Connected: Coast to Coast, MSNBC, Tuesday, March 22, 2005, 12:03 to 12:20 PM




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MS. CRAWLEY: Angle that we're going to tackle right now. We have two guests to join our discussion. My guest is Dr. John Lott. He's a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. He's also the author of More Guns, Less Crime, and his latest is the Bias Against Guns. He joins us now from Washington.

MR. LOTT: Thank you, Monica.

MR. REAGAN: And my guest is Michael Barnes. He's a former Maryland Congressman and the current President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He joins us from Washington. Welcome to you, both.

MR. LOTT: Thank you.

MR. BARNES: Thank you.

MR. REAGAN: Michael, let me ask you first, what do you think of this study that says that concealed weapons would help prevent crime? Do you think it's legitimate?

MR. BARNES: Well, it's absurd. If you talk to law enforcement, and we work very closely with police officers and chiefs of police and sheriffs all across this country, they will virtually unanimously tell you that they do not want more guns in their communities. They do not believe that adding guns to the streets of our communities is the way to make them safer.

On the contrary, it's very clear that the states of the United States that have the fewest guns, that have the toughest gun laws are the safest. You are about six times safer--six times less likely to get killed by a gun if you live, for example, in New Jersey or Massachusetts that have pretty good gun laws compared to Wyoming or Montana that have very weak gun laws.

The concept that we'd all be safer if we're all packing heat is just ludicrous. Imagine yourself at a football game or a basketball game and people get angry and they're drinking a lot of beer and whatnot, do you really think you'd be safer if everybody there were armed? It's nonsense.

MS. CRAWLEY: John Lott, let me go to you because a couple of years ago, the University of Chicago did a study and found that violent crime fell after states made it legal to carry concealed hand guns. Homicide down eight and a half percent. Rape down five percent. Aggravated assault down seven percent.

Now, granted, the study is a few years old, but we've seen statistics across the board in the states, 38 states, that have concealed weapons and allow that, that violent crime is, in fact, on the decrease. So there is a deterrent effect, is there not?

MR. LOTT: Yes. I should say that was my study when I was at the University of Chicago. But there have literally been several dozen academic studies that have been done since then. And there's a range of estimates. You have some people who claim that there's no effect. You have a few studies like that. But the vast majority of studies that have been done show that the longer these right-to-carry laws are in effect, the more people that have permits for carrying concealed handguns, the greater the drop in violent crime.

If I can just respond to what Michael was saying. You look at surveys of police chiefs or police officers, and the vast majority of them actually support citizens being able to get right-to-carry permits. And there's an understanding why they do that, because police know that they're extremely important in stopping crime. But they virtually always arrive on the scene after the crime has been committed. Bill Landis at the University of Chicago and I looked at all the multiple victim public shootings in the United States where two or more people were harmed from 1977 through 1999, and we found that when states passed right-to-carry laws, there was a 60 percent drop in the rate of multiple victim public shootings. And to the extent to which they still occurred in those states after the laws were passed, they overwhelmingly took place in gun-free zones.

I mean one thing that's true about all three of these shootings that you're talking about they're cases where civilians are not allowed to go and carry concealed handguns, whether it be the school in Minnesota or Wisconsin as a whole doesn't allow people to carry concealed handguns.

MR. BARNES: Let me just respond if I may.


MR. BARNES: I would urge anyone watching this to read what Newsweek has had to say about Mr. Lott and his studies; what serious scholars have had to say about Mr. Lott and his studies. His studies are not serious. They're not scholarly. And serious scholars at Johns Hopkins, at Harvard, at many other institutions have taken a look at what he's had to say and said that it's absolute nonsense.

Just use your common sense and think whether we'd be safer if everybody is walking around with guns. Just recently in California, you had the situation of two people going for a parking space. They get out and start shooting at each other because they were angry over the parking space, and neither one of them got shot, but a bystander got shot. We are not safer--

For those interested here is a list of academic papers that support my research on right-to-carry laws.

MR. LOTT: It simply calls--

MR. BARNES: --with more guns in our communities.

MR. REAGAN: John, John, let me--I want you to respond to that, but I want you to--I want to mention something that I've seen was written in your book, More Guns, Less Crime, and have you respond to that.

Apparently on page 153, you say the more serious possibility is that some other factor may have caused both a reduction in crime rates and the passage of the gun laws--concealed gun laws--to occur at the same time. Are you saying that maybe you didn't filter out other mitigating factors here in your study?

MR. LOTT: I mean that's a possible objection to any research that's done. I literally tried to control for hundreds of different factors--arrest rates, conviction rates, prison sentence length, the death penalty, types of police behavior, policing practices, income, poverty. You know--

MR. REAGAN: Well, how sure are you that--

MR. LOTT: --for hundreds of factors. But, you know, the interesting thing is that there's also many different types of qualitative evidence. Not only do you see that crime rates fall after right-to-carry laws, but the drop is very closely related to the percentage of the adult population with permits in different states. If you look at counties that border each other on state borders, when one state adopts a right-to-carry law that county's crime rate falls, while the crime rate actually increases on average in the county in the neighboring state without the right-to-carry laws.

There's lots of different types of evidence, and that's the reason why in order to guard against the type of possible objection that I raise there, that you try to account for those other factors and you try to take into account different types of qualitative evidence. But if you look at the people who have actually looked at the data, actually worked with it--

MR. BARNES: Like at Harvard and Johns Hopkins and other institutions?

MR. LOTT: None of those. None. First of all, Johns Hopkins--

MR. BARNES: Where there are real experts on this issue, and Mr. Lott is not among them.

MR. LOTT: First of all. Listen.

MR. BARNES: The real issue here, Ron, is all these people are dying in these terrible tragedies, massacres across our country, and what is Congress doing about this?

MR. LOTT: No. It's an academic--

MR. BARNES: We've talked over the last few days about a culture of life. We have a culture of death in this country. If today is an average day, about 80 Americans will die from gunfire. And what is the Congress doing about it?

MR. LOTT: Concealed handgun permit holders are not the people--

MR. BARNES: They're making our young people because they're caving to the gun lobby.

MR. LOTT: --that you have to worry about.

MR. BARNES: It's a--

MR. REAGAN: Okay. Hang on, you two.

MS. CRAWLEY: All right, gentlemen.

MR. REAGAN: Hang on you two.

MS. CRAWLEY: Please stand by. We're going to continue ths on the other side of the break. Hold your thoughts. We're going to continue in just a moment. Please stay with us. And remember, of course, you can join in. Just go to our web site at connected, We'll be right back.

[Commercial break.]

MS. CRAWLEY: And we continue first with an email. Joe from New Jersey writes: "If a person is in the position to defend themselves, criminals are deterred from acting against those people. The fact that anyone may be carrying a weapon could have criminal thinking twice."

All right. Michael, let me go to you on this whole question of deterrence. It seems to me that the Columbine Massacre took about 30 minutes to carry out. Yesterday's school shooting took quite a while. If the principal or the security guard had been packing heat, he may have been able to take these people out before they were able to continue killing. What about the whole idea of saving lives?

MR. BARNES: Well, we don't have any problem at all with law enforcement carrying weapons, but the idea that we would have--that more guns in schools is a good thing is absurd, just as the idea that more guns in church is a great idea or hospitals and nursing homes.

This concept that if we all were carrying guns all the time, we'd be safer, is nonsense and it's shown by the very--

MS. CRAWLEY: But, Michael, what about the idea of adopting--

MR. BARNES: --clear data in what's happening in this country.

MS. CRAWLEY: Michael, what about the idea of stopping additional murders from happening? These kids went on these killing sprees. They mowed down--

MR. BARNES: More Americans--

MS. CRAWLEY: --they mowed down 10, 12 people.

MR. BARNES: More Americans have--

MS. CRAWLEY: If somebody had a gun in that school and could have taken the kid out, some of those students would still be alive today.

MR. BARNES: More Americans have died from gunfire in the last three weeks than have died from all causes in Iraq since the war started two years ago. And what are we talking about doing in this country? Making our guns weaker. Allowing more people to buy assault weapons. Last year, 47 people on the terrorist watch list got guns, some of them assault weapons. And what is the Congress doing about this? They're talking about weakening our gun laws. They're talking about making it impossible for people to--

MS. CRAWLEY: No, actually, Michael, you're wrong about that, because--

MR. BARNES: --stop irresponsible gun dealers.

MS. CRAWLEY: --because we had--no, you're about that. We had Senator Lautenberg on this program last week who was talking about strengthening and closing that loophole for those--

MR. BARNES: I wish. I wish that a majority--

MS. CRAWLEY: --on the terrorist watch list.

[Simultaneous conversation.]

MR. BARNES: --of the Congress would support Senator Lautenberg, 'cause he's absolutely right, and we strongly support what Senator Lautenberg is trying to do.

But unfortunately, the gun lobby controls majorities in the Senate and the House. That's the reality of the problem.

MR. REAGAN: John. John.

MR. LOTT: I mean all these--

MR. REAGAN: John, let me ask you something, if I can? I don't mean to interrupt anybody, but I want to move along a little bit. Let's assume that we can all carry concealed weapons here. Would you then--and police get to carry concealed weapons. Of course, they go through a lot of training to do that. Would you be in favor of laws that required extra training for people who are going to carry concealed weapons, with the thought that they are going to defend themselves on a crowded street and engage in gun play if they have to? Do you think it might be a good idea if they actually had to prove they knew how to do that?

MR. LOTT: Well, about the half the states with right-to-carry laws require some type of training. I don't think you see much of a difference. I think people go and get training on their own to do this.

MR. REAGAN: Do you think they should be required to do that, though, given that they're talking about shooting people on the street?

MR. LOTT: Right. Well, the only type of crime that training seems to be particularly important for are these multiple victim public shootings. Then you do see a little bit greater drop in the rate at which those types of crimes are committed and more effectively stopped when people have some training.

But the important thing is to get someone there on the scene. The faster somebody is able to get there, the faster you're able to go and stop these crimes.

MR. REAGAN: Well, that would be police, though. Right?

MR. LOTT: No. Not just police.

MR. REAGAN: I mean you're not talking about the principal being able to whip out a handgun and just blaze away.

MR. LOTT: Well, in fact, that's happened. No. The first of the public school shootings in Pearl, Mississippi, in October 1997, was stopped by an assistant principal there at the school who had a permit to carry a concealed handgun. He had to park his car a quarter of a mile off of school property in order to obey the Safe Schools Zone Act, which bans guns within a thousand feet of a school. He had to run a half mile. Get his pistol. Come back a half mile. Point his gun at the attacker, and held him at point blank range for five and half minutes before the police arrived.

MR. BARNES: We're talking here about putting more guns in school.

MR. LOTT: Sir. You've interrupted me multiple times.

MR. BARNES: That's the answer to school violence? This is absurd.

MR. LOTT: You've interrupted me multiple times.

MR. BARNES: Well, not many parents that would agree with this.

MR. LOTT: No, but they're--

MR. BARNES: This is absurd.

MR. LOTT: Few people know--few people know that 30 percent of the public school shootings have been stopped before uniform police were able to arrive because people had guns that could--

MR. BARNES: When guns are around, people tend to use guns.

MR. LOTT: It has gotten very little attention.

MR. BARNES: That's the tragic reality, and that's why if today is an average in the United States--

MR. LOTT: You have to--

MR. BARNES: --82 of our neighbors in this country--

MR. LOTT: Sir, just once and while let me finish.

MR. BARNES: --will die from gunfire. Look. You have sort of this [inaudible] we need more guns out there.

MS. CRAWLEY: Michael, it's not about the guns, but about the people who are intent on causing harm.

MR. LOTT: That's exactly right; that if you go and ban these things--I mean the question is who obeys the laws, and it tends to be the relatively law abiding citizens--

MR. REAGAN: And that's not the criminals--

MR. BARNES: In every other area of our life, we talk about preventing things. Excepting guns.

MR. LOTT: And that rather than creating a safe zone for those--

MR. BARNES: Except with respect to gunfire. There are--

MS. CRAWLEY: Gentlemen, I--

[Simultaneous conversation.]

MS. CRAWLEY: Gentlemen, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. We've got to leave it there, guys.

MR. REAGAN: Let me just say that.

MS. CRAWLEY: We've got to leave it there.

MR. BARNES: It's a filibuster here.

MS. CRAWLEY: Sorry. Obviously, this is an issue we are going to continue talking about in the days ahead. John Lott and Michael Barnes, thank you so much.

MR. LOTT: Thank you, too.

MS. CRAWLEY: Up next. Assessing the public's opinion after a judge refused the order to reinsert Terry Schiavo's feeding tube. And remember our discussion continues online at Stay with us.

[Commercial break.]


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Home (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

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Book Reviews:

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

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Appalachian law school attack

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The Merced Pitchfork Killings and Vin Suprynowicz's quote

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Craig Newmark

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Dr. T's

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

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

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