, and assault weapons bans on crime rates, often relying on complex comparisons across the country and pre- and post-law enactment. The consistent finding is that the more often firearms are taken out of the hands of the law-abiding, the more crime the area has. Other areas, such as children's access to guns, accidental shootings, suicides, and related issues are also given scrutiny.

Lott is obviously first and foremost a scholar, yet the complexity of the questions he asks and the means with which he answers them in The Bias Against Guns does not muddy his presentation. Yes, there are lots of tables and graphs in the second section, complete with footnotes stating the significance level of the relevant statistical test, but for those who don't have the background or the interest to wade through them, Lott spells out the findings in very clear English in the text. In fact, his balanced tone in both setting up his questions and answering them makes The Bias Against Guns a book that could be an effective educational/ outreach tool for those willing to consider the possibility that gun control is not the best means to a more civil society. That is, of course, if you can get them past the title: its bluntness will likely turn off many of them. I'm willing to concede that to John Lott. He's absolutely right, and the sooner individuals realize that, the better -- for all peaceable people.

Sunni Maravillosa is Director of Operations and Freedom Book of the Month editor at Free-Market.Net.

Book Review on The Bias Against Guns
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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