All Postings from September 2003

9/25/03
Claremont Review of Books reviews The Bias Against Guns

Joseph Bessette, Tuohy Professor of Government and Ethics at Claremont McKenna College and former Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics for the Department of Justice, provides a very nice review of my new book in the Claremont Review of Books.

9/23/03
Thoughts on the California Recall Case

In my new piece on National Review Online I point out that: "The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is surely one of the most-liberal and most-reversed courts in the U.S., but that only explains part of the court's recent decision to delay California's recall election. Both the California attorney general and the secretary of state played an important role by leaving completely uncontested the ACLU's claims on how punchcard machines will result in votes being uncounted. "

9/21/03
Review of one of my talks this past week

This last week was a busy one. I gave talks at the University of Oregon, Seattle University, University of Idaho, Gonzaga University, University of Montana, Ohio State University, Ohio University, as well as the American Law and Economics Association meetings in Toronto. All but the last one dealt with my book, The Bias Against Guns. Apparently a reporter from the Spokesman Review, the major paper in Spokane, Washington, showed up. Unfortunately, the article doesn't even get the name of the book that I was talking about correct, but it is still interesting to see how the media reports what I have to say.

9/16/03
New York City's latest adventures in gun control

I have a piece in today's New York Post on the new gun control legislation being discussed in New York City.

9/14/03
Pilots decry pace of gun program

An article in today's Chicago Tribune asks why fewer "than 200 of 40,000 passenger and cargo pilots who want the voluntary training have completed the required training"? Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much of an answer and, as Capt. Bob Lambert notes: "It's been two years since the attacks of Sept. 11,"

9/12/03
Yet More Conspiracy Theories and Another Book Review of The Bias Against Guns

Some of my critics seem to be engaging in long winded conspiracy theories regarding the creation date on a file available for download on my other web site. Here is a statement from the webmaster of johnlott.org.

Another review of The Bias Against Guns can be found here.

9/11/03
Missouri Becomes 36th State with Right-to-Carry Law

With only one state having passed a right-to-carry law in the previous six years, Missouri becomes the fifth state this year to pass a right-to-carry law. (Minnesota, Colorado, and New Mexico passed laws that grant a permit and Alaska moved from providing a permit to a Vermont style law where permits are not required.) Yesterday the Missouri state House and today the Missouri state Senate overrode the governor's veto.

Conversations with Mikael Gross and Rick Montgomery about Appalachian Law School Attack

Just to get everyone up to speed on this issue, Mikael Gross was one of the students involved in helping stop the attack. Rick Montgomery is a reporter with the Kansas City Star who wrote an article that mentioned a claim by Ted Besen that wasn't in the other newscoverage about the incident. Other discussions on this topic can be found posted on 9/6/03 and 7/4/03. Notes from a conversation that I had with Mikael Gross yesterday:

Mikael Gross was very generous and spent a half hour talking to me about the Appalachian Law School attack.

In discussing Ted Besen�s statements to the Kansas City Star, Mr. Gross said that �it is very easy to miss facts, that Ted walked up and didn�t see Tracy. Ted did not see where I was or where Tracy was or what he was doing. I am not saying that is what Ted did, but when your heart gets to 120 it is just hard to pay attention.�� Gross said that it was quite possible that both Ted�s and Bridges�� impressions could be consistent with each other simply because Ted was closer to Odighizuwa and wouldn�t have seen Bridges and what he was doing. In this situation, it would only be normal for Besen to be "focusing on Peter" Odighizuwa, the killer, who was directly in front of him. Gross also noted that �Neither Ted nor Tracy had worked in a law enforcement in two years and it is possible that when you are out of training you are not as sharp at recognizing everything that is happening.��

I also asked Gross about the first time that he heard of the version of events given by Ted Besen to the Kansas City Star (�Odighizuwa laid down his weapon before the students confronted him��). While Gross didn�t know exactly how long that it was after the shooting before he first heard this version of events by Besen, he said that it was around two months and it was through �scuttlebutt�� around the school, not through a direct statement to him by Besen. Gross said that �No, I don�t know why Ted waited two months to say that.��

Other interesting facts that I got from talking to Mikael Gross was that he was the one who secured Odighizuwa�s gun after he had put it down and that he also secured Tracy Bridges�� gun, taking it from Tracy just to make sure that it wasn�t accidentally fired. Gross never really personally knew Besen when they were both at the law school, but he did get to know Bridges through their membership in the Federalist society and that in the six or so months that Gross knew Bridges he had always seemed very honest. What Gross knew of the attack was �consistent�� with Bridges�� statements, though Gross was unable to see Bridges during a good portion of the attack. He also confirmed that Bridges and Besen had been friends before the attack and for awhile after it and that some strains resulting from the relative attention given to them had broken up their friendship. These facts seem to confirm the previous statements by Bridges.

Today I also talked to Rick Montgomery from the Kansas City Star. Rick was the author of the March 4th 2002 Kansas City Star piece that contained the statement by Besen that has generated the e-mail that I received. Rick was very helpful, though his article was written over a year-and-a-half ago and I am sure that he has written many other articles since then. In any case, Rick did have a few recollections.

1) He thought that both Bridges and Besen�s stories may have been colored by events that happened after the original attack. Bridges seems to have really enjoyed the attention that he was getting and may have embellished his discussion of the events. On the other hand, Besen appeared to have been very upset by the attention and coverage that Bridges was receiving. Rick specifically mentioned the very strong negative reaction that Besen had to a magazine story that had been done recently that featured Bridges.

2) Rick never felt that he was given a clear explanation for why Peter Odighizuwa had put down the gun. Rick ventured tha even if Besen was correct, Peter Odighizuwa may have put down the gun because he might have noticed from a distance that people with guns were coming towards him. As one way of trying to resolve this issue, Rick asked me if I had tried to contact Peter Odighizuwa, and I told him that I hadn�t.

3) Rick wasn�t sure whether he had anticipated the type of statement that Besen made to him that �Odighizuwa laid down his weapon before the students confronted him�� prior to Besen making that statement. Rick has some recollection that the state police implied that there might be conflicting accounts of what had happened at the time of the attack and that is why he called up both Bridges and Besen.

-- A final thought is in order. While Tracy Bridges did talk to a large number of reporters and did tell them about using his gun to stop the attack, Ted Besen, who also apparently talked to a large number of reporters, apparently did not make clear statements like the one he made to the KC Star until about two months after the attack (see report for 9/06). Given this, it is still very surprising that virtually none of the news reports after the attack mention Bridges' account. The explanation made to me by reporters about "space constraints" does not explain the problem.

Update: Bernie Goldberg, a former reporter for CBS News, recently had an e-mail exchange with me about the Appalachian Law School events and he also interviewed Tracy Bridges. Goldberg told me that Tracy had provided him the same story that Bridges had provided me.

9/10/03
Two New Reviews of The Bias Against Guns

The American Conservative and The Blue Press have two new reviews of my book.

9/09/03
Supreme Court hears campaign finance reform

Here are two pieces that I wrote on campaign finance reform. One is in The New York Post and the other is in the National Review Online.

9/07/03
Store Owners Carry Guns, Reducing the Number of Gun Free-Zones in Tennessee

Not only are some stores allowing people to carry permits in their stores, but the stores are even having employees openly carry guns.

9/06/03
Appalachian Law School shooting, the role of Ted Besen

I have gotten an e-mail asking about the role that Ted Besen played in stopping the Appalachian Law School attack during January 2002. While I had seen and referenced a story by Rick Montgomery, a reporter for the Kansas City Star, I hadn�t read down to the last couple hundred words of the 1,400 word piece that he published in March 2002. Montgomery�s piece contains a quote from Besen claiming that the attacker put his gun down before Mikael Gross and Tracy Bridges arrived at the scene. (Montgomery has seen copies of everything that I wrote on the incident and he has never mentioned these facts to me.) In checking this, I had Jill Mitchell, one of my RAs, go back and pull up all the news articles that mention Besen in any way.

After receiving the e-mail, I tried calling both Ted Besen and Tracy Bridges about this earlier in the week, but only Tracy Bridges returned my call. I have mentioned the heroic actions of Besen in all my writings on the attack, but not in the way discussed in the KC Star. Bridges' conversation was helpful, and he has always said that Besen was the first of the students who helped stop the attack to come in contact with the killer after he had put down his gun. However, Bridges said that he had never heard the version of events offered in the KC Star until a couple of months after the attack. Consistent with that, while there are 24 news stories that mention Ted Besen prior to the KC Star piece, not one of the stories provides information that is the same as what Besen told the KC Star. None of the local Virginia papers that wrote extensively on the incident mention this claim by Besen, even the ones that discuss Gross and Bridges using their guns, though apparently those papers also interviewed Besen.

One explanation that appears consistent with both Bridges�� comments and Besen�s later statement in the KC Star is that Besen was closer to the attacker than either Bridges or Gross and wouldn�t have clearly seen what Gross and Bridges were doing. Even the early reports that didn't mention Bridges and Gross using their guns, consistently noted how quickly Bridges and Gross were involved in helping subdue the attacker. It appears that there couldn't have been much distance between Gross, Bridges, and Besen, and there is little debate that Gross and Bridges had their guns with them. The statements by Gross and Bridges about them both using their guns to get the attacker to put down his gun are also very consistent with each other.

Tracy Bridges did say that he had been good friends with Besen both prior to the attack and immediately afterwards, but that he thought that because of the attention that he and Gross had received, his relationship with Besen suffered. More weight should have been given in news stories to Besen�s obviously heroic actions to approach the attacker without being armed himself, but I don�t think that this takes away from the statements of both Gross and Bridges. I will continue to try to contact Besen. One nice thing that Tracy Bridges said to me when I talked to him was that "You [Lott] were one of the few people who accurately portrayed what happened."

Other discussions on the Appalachian Law School can be found in postings on 9/11/03 and 7/4/03.

Pilots and Me versus the Violence Policy Center on Arming Pilots

At least this program on Voice of America News gives people some idea why there is opposition to arming pilots. The bottom line is clearly fear. It seems pretty hard through to see how people can have these fears about what might happen when this is not a new experiment. Yet, as Gregg Overman, Communications Director for the Allied Pilots Association, says �until 1963 the federal government required all commercial pilots flying with U-S mail to carry a gun and until 1987 pilots could choose whether or not they wanted to carry a gun. In all this time there was never a fatal accident involving an armed airline pilot.

9/03/03
Guns in the workplace and on planes

Retired Air Force Maj. John Borling, a U.S. Senate candidate in Illinois, asks whether a concealed handgun law might have stopped the attack last week in Chicago. The article in the Sun-Times notes:

"Would Chicago have been averted? Possibly," said retired Air Force Maj. John Borling. "If somebody had been able to take a gun from out from under the counter and defend themselves, that might have made a big difference."

CNN and CNNfn also had me on briefly yesterday to talk about arming pilots. Bill Tucker, the CNN correspondent, also took up the point that I made off air about this not being a new experiment and that we have an extensive history of pilots carrying guns on planes. See also another piece that I had on National Review Online yesterday.

9/02/03
Another review of The Bias Against Guns

Larry Pratt has a very positive review of the book and states that:

"It is well worth reading. Lott, an economist, is a good researcher and writer."

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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