Fewer Guns, More Crime

This column by ACRU General Counsel and Senior Fellow for the Carleson Center for Public Policy (CCPP) Peter Ferrara was published December 19, 2012 on The American Spectator website.

To President Obama, the word "politics" means anyone who disagrees with him, as in the phrase "It is time to put politics aside." Whenever he says that, he is really saying "It is time to put aside anyone who disagrees with me on this issue."

Our hearts are all still hurting over the mass shooting and murder of 20 innocent small children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. But it was in the same breath as the announcement of the tragedy that President Obama's all politics all the time ideological warriors inserted their politics, seeking to exploit the deaths of these small children for their ideological and political gain. For them, such gain means liquidating even more of the liberties and even constitutional rights of all Americans who had nothing to do with the mass shooting.

Twenty children are murdered in cold blood by a deranged gunman, and the answer is to seize the guns and flush the effective right to self-defense of 300 million Americans? The answer is actually just the opposite, as I explain below. Just ask yourself what political philosophy has had disarming the citizenry near the top of its agenda for more than a century.

But the question we all have to ask now is are we going to tolerate left-wing infiltrators exploiting the gruesome murder of small children to advance the further diminution of our liberties and constitutional rights?

More Guns, Less Crime
The sharpest person in America on the issue of guns and crime is John Lott, the author of the classic book, More Guns, Less Crime. Early in his career, Lott was an economist for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which established federal sentencing guidelines, leading to his subsequent career as a pathbreaking thinker on guns and crime. His book More Guns, Less Crime is the bible for understanding how to respond effectively to the Sandy Hook school tragedy.

Lott's book is not an opinion piece or a lawyer's argument. What it does is carefully present, review, and analyze copious data county by county, city by city, state by state, all across America, for several recent decades. Moreover, he doesn't just cite stats that he thinks will make his case. He presents the data through highly sophisticated regression analysis that befits a first rate economist formerly of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and thoroughly explains and demonstrates what the numbers show. These regressions

account for not only all the law enforcement variables (arrest, execution, and imprisonment rates), income and poverty measures (poverty and unemployment rates, per capita real income, as well as income maintenance, retirement and unemployment payments), the thirty-six measures of demographic changes, and the national average changes in crime rates from year to year and average differences across states....In addition, the [regressions] account for the differences in various concealed-handgun laws and other types of gun control laws.

In other words, this is the most sophisticated presentation of the data in the world.

What the results show is that in localities where there are more guns, there is less crime. That is because criminals avoid victims who are or might be armed, and prefer to prey on the defenseless and unarmed. It is this unparalleled scholarship that has swept the states with newly enacted "concealed carry" laws. Those laws require local authorities to issue permits to carry concealed handguns to those who meet the specified qualifications (known as "shall issue" laws). Lott describes the sweeping change in his latest Third Edition of More Guns, Less Crime:

In 2007, there were about 5 million Americans permitted to carry concealed handguns. Thirty-nine states have right to carry laws and nine have may-issue laws. Only two states, Illinois and Wisconsin, still completely ban people from carrying concealed handguns. That is a big change from just the eight states that had right-to-carry laws in the early 1980s.

Also in the Third Edition, published in 2010, are the results of sophisticated regressions run on the effects of those conceal and carry laws:

There are large drops in overall violent crime, murder, rape, and aggravated assault that begin right after the right to carry laws have gone into effect. In all those crime categories, the crime rates consistently stay much lower than they were before the law. The murder rate for these right to carry states fell consistently every year relative to non-right-to-carry states.

Lott adds:

All the results indicate that violent crime falls after right-to-carry laws are passed....There is a large, statistically significant drop in murder rates across all specifications. The before-and-after average comparison implies that right-to-carry laws reduce murder by roughly 20 percent. In all cases, right-to-carry laws cause the trends in murder, rape, and robbery rates to fall.

Lott quotes the Detroit Free Press on the results of conceal and carry in one state:

"Six years after new rules made it much easier to get a license to carry concealed weapons, the number of Michiganders legally packing heat has increased six fold...The incidence of violent crime in Michigan in the six years since the law went into effect has been, on average, below the rate of the previous six years. The overall incidence of death from firearms, including suicide and accidents, also has declined. More than 155,000 Michiganders -- about one in every 65 -- are now authorized to carry loaded guns as they go about their everyday affairs.... About 25,000 people had CCW permits in Michigan before the law changed in 2001."

Conceal and carry permit holders have been incredibly law abiding, with revocations running at about 0.2 percent or less in most states, sometimes much less. Many if not most of these are for infractions unrelated to guns, such as failure to maintain vehicle insurance. People are safer around permit holders than among the general public.

In fact, armed permit holders often serve as the first line of defense, as explained by David Kopel in Monday's Wall Street Journal:

The media rarely mention the mass murders that were thwarted by armed citizens at the Shoney's Restaurant in Anniston, Ala. (1991), the high school in Pearl, Miss. (1997), the middle-school dance in Edinboro, Penn. (1998), and the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. (2007), among others. At the Clackamas Mall in Oregon last week, an active shooter murdered two people and then saw that a shopper, who had a handgun carry permit, had drawn a gun and was aiming at him. The murderer's next shot was to kill himself.

Of course Lott and his work have been attacked by liberal and leftist ideologues. But in his book he thoroughly and brilliantly decimates them, too. It is easy for hardened gun control campaigners to assert that "Lott has been discredited." But there is no basis for such assertions.

Can Liberals Reason?
Lott applies the lessons learned from this work to mass murders such as the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. In a recent talk radio interview, he noted that the mass murderers usually choose so-called gun free zones such as schools, or movie theaters or shopping malls where guns are prohibited. That is because they know they can carry out their plan for mass murder there without being stopped.

Lott insightfully explains that these mass murderers are consciously choosing to commit suicide in carrying out their crimes. But they don't want to go out quietly. They want to make a big splash to draw national and even world attention to their pain and their plight. This is all a reflection of the mental illness that generally plagues them.

The lessons of More Guns, Less Crime actually apply quite directly to this problem. When Israel suffered terrorists targeting its schools, it ultimately decided to arm its teachers. In fact, Israel generally follows the conceal and carry policy Lott favors throughout society. This way, the Israeli people themselves are the first line of defense against terrorism.

Such a policy would have prevented the extent of the killing at Sandy Hook. School policy should seek to train as many willing teachers as possible in each school, empowered with conceal and carry permits to defend themselves and their children. Such permits more generally would help to prevent such mass murders elsewhere.

Is this just a wild west scenario? We are already living in the wild west, but often with only the bad guys having guns. And that is where the policies of the liberals and President Obama would take us further. As Lott says, "The evidence should make gun control advocates pause, as all the gun bans that I have studied show that murder rates increase after the ban is enacted." But our experience with President Obama shows that he doesn't learn from experience. That is why he wants to expand the experience of murder capital Chicago to the entire nation.

The bottom line is that the government does not have the power to take away guns from dangerous criminals and mass murderers. The government cannot stop drugs from crossing our borders, and even showing up in prisons. The government can only stop law-abiding, innocent victims from being armed. But there is no sense or logic to that.

The gun control policy is even worse than that, because it sacrifices the liberties, self-defense, and constitutional rights of every innocent American, to an ineffective policy that will not work, unless your policy is precisely to disarm the public because you have nefarious plans for the American people. Just bring back the ban on assault rifles? We already tried that, and it didn't work, with no significant change in the data when the ban went into effect, and no significant change when the ban lapsed. More effective would be to ban braindead liberals from public service. Would that violate the Constitution? Aren't we already discussing policies that would violate the Constitution?

There really is no such thing as an assault rifle. They are defined by references to their cosmetic appearance rather than to their functionality. Banning assault rifles is really just a PR stunt deluding the gullible that something important has been accomplished.

Other liberal policies have only contributed to the problem as well. Liberal deinstitutionalization policies have liberated the mentally ill to roam the streets, giving rise to the homeless problem as well as to more mass murderers. As Kopel also notes in Monday's Journal:

A 2011 paper by Steven P. Segal at the University of California, Berkeley, "Civil Commitment Law, Mental Health Services, and U.S. Homicide Rates," found that a third of the state-to-state variation in homicide rates was attributable to the strength or weakness of involuntary civil-commitment laws.

Violence-drenched movies and video games contribute to disrespect for life in our culture. The breakdown of the family and widespread out of wedlock births give rise to more violence and crime as well. The airhead liberal policy of piously declaring certain public areas "gun free zones" very directly contributes to mass murder.

Maybe we need to look at that idea of banning brain-dead liberals.

Click to visit our Facebook page