More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws
By John Lott, Jr.
The University of Chicago Press, 1998
-- A SUMMARY of POINTS
p.1 Accidental Deaths: In the entire U.S. during a year, only about 30 people are killed by private citizens who mistakenly believe the victim to be an intruder. By comparison, police accidentally kill as many as 330 innocent individuals annually.
p.3 Defensive Use of Handguns: National surveys indicate that 98% of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack.
p.4 Injury from attacks, women: the probability of serious injury from an attack is 2.5 times greater for women offering no resistance than for women resisting with a gun.
p.4 Criminal’s Choice: Criminals choose victims whom they perceive as weak.
p.4 For example: Criminals in one case decided against robbing a cab driver or a drug dealer because both sometimes carry guns. Instead they chose a man walking across a parking lot carrying a musical instrument.
p.5 Criminals and Self-preservation: Criminals are motivated by self-preservation, and handguns can therefore be a deterrent.
p.5 “Hot” Burglaries: (Burglaries where a resident is home when a criminal strikes): Note: Both Canada and England have very, very strict gun control measures: In Canada and England almost half of all burglaries are “Hot” burglaries. In contrast in the U.S. with fewer gun restrictions, the rate of “hot” burglaries is only 13%. Criminals are not behaving differently by accident. Convicted American felons reveal in surveys that they are much more worried about armed victims than about running into the police.
p. 5 Simple economics: Just as when the price of apples increases people will buy more oranges or other fruit, criminals will switch to attacking more vulnerable prey. This is called “the substitution effect” by economists.
p.6 Proof of the substitution effect: 56% of convicted felons surveyed, claimed that they would not attack a potential victim who was known to be armed. Indeed, the criminals in states with high civilian gun ownership were the most worried about encountering armed victims.
p.7-8 False “gun facts”: Many commonly accepted “facts” about crime are simply not true. For example, take the claim that individuals are frequently killed by people they know. Some gun control groups claim that this figure is as high as 58%. However, this grouping includes rival gang members, a cab driver and his fare, and pimps and their prostitutes. Hardly fitting “people you know.” In fact Chicago Police Department statistics show that just 5% of all murders in the city from 1990 to 1995 were committed by nonfamily friends, neighbors or roommates.
p. 8 Law Abiding citizens are not murderers: In the largest seventy-five counties in the U.S. in 1988, over 89% of adult murderers already had criminal records as adults. From 1990 to 1994, 76% of juvenile murder victims and 77% of juveniles who murdered other juveniles had prior criminal records. Murderers are people who already have criminal records. Law abiding citizens don’t all-of-a-sudden turn into murderers because they have a gun. Criminals are not typical citizens.
p.9 Accidental firearm deaths: in 1995 there were a total of 1,400 accidental firearm deaths in the entire U.S. A relatively small portion of these involved children: 30 deaths involved children up to four years of age and 170 more deaths involved five- to fourteen-year-olds. In comparison, 2,900 children dies in motor-vehicle crashes, 950 children lost their lives from drowning, and over 1,000 children were killed by fire and burns. More children die in bicycle accidents each year than die from all types of firearm accidents.
P10 Unintended consequences of “safety” precautions: We protect aspirin bottles with child safety caps to prevent accidental deaths. However, evidence indicates that child-resistant bottle caps actually have resulted in “3,500 additional poisonings of children under age five annually from aspirin related drugs.” Why? Because consumers have been lulled into a less safety-conscious mode of behavior by the existence of safety caps.
p. 10 Query: Would stricter gun control regulations primarily reduce the number of guns held by law-abiding citizens? I.e., would “criminals” be likely to comply with gun control regulations or would they ignore them? How much would stricter gun control regulations alter the relative balance of power between criminals and law abiding citizens? (Hint: it would help the criminals!)
p.10 Query: Will allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns mean that otherwise law-abiding people will harm each other? Or, would the threat of self-defense by citizens armed with guns primarily deter criminals?
p.11 Defensive gun use: Some claim that each year there are “only” 80,000 to 82,000 defensive uses of guns during assaults, robberies, and household burglaries. However, other national polls imply much higher defensive use rates. Fifteen national polls, including those done by the Los Angeles Times, Gallup, and Peter Hart Research Associates imply that there are 760,000 to 3.6 million defensive uses of guns per year.
p.12 The fear that giving people concealed carry firearms will greatly increase incidents of “road rage” shootings or turn our streets into the “wild west.” (Chicago’s Mayor Daley’s argument). Facts: There exists only one recorded incident of a permitted concealed handgun being used in a shooting following a traffic accident, and that instance involved a case of self-defense! Moreover, no concealed carry permit holder has ever shot a police officer, and there have been cases where permit holders have used their guns to save officer’s lives!
p.14 What do police officers think about concealed carry? 76% of street officers and 59% of managerial officers agreed that all trained, responsible adults should be allowed to obtain handgun-carry permits. By similarly overwhelming percentages, these officers and police chiefs rejected claims that the Brady law would lower the crime rate.
p. 14 What do registered voters think about concealed carry? By a margin of 69% to 28%, registered voters favor “a law allowing law-abiding citizens to be issued a carry permit to carry a firearm for personal protection outside their home.” Only 16% favored a ban on handguns.
p.14 Who supports tighter restrictions on gun ownership? “The less educated and those who haven’t been threatened with a gun are most supportive of gun control.” Those most supportive of restrictions also tend to be those least directly threatened by crime.
p.15 Lawmaker and celebrity hypocrites: Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.), Cybill Shepherd, Bill Cosby and Arthur O. Sulzberger (chairman of the N.Y Times) all have concealed-handgun permits! In fact, according to one U.S. Senator, “You’d be surprised how many senators have guns.”
p.18 Stiffer penalties or higher probabilities of conviction result in fewer violations of the law. The evidence consistently finds a negative association between crime rates and the risks of apprehension, conviction or imprisonment. I.e., deterrence works!
p.19 Data from 3,054 U.S. counties from 1977 to 1992, and additional available data from 1993 and 1994 were used by Lott to arrive at his conclusions and to verify his results.
p.19 And? National crime rates have been falling at the same time as gun ownership has been rising. Likewise, states experiencing the greatest reductions in crime are also the ones with the fastest growing percentage of gun ownership.
p.19 Criminals, as a group, tend to behave rationally – when crime becomes more difficult, less crime is committed. Higher arrest and conviction rates dramatically reduce crime. Criminals also move out of jurisdictions in which criminal deterrence increases.
p.19 ALLOWING CITIZENS TO CARRY CONCEALED HANDGUNS REDUCES VIOLENT CRIMES, AND THE REDUCTIONS COINCIDE VERY CLOSELY WITH THE NUMBER OF CONCEALED-HANDGUN PERMITS ISSUED.
p.19 MASS SHOOTINGS IN PUBLIC PLACES ARE REDUCED WHEN LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS ARE ALLOWED TO CARRY CONCEALED HANDGUNS.
p.19 THE LARGEST DROPS IN VIOLENT CRIME FROM LEGALIZED CONCEALED HANDGUNS OCCURRED IN THE MOST URBAN COUNTIES WITH THE GREATEST POPULATIONS AND THE HIGHEST CRIME RATES.
p.20 OF ALL THE METHODS STUDIED SO FAR BY ECONOMISTS, THE CARRYING OF CONCEALED HANDGUNS APPEARS TO BE THE MOST COST EFFECTIVE METHOD FOR REDUCING CRIME.
P22 Lott looked at both time series data and cross-sectional data. That is, one area over time and multiple areas at the same time and multiple areas over time.
P23 Lott used sets of measures that controlled for the average differences in crime rates across places even after demographic, income and other factors had been accounted for. NO PREVIOUS GUN-CONTROL STUDIES HAVE EVER TAKEN THIS APPROACH.
P23 Kellerman study: Guns more likely to kill friend or relative than a bad guy. Serious problems with methodology and facts. Only 8 out of 444 homicides established that the gun involved had been kept in the home. (See also, Chicago Police Dept. study from 1990 to 1995 only 5% of murders were by non-relative friends or roommates.)
P36 From 1988 to 1996 there was a large increase in the percentage of people who own guns. Registered voters who were gun owners in 1988 were 27.4%, And in 1996 the number was 37%! In overall general population gun ownership rose from 26% in 1988 to 39% in 1996! (Note: the violent crime rates during this time were dropping!)
P39 Rural areas have the highest gun ownership rates and the lowest crime rates. Cities with more than 500,000 people have the lowest gun ownership rates and the highest crime rates.
P43 Violent crime rates were 46% higher in 1995 than in 1976 and 240% higher than in 1965.
P43 Violent crime rates were the highest in states with the most restrictive gun control rules, Next highest was states with discretionary concealed carry permits and the violent crime rates were the lowest in the states with the nondiscretionary “shall issue” concealed carry permit rules.
P47 The difference is quite striking: violent crimes are 81% higher in states without nondiscretionary concealed carry laws. For murder, states that ban the concealed carrying of handguns the murder rates are 127% higher than the states with the most liberal concealed carry laws. For property crimes, the difference is much smaller: 24%. States with nondiscretionary concealed carry laws have less crime, but the primary difference appears in terms of less violent crimes.
P50 While the initial comparison of crime rates in states with and without concealed handgun laws was suggestive, obviously many other factors need to be accounted for. The next three chapters use common statistical techniques known as regression analysis to control for these factors.
P51 The results clearly imply that nondiscretionary concealed carry laws coincide with fewer murder, aggravated assaults and rapes. On the other hand, property crimes like auto theft and larceny rates rise. THE RESULTS ARE ALSO LARGE, INDICATING HOW IMPORTANT THE CONCEALED CARRY LAWS CAN BE.
P51 WHEN STATE CONCEALED HANDGUN LAWS WENT INTO EFFECT IN A COUNTY MURDER FELL BY ABOUT 8%, RAPES FELL BY 5% AND AGGRAVATED ASSAULTS FELL BY 7%. IN 1992 18,469 MURDERS, 79,272 RAPES, 538,368 ROBBERIES AND 861,103 AGGRAVATED ASSAULTS occurred in COUNTIES WITHOUT THE NONDISCRETIONARY CONCEALED HANDGUN LAWS. If those states without the nondiscretionary concealed handgun laws had been forced to issue concealed carry handgun permits, murders in the U.S. would have declined by 1,400! (That’s one year, 1,400 lives!)
P54 Gun control proponents always stress the increase in accidental deaths from increased concealed carry permits. In 1988 there were 200 accidental handgun deaths. Of these 200, 22 were in states with concealed handgun laws while 178 occurred in states without concealed handgun laws! The reduction in murders alone is as much as 8 times greater than the total number of accidental deaths in concealed handgun states (assuming however unlikely, that all the accidental handgun deaths were caused because of concealed carry handguns.) The numbers indicate that rapes in states without concealed carry handgun laws would decline by 4,200, aggravated assaults would decline by 60,000 and robberies would decline by 12,000.
P58 When individual state time trends were included in the analysis, all results indicated that the concealed handgun laws lowered crime. Under this specification, the passage of nondiscretionary concealed handgun laws in states that did not have them in 1992 would have reduced murders in that year by 1,839; rapes by 3,727; aggravated assaults by 10,990; robberies by 61,064; burglaries by 112,665; larcenies by 93,274; and auto thefts by 41,512. The total value of this reduction in crime in 1992 dollars would have been $7.6 billion.
P60 concealed handgun laws have statistically significant effects only in the relatively high crime counties. For most violent crimes—such as murder, rape, and aggravated assault—concealed weapons laws have much greater deterrent effects in high-crime counties.
P63 The concealed-handgun laws have varying effects depending upon the size of the county. When counties with almost 600,000 people (two standard deviations above the mean population) pass a concealed-handgun law, the murder rate falls by 12 percent. That is 7.4 times more than it was reduced for the average county (75,773 people).
The most densely populated areas are the ones most helped by concealed-handgun laws.
Higher-income areas and counties with relatively more blacks both have particularly large drops in crime associated with concealed-handgun laws.
P64-67 See Bar graph figures, very dramatic!
P68 While many blacks want to make guns harder to get, the irony is that blacks benefit more than any other groups from concealed-handgun laws. Allowing potential victims a means for self-defense is more important in crime-prone neighborhoods.
Even more strikingly, the history of gun control in the United States has often been a series of attempts to disarm blacks.
P69 Lott testified before the Illinois House of Representatives and afterwards, he was approached by a black representative from Chicago who supported the bill. He told Lott that he was not surprised by Lott’s finding that areas with large minority populations gained the most from these concealed-handgun laws.
Noting the inability of the police to protect people in heavily black areas when “bad guys” already had illegal guns, the representative said he believed that the current power imbalance between law-abiding people and criminals was greatest in black areas.
NOTE: Chicago has a complete and total ban on handguns and even after the Heller decision striking down D.C.’s similar law, Mayor Richard Daley, Jr. is still fighting to maintain the total ban. He claims that the Second Amendment only applies to the federal government, not the states. While all other Bill of Rights provisions have been held to be incorporated as against the states by the 14th Amendment, he still wants to fight it and waste thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars in stupid legal fees. What’s far, far worse is the Fact that in 2008 Chicago recorded 509 murders, more than that of U.S. Soldiers killed in Iraq. Imagine that, you’d be safer on the streets of Iraq than you’d be on the streets of Chicago! Moreover, if Illinois passed a concealed-carry law and murders dropped by 8%, as they have in other areas that passed concealed-carry laws, the number of murders in Chicago would have dropped by over 40! And since Chicago is definitely a densely populated area where the concealed-handgun laws would have three times the impact over standard population counties, passing concealed handgun laws for Chicago would have reduced the number of murders in 2008 by over 120!
P69 Perhaps it is not too surprising that blacks and those living in urban areas gain the most from being able to defend themselves with concealed handguns, since the absence of police appears most acute in black, central-city neighborhoods.
P70 Law-abiding minorities in the most crime prone areas produced the greatest crime reduction from being able to defend themselves (by concealed-handgun laws).
P73 Lott’s results consistently indicated that the concealed-handgun law lowered the rates of violent crime, rape, and aggravated assault and murder. … the nondiscretionary laws affected crime immediately, with an additional change spread out over time.
Re-estimating progressions to account for time trends in crime rates before and after the passage of the concealed-handgun laws provides consistent strong evidence that the deterrent impact of concealed-handgun increases with time.
P75 The drops [in crime rates] not only begin right when the laws pass but also take crime rates well below what they had been before the passage of the laws.
Moreover, deterrence increases with the number of concealed-handgun permits that are issued.
P79 Nine of the ten states [which passed nondiscretionary concealed-handgun laws] experienced declines in violent-crime rates as a result of these laws, and eight of the ten states experienced declines in murder rates; in the states where violent crimes, murders, or robberies rose, the increases were very small. In fact, the largest increases were smaller than the smallest declines in the states where the crime rates fell.
P81 …larger declines in crime were recorded in the most densely populated states. The differences are quite large: the most densely populated states experienced decreases in violent crimes that were about three times greater than the decreases in states with the average density.
P83 What about other gun laws? Lott looked at mandatory waiting periods to determine their impact on crime rates. Taken together, the results make it very difficult to argue that waiting periods (particularly long ones) have an overall beneficial effect on crime rates.
P90 Even using updated information, Lott found that all the results indicate that concealed-handgun laws reduce crime, and all the findings are statistically significant.