Freedomnomics

Article published Thursday, February 4, 2016, at New Hampshire Union Leader.

Clinton and the gun control lobby get it wrong

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Hillary Clinton has made gun control a major part of her presidential campaign, at least in New Hampshire.

Over the last month, a quarter of all of her campaign ads in New Hampshire have focused on gun control. In rural areas of Iowa, by contrast, she did not run a single ad related to gun control. In all of Iowa, just six percent of her ads discussed guns.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, recently wrote in the Union Leader attacking Bernie Sanders. He recycles Clinton’s rhetoric on the issue.

Gross asserts: “Brady background checks have blocked more than 2.4 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers like convicted violent criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill.” In reality, there were 2.4 million “initial denials,” virtually all of which turned out to be mistaken.

It is one thing to stop a felon from getting a gun, but it is something quite different to stop someone whose name is similar to that of a felon. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy was held up at the airport five times because someone with a similar name was on the no-fly list. Would Mr. Gross really say that a terrorist was prevented from flying on five occasions? Presumably not, but that’s the way that he counts the Brady background checks.

In 2010, the last year that the Department of Justice’s annual report on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was released, it showed that 94 percent of “initial denials” were dropped after the first internal fact check. A 2004 review by Congress found that another two percent were dropped when the cases were sent out to BATFE field offices. Many more cases were dropped during the three remaining stages of review.

If a private company’s criminal background checks on employees failed at anything close to the same rate, they’d immediately be sued out of existence. There’s no doubt that for many of the 2.4 million people mistakenly given an initial denial, it was a troublesome inconvenience. But some people really do need quick access to a gun for protection.

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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