Published September 1, 2003, in NewsWithViews.com

BIG BIAS AGAINST GUNS

By Larry Pratt

The Bias Against Guns is the title of John Lott's latest book. It is well worth reading.

Lott, an economist, is a good researcher and writer. His account of the multiple murder at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, VA in January, 2002 is an eye-opener.

Lott did a search in the media database called Lexis-Nexis to find articles written about the shooting. The base contained 208 unique articles, and one of them by the Associated Press would have been picked up by literally thousands of newspapers. Other articles would have also had widespread distribution.

Of the 208 articles about the law school shooter, only four mentioned that there had been a defensive gun use. Indeed, two students upon hearing the shots, ran to their vehicles and brought their guns within the 1,000 foot gun-free zone that has been unconstitutionally established by federal law. They encountered the murderer as he was finishing reloading. At the sight of their guns drawing down on him, he surrendered.

Only two articles mentioned that latter detail of the defensive guns actually being pointed at the thug. The Associated Press article was one that mentioned nothing of the defensive gun use. Lott contacted the author of the article who admitted that the defensive gun use should have been included. She apologized for the lack of space. One of the Associated Press executives, Jack Stokes, the AP media relations manager, said that he had been shocked upon learning that students carrying guns had subdued the gunman: "I thought, my God, they're putting into jeopardy even more people by bringing out these guns."

If Mr. Stokes could not get his mind past that fact that the two students had saved numerous other lives by "bringing out these guns," no wonder the media almost never reports on defensive gun uses.

While many such cases are never reported to anybody, Lott points out that there are 10 times more defensive gun uses each day than there are criminal uses of guns. Many do not get reported to the police because it would do no good - the bad guy fled when he saw the victim pull a gun. Sometimes no report is made of a defensive gun use because the good guy was carrying without the government's permission. And 95 percent of defensive gun uses occur without a shot ever being fired. Still, Lott found that defensive gun uses tend to get reported in a local paper, but not get picked up by the national media - unlike criminal uses of guns.

The recent Jason Blair scandal at the New York Times should have come as no surprise to John Lott. He had already exposed the tendentious claims and shoddy research of Times reporters Ford Fessenden and Fox Butterfield. Fessenden contributed to a series of articles purporting to show that the Brady Law had reduced rampage killings. But when Lott looked at their own data, he found that rampage killings increased after the passage of Brady. Butterfield simply took the word of anti-gun academics without checking to see if their information were correct. It was not. No academics who believe that gun control can lead to more crime were ever consulted.

In a similar vein, Lott explains how public opinion polling can promote support for more gun control. When questions are asked if more gun control is needed, or do we have enough, there is never an option given to respond that we have too much, or that gun control helps criminals and results in more crime. Lott has thus given us a very concise understanding of how polling is rigged to produce pro-gun control responses.

Lott examines the data regarding the impact of so-called "safe storage" laws and finds that they actually endanger people and result in more crime, not less. Of course, proponents of storage laws do not believe in self defense, so they see no problem with scaring people into locking up their safety.

Preventing accidental deaths is supposedly a major objective of the supporters of these laws. But it would be hard to reduce the accidental deaths from firearms in this country since they have been falling steadily over the last several decades. Locking up their safety actually results in getting people to depend less on themselves and a loaded gun they keep handy for self defense. They end up relying exclusively on calling 911 - a good way to get killed while waiting for the police.

Book Review on The Bias Against Guns
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Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

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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