Published MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2003 , in Barron's

Not-So-Dismal Reads
Here are some provocative stocking-stuffers

By GENE EPSTEIN

IN THIS ANNUAL LIST OF STOCKING Stuffers on the Dismal Science (for what the phrase really means, see Economic Beat, Nov. 24), I start with two books that do not appear to belong under the rubric of economics; but really, they do.

Both are by economist and American Enterprise Institute fellow John R. Lott Jr., and both are on the same topic: the relationship between guns, crime, and gun regulation.

In his earlier work, More Guns, Less Crime (1998), Lott concludes that by far the cheapest and most effective way for local government to reduce the rate of crime is not to hire more police, but to allow more law-abiding citizens to carry guns.

Lott comes to this conclusion by applying the skills of an econometrician to a massive database he assembled on crime rates and gun regulations in the 50 states over many years. He first shows how a superficial look at the data reveals right away the overwhelming connection between more guns and less crime.

Then he shows that even after "controlling for" virtually every other variable that might otherwise explain the results -- income, age distribution, racial composition, and so on -- the pattern remains the same: More gun control helps cause crime; less tends to prevent it.

In The Bias Against Guns (2003), Lott addresses a key question: If defensive gun use happens so often -- at least 1.5 million times a year, according to private surveys -- how come most of us can't recount a single anecdote about it? You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to be convinced by Lott's argument that stories of this kind are systematically suppressed by the media.

Lott's prose is a pleasure to read throughout; my only criticism is that many of his charts and tables are hard to read. Still, these books helped me see the world differently.

The tragedy is that people on different sides of this issue are divided along ideological and class lines. But if, as Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia once said, "There's no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the garbage," there should be no left- or right-wing ways to fight crime; just the best ways.

Book Review of The Bias Against Guns by John R. Lott
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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