Published Sunday, March 11, 2007, in New York Post

The All-American Gun

By John R. Lott, Jr.*

ARMED AMERICA: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF HOW AND WHY GUNS BECAME AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
BY CLAYTON E. CRAMER
NELSON, 320 PAGES, $26.99

Did you know that in New York City, through 1969 virtually all the public high schools had riflery teams?

Thousands of students carried their rifles on subways, buses and streets on their way to school, when they went to practice in the afternoon and on their way home. And until 1963, all commercial pilots were required to carry guns and were allowed to carry guns until 1987.

Gun laws have certainly changed over time.

Today towns such as Kennesaw, Ga., Greenfeld, Idaho and Geuda Springs, Kan., which all require residents to own guns, are considered the oddity. But Clayton Cramerís terrific new book, "Armed America," shows that, in fact, gun ownership has been deeply woven into this countryís since the colonial period.

Cramer shows that guns arenít inherently the problem. In our day, criminals may have replaced Indians as a danger facing most citizens, but it may also shock many readers to learn how comfortable Americans once were with their guns.

In colonial times, as Cramer argues, people didnít own guns just for hunting. Numerous laws mandated that people have guns for personal defense and defense of the community, at home, while traveling and even in church.

Heads of households, whether men or women, were required to have a gun at home and fines of up to a monthís wages were imposed on those who failed to meet this requirement.

In some states such as Maryland, fines were paid directly to inspectors so that authorities had a strong incentive to check. The only people exempt from these rules were Quakers, some indentured servants, or, in the South, blacks.

Fear of attack by Indians and Englandís European enemies meant that people were required to own and carry guns when traveling, though sometimes older people were exempted.

At least six colonies required people have guns with them at church. Church officials were required to check parishioners when they arrived for services to ensure they had a gun. Clergymen were required to have guns, too. Contrast that with the political firestorms that erupt these days when states merely let churches decide whether concealed handgun permit holders can carry guns on church property.

In our day, only about 45 percent of households own a gun, whereas gun ownership in colonial America was much higher, as measured by probate recirds. Guns were bequeathed to the next generation in about 70 percent of cases.

The fascinating firsthand historical accounts that Cramer provides indicate that guns were cheap, readily available and essentially everywhere. Given Americaís historical amnesia, Cramerís book helps to remind us about that part of our history many now find improbable.

John Lott is the author of "The Bias Against Guns."

Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Home

Academic papers:

Social Science Research Network

Book Reviews:

For a list of book reviews on The Bias Against Guns, click here.

---------------------------------
List of my Op-eds
---------------------------------

Posts by topic

Research finding a drop in violent crime rates from Right-to-carry laws

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Appalachian law school attack

Sources for Defensive Gun Uses

The Merced Pitchfork Killings

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

General discussion of my 1997 and 2002 surveys as well as related surveys

Mother Jones article

Johnlott.org (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

Collection of some of my other op-eds

Links

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

A debate that I had with George Mason University's Robert Ehrlich on guns

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

An interview concerning More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

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

Alphecca -- weekly review on the media's coverage of guns

conservativecontrarian

A Nation of Riflemen

Clayton Cramer's Blog

My hidden mathematical ability (a math professor with the same name)

geekwitha45

My AEI Web Page

Craig Newmark

Eric Rasmusen

William Sjostrom

Dr. T's EconLinks.com

Interview with National Review Online

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

International Crime Victimization Survey data from 2000

John Lott's CV