More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Article excerpt

More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

by John R. Lott, Jr.

University of Chicago Press 1998 . 232 pages

* $23.00

Reviewed by Dave Kopel

Gun prohibition kills people. Guns in the hands of responsible citizens save lives and make everyone safer-even the employees of gun-control organizations. University of Chicago economist and law professor John R. Lott, Jr., proves those claims beyond a reasonable doubt in his new book, More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Single-handedly, Lott has redefined the gun-control debate in the United States.

Lott first appeared on the national firearmspolicy scene in 1996 with the release of his research about concealed-carry laws. As of 1985, only a handful of states allowed citizens to legally carry firearms in the streets and other public places for protection. But now, 31 states do so; except for Vermont and Idaho (outside Boise), which require no permit at all, all of the states have some type of "shall issue" law. Under these laws, an ordinary citizen who passes a background check-and in some states, safety training-is issued a permit to carry a handgun for lawful protection.

Lott's meticulous research far surpassed all previous work on the effects of those laws. He collected data from 3,054 counties in the United States over a 15-year period and examined changes in the rates for nine different crimes, not just homicide. He also accounted for the effects of dozens of other variables, including changes in arrest rates, changes in the age and racial composition of a county's population, changes in national crime rates, and other changes in gun-control laws, including the adoption of waiting periods.

The results? Concealed-handgun license laws significantly reduce violent crime. The rates of homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault fall between 5 and 8 percent. Crimes begin dropping immediately, but the full benefits of concealed-handgun laws take about three years to make themselves fully felt. The larger the percentage of the population with permits, the greater the drop in crime.

Lott also found a small but statistically significant increase in non-confrontational property crimes such as larceny. …