(Link to Amazon)

Published Sunday, January 1, 2006, in New York Post


By John R. Lott, Jr.*

WHAT should a woman do when attacked by a criminal? Should she behave passively? Use pepper spray? A gun?

Most people hope they'll get lucky and never be attacked. For those who want to think ahead, there is Paxton Quigley's new book, "Stayin' Alive."

It turns out that pepper spray may not do you a lot of good when it is raining or snowing. A woman is just as likely to disable herself as the attacker when it's windy or when using the spray indoors.

Knives and baseball bats are particularly problematic, because women have to get very close to their attackers to use them, and male criminals that is, most criminals tend to be much stronger physically than their female victims. When it comes to physical contact, women generally lose those fights.

The advantage of a gun is that it is ideal for keeping the criminal far away from the victim. And the victim isn't responsible for restraining the criminal, as police officers are when arresting suspects. A woman simply wants to keep the criminal away from her.

There have been a lot of good books lately exploding the myth that guns endanger people's safety. (And at least one very notable movie, Larry Elder's "Michael & Me," devastatingly tackles many of the false claims in Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine.") Quigley's book covers a lot of ground, such as the myths about personal defense, when it is appropriate to use lethal force, whether there are any risks to firing a gun while pregnant (apparently not), how often children are killed by accidental gun shots (very rarely) and how one goes about choosing the best gun for a particular individual's needs. The book answers these questions from a woman's perspective.

What works defensively for men doesn't always work for women. As Quigley points out, women who used a gun to resist an attack were 2.5 times more likely to escape uninjured than those who behaved passively. Guns aren't as beneficial for men. They are only 1.4 times more likely to escape uninjured than those who behaved passively.

The book includes real-life examples of defensive gun use and offers academic research on the millions of times each year that people use guns defensively. These good-news stories help Quigley illustrate how women actually react in life-threatening situations. And she also does well explaining what women should know before choosing a gun.

The book could have gone further debunking common misperceptions about guns. Take the claim that "you're more likely to shoot yourself or a family member than kill an attacker." This study assumed that whenever anyone in a gun-owning home was killed by a gun, it was that gun that caused the harm. But academics have found that at least 86 percent of the time, that assumption was wrong and most of other cases were suicides.

While recent polls show that more households own guns after 9/11, there is still a lot of fear and uncertainty about guns, which may keep people from doing what is best for their family's safety. Quigley's book cuts through a lot of that unjustified fear.

John R. Lott Jr. is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "The Bias Against Guns."


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


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


A Nation of Riflemen

Clayton Cramer's Blog

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


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