An interview with
John R. Lott, Jr.
author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws
Question: What does the title mean: More Guns, Less Crime?
John R. Lott, Jr.: States
with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest drops
in violent crimes. Thirty-one states now have such laws—called
"shall-issue" laws. These laws allow adults the right to carry
concealed handguns if they do not have a criminal record or a history of
significant mental illness.
Question: It just seems to
defy common sense that crimes likely to involve guns would be reduced by
allowing more people to carry guns. How do you explain the results?
Lott: Criminals are deterred
by higher penalties. Just as higher arrest and conviction rates deter
crime, so does the risk that someone committing a crime will confront
someone able to defend him or herself. There is a strong negative
relationship between the number of law-abiding citizens with permits and
the crime rate—as more people obtain permits there is a greater decline
in violent crime rates. For each additional year that a concealed
handgun law is in effect the murder rate declines by 3 percent, rape by 2
percent, and robberies by over 2 percent.
Concealed handgun laws reduce violent crime for two reasons.
First, they reduce the number of attempted crimes because criminals are
uncertain which potential victims can defend themselves. Second,
victims who have guns are in a much better position to defend
Question: What is the basis for these numbers?
Lott: The analysis is based on data for all 3,054 counties in the United States during 18 years from 1977 to 1994.
Question: Your argument about
criminals and deterrence doesn't tell the whole story. Don't
statistics show that most people are killed by someone they know?
Lott: You are referring to
the often-cited statistic that 58 percent of murder victims are killed
by either relatives or acquaintances. However, what most people don't
understand is that this "acquaintance murder" number also includes gang
members killing other gang members, drug buyers killing drug pushers,
cabdrivers killed by customers they picked up for the first time,
prostitutes and their clients, and so on. "Acquaintance" covers a wide
range of relationships. The vast majority of murders are not committed
by previously law-abiding citizens. Ninety percent of adult murderers
have had criminal records as adults.
Read the Full Interview: Univ. of Chicago Press