22nd April 14:22
Liberal Academics Continue Assault on Pro-Gun Research
Liberal Academics Continue Assault on Pro-Gun Research
By Jeff Johnson
CNSNews.com Congressional Bureau Chief
May 13, 2003
Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - On May 28, Minnesota will become the 35th
state in the nation to allow its citizens to carry concealed handguns.
Legislation to make Missouri the 36th such state is on the governor's
desk, with enough votes to override a threatened veto.
As these laws are being passed, a new book published by a liberal
think tank in Washington attempts to discredit research showing that
such "concealed carry laws" reduce violent crime.
A study by economist and University of Chicago professor John Lott and
co-researcher David Mustard in 1997 examined crime data from all 3,054
counties in the U.S. for the period between 1977 and 1992 and compared
those data to the enactment of concealed carry laws. Based on that
research, the pair concluded that "allowing citizens to carry
concealed weapons deters violent crimes, without increasing accidental
Anti-gun researchers challenge pro-gun findings
But anti-gun researcher John Donohue of the Stanford University Law
School has challenged the findings of Lott and Mustard in a chapter of
the new book Evaluating Gun Policy published by the Brookings
"There seems to be almost no benefit from concealed handguns," Donohue
told CNSNews.com Monday - but he immediately retracted the claim.
"Actually, I can't say that. There may be some benefit, and there may
be some costs, and they may offset each other," he said. "But the last
argument I would give any credibility to is the idea that you would
save lives by passing a law allowing people to carry concealed
handguns. It just won't happen."
But Lott and Mustard concluded that, if states without concealed carry
laws had adopted them in 1992, "approximately 1,500 murders would have
been avoided yearly." They also predicted that 4,000 ****s, 11,000
robberies and 60,000 aggravated assaults would have been thwarted by
armed civilians or criminals' fear of encountering armed civilians.
Their work evolved into Lott's book More Guns, Less Crime , which is
frequently cited by supporters of concealed carry laws, along with
studies by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck showing
that guns are used to stop criminal assaults up to 2.5 million times a
Drawing on research conducted with Yale Law School's Ian Ayres,
Donohue called Lott's findings "deeply flawed" and "misguided." But
Lott told CNSNews.com in a recent interview that he believes Donohue
and Ayres made several errors in their research.
The pair examined monthly, rather than annual, crime data and operated
under the assumption that - if passage of concealed carry laws truly
reduced crime - there would be a "straight line drop" in crime rates
from the date of enactment forward. When the crime rate dropped slower
than this assumption predicted it should, Donohue and Ayres referred
to the difference as an "increase" in crime.
"It's only when they use this kind of 'artificial specification' that
simplifies this do they get a bad result," Lott explained. "A better
way of doing it is by looking at the crime rates year by year, for one
year after the law, two years, three years - and when you do that,
even their own results get an immediate drop that continues to fall
Donohue and Ayres also use varying definitions of "crime" in their
****ysis of Lott's research.
"Lott claimed that the 10 states that enacted shall-issue laws between
1985 and 1991 experienced declines in murder and other violent crimes
relative to the crime trends observed in other states that did not
shall-issue laws after 1992 experienced relative increases in crime."
But Lott never argued that all crime was reduced by passage of
concealed carry laws, only violent crime.
"That's the finding that people have seen all along," Lott told
CNSNews.com. "You have some people who were engaging in robbery in
order to get money previously and, when people are able to carry
concealed handguns to protect themselves, you have some criminals
[who] stop committing crimes, but some switch into other crimes."
Most often, Lott said, that switch is from robbery, where criminals
come into direct contact with their victims and face a newfound risk
of getting shot, to burglary and property theft "because it's
relatively less risky."
Those crimes are possibly committed with greater frequency because
they are also less lucrative than robbery, explaining the increase in
overall crime committed while experiencing a decrease in violent
"I think the thing to do is just put it in context of all the other
people who have looked at [my work]," Lott said. "Nobody has found a
bad effect except for this one section of [Donohue and Ayres'] paper,
and even then, it's just a temporary one.
"Everybody, including this paper, finds that the crime rate falls the
longer the laws are in effect," he continued. "I think that's pretty
Suicide with firearms as a measure of gun ownership
Ludwig and Cook admit that, "because the United States does not
maintain a registry of guns in private hands and surveys do not
provide data for each of the 50 states," it is difficult to compare
gun ownership rates to the number of home invasion burglaries.
But the authors claim that "the percentage of suicides with guns has
been shown to be a reliable proxy, outperforming such measures as the
percentage of homicides committed with a gun, the prevalence of
membership in the National Rifle Association or subscription rates to
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, doubts that
societal violence in general - and suicide in particular - can be
reliably used as quantifiable evidence of gun ownership.
"Somehow, they're going to have to explain why - with virtually no
civilian gun ownership in Japan - their suicide rate is not only
higher than our murder rate," he said, "but it's [also] higher than
our suicide rate and our murder rate combined.
"They've 'explained' nothing," he concluded.
Authors say burglars don't avoid armed homeowners
Anti-gun researchers Jens Ludwig, an associate professor of public
policy at Georgetown University, and Philip Cook, professor of public
policy at Duke University, co-edited Evaluating Gun Policy and wrote
the chapter entitled "Do Guns Deter Burglars?" In it, they argue that
burglars do not avoid armed homeowners.
"Increasing the prevalence of guns in a community may, if anything,
slightly increase the chance of burglary victimization," they write,
"and has no effect on hot burglaries."
A "hot burglary" is one in which the burglar or burglars enter the
dwelling knowing in advance that it is occupied, also typically
referred to as a "home invasion" burglary or robbery.
Ludwig and Cook dismiss comparisons between Great Britain and the
U.S., even though hot burglaries are almost unheard of in the U.S. -
except in jurisdictions with strict gun control laws - but make up
nearly half of all burglaries in Great Britain.
"American and British households differ in a number of other ways
beyond gun ownership that are likely to affect the cost-benefit
calculus facing burglars," they write. "Home invasion burglars in
Britain face a much more lenient prison sentence if caught, and
households in Britain are less likely to have a dog or a man living in
Pratt called the claim "***ist" and questioned the logic of the
"A burglar in this country is equally afraid of a woman until he's
absolutely certain that she doesn't have a gun and, in this country,
she might," Pratt argued. "It won't help him one bit if he breaks into
a 'man-less' home if there's a woman with a [gun]."