Freedomnomics

Article published Thursday, October 22, 2015, at Investor's Business Daily.

'Demographic Death' Of NRA Just Another Big Media Myth

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Gun ownership is greatest among rural whites, a group whose voting power is diminishing. The conclusion, according to Adam Winkler in the Washington Post, is that the NRA will inevitably decline in power.

The theory isn't new. Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey, told me in 1997 that the large drop in gun ownership shown by his poll would "make it easier for politicians to do the right thing on guns."

According to Smith's survey, the percentage of homes with a gun has fallen fairly continuously since the 1970s from approximately 50% to 32% earlier this year.

On the other hand, surveys by Gallup and ABC News/Washington Post show that gun ownership rates have been flat since the 1970s. The number is uncertain for a number of reasons, including people's willingness to tell the truth to pollsters about whether they own guns.

The "hard" data that we do know is that concealed handgun permits and gun sales have soared. Concealed handgun permits tripled from 2007 to 2015. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System shows that the number of gun purchases doubled from 2006 to 2014.

But while significant demographic changes have been occurring for decades, there hasn't been any steady increase in support for gun control. Indeed, the opposite is actually true.

According to Gallup, 78% of voters supported stricter gun control in 1990. By last fall, that number had fallen to 47%. Look at PEW polls and you'll see that support for stricter gun control has fallen dramatically since the late 1990s. CNN's polls show a similar pattern since 1993.

Most people now believe the "More Guns, Less Crime" hypothesis. Gallup recently asked Americans if they thought that residents are safer with a gun in the home. People answered yes by a margin of 63%-to-30%. In 2000, Americans answered no by a margin of 51%-to-35%.

People are more frequently buying guns for personal protection, especially in urban areas. Last December, the Pew Research Center survey found that 57% of Americans believe gun ownership "protects people from becoming victims of crime."

That was up from 48% two years earlier. Support for gun ownership grew especially among blacks, rising by 25 percentage points in just two years.

It's not just the polls. Between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of concealed handgun permits held by blacks and other minorities increased more than twice as fast as it did for whites.

The growth rate was almost twice as fast for women as for men.

My research shows that blacks benefit most from concealed carry because they are relatively more likely to be victims of violent crime. The elderly benefit because they will have trouble resisting an assailant without the aid of a firearm. The same often applies to women. Gun control groups have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince Americans that gun control is the answer. In 2013, gun owners' groups including the NRA spent less than one seventh as much on television advertisements.

In 2014, almost as much was spent pushing one gun control initiative in Washington state as the NRA spent on all elections in the country.

All that spending didn't work. Those "inevitable" demographic changes didn't result in a collapse in support for gun rights.

Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

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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