John Lott's response to an HCI web page attacking his work. To make it easier to read, I have colored the passages that are quotes from the arguments he is responding to.

"[A]ccording to the CPHV analysis, violent crime actually rose in 12 of 29 states (41%) which liberalized their CCW laws over the five years beginning in 1992, compared to a similar rise in violent crime in only 4 of 22 states (18%) which did not change their CCW laws. The disparity in the decline is even more obvious for rates of gun violence. From 1992 to 1997 (the last five years for which data exists), the violent crime rate in the strict and no-issue states fell 24.8% while the violent crime rate for states with liberal CCW laws dropped 11.4%. Nationally the violent crime rate fell 19.4%."


My response -- Handgun Control's (the parent organization of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence) "press release" took the change in violent crime rates between two years, 1992 and 1997, but then classified states on the basis of what their laws were in 1997. Some states did not even enact their right-to-carry laws until late 1996, and a third were adopted in late 1995 on. It doesn't make much sense to me to attribute the increase in crime for the five years before the law goes into effect to the law. Ideally what one would want to do is look at the relative rates of change before and after the laws were adopted in different states. This is what I do in my research.


HCI's points attacking me:

1) John Lott claims that changing the law to allow more people to carry concealed handguns causes a fall in violent crime, yet he finds virtually no beneficial effect from changes in handgun carry laws on robbery - the crime most likely to occur between strangers, and in public spaces. Is this finding consistent with his theory -- does it make sense? --

See my book on p. 133


2) To this day, John Lott has failed to provide any statistical evidence of his own that counters Black and Nagin's finding that Lott's conclusions are inappropriately attributed to changes in concealed carry laws. Until Lott can do this, it is inappropriate for him to continue to claim that allowing more people to carry concealed handguns causes a drop in violent crime. --


Other related complaints:

"While he includes a chapter that contains replies to his critics, unfortunately he doesn't directly respond to the key Black and Nagin finding that formal statistical tests reject his methods. The closest he gets to addressing this point is to acknowledge 'the more serious possibility that some other factor may have caused both the reduction in crime rates and the passage of the law to occur at the same time, but then goes on to say that he has 'presented over a thousand [statistical model] specifications' that reveal 'an extremely consistent pattern" that right-to-carry laws reduce crime. Another view would be that a thousand versions of a demonstrably invalid analytical approach produce boxes full of invalid results." Jens Ludwig, "Guns and Numbers," Washington Monthly (June 1998) p. 51


"we applied a number of specification tests suggested by James J. Heckman and V. Joseph Hotz. The results are available from us on request. The specifics of the findings, however, are less important than the overall conclusion that is implied. The results show that commonly the model either overestimates or underestimates the crime rate of adopting states in the years prior to adoption." Black and Nagin, "Do right-to-Carry Laws Deter Violent Crime," Journal of Legal Studies, January 1998, p. 218.


My response:

The brief couple of sentences that Black and Nagin spent on this issue in their paper never really struck me as either a "key" issue or as a particularly serious one, though I did include a response to this general point in the original book. Their test is based upon the claim that I am assuming an immediate as well as constant effect from the adoption of right-to-carry laws. True, when one looks at the simple before and after average crime rates, as done in Table 4.1 and a corresponding table in my original work with Mustard, this is the assumption that is being made. But I then emphasized that was not a very realistic way to test the impact of the right-to-carry laws, and I continued with more complicated specifications. Black and Nagin's test confirms the very criticisms that I was making of these initial simplifying assumptions.

Looking at the before-and-after averages merely provides a overly simplified starting point. If criminals respond to the risk of meeting a potential victim who is carrying a concealed handgun, the deterrent effect of a concealed handgun laws should be related to the number of concealed handguns being carried and that should rise gradually over time. It was precisely because of these concerns that I included a variable for the number of years after the law had been in effect. As consistently demonstrated in Figure 1 in my original paper and the figures in this book (e.g., pages 77-79), these estimated time trends confirmed that crime rates were rising before the law went into effect and falling afterward, with the effect increasing as more years went by.

As discussed already in the book, I did not expect the impact to be the same across all states, because not all places started issuing permits at the same rate (see response to point #3 on page 131-132). Indeed, this is one of the reasons why I tried to examine whether the drops in crime rates were greatest in urban, high population areas.


3) Researchers who have reanalyzed Lott's data, for example, found no beneficial impact from changes in carry laws when Florida was not included in the study, or when they restricted their analysis to counties that had populations greater than 100,000 people. --

This is not true. See my book on 138-140.


4) Doesn't Lott implicitly acknowledge that his work is fundamentally flawed because he does not account for other factors which could affect both the crime rate and the decision by state legislators to change carry laws? -- see the discussion on page 153 that they cite.


5) Kleck has accepted the Black and Nagin critique, writing in his new book that Lott's thesis "could be challenged, in light of how modest the intervention was. [More] likely, the declines in crime, coinciding with relaxation of carry laws were largely attributable to other factors not controlled for in the Lott and Mustard analysis" (Targeting Guns; p. 372). -- read Kleck's blurb on the dust jacket of my book. He makes a similar point in the part that they fail to quote in the book. I have asked Kleck and he can't think of what I may have left out.


6) Does anyone really believe that auto theft is a substitute for rape or for murder?

See my book on p. 134


7) John Lott's claim is "more guns, less crime," but a substantial portion of that claim is based on his use of two voter exit polls. Can he use these polls to make this claim? And, does the evidence support the claim? --

Everything the mention is already addressed at the beginning of Chapter 3.


8) Is it true that law enforcement has consistently been opposed to weakening carry concealed weapons laws? --

See the information on pages 13 and 14.


9) Wouldn't allowing more people to carry concealed handguns increase incidents of citizens attacking each other? --


Other related comments:

"But Susan Glick, a researcher for the Violence Policy Center in Washington, a research group that focuses on gun laws found that many people issued concealed-weapons permits in Texas, a state with comparatively loose gun laws, had run afoul of the law. Some 15 people in Texas out of perhaps 200,000 who were issued permits to carry concealed weapons since 1996 have been charged with murder or attempted murder, Ms. Glick said." Dirk Johnson, "Divided Missouri to Vote on a Right to Carry Concealed Guns," New York Times, April 2, 1999, p. A16.

"In states with lax CCW laws, hundreds of licensees have committed crimes both before and after their licensure. For example, in Texas, which weakened its CCW law in 1996, the Department of Public Safety reported that felony and misdemeanor cases involving CCW permit holders rose 54.4% between 1996 and 1997." Douglas Weil, "Carrying Concealed Guns is Not the Solution,", March 26, 1998.

In response to my statement that "The kinds of people who go through the criminal background check and undergo the training aren't the kinds of people who commit the crimes." "Antigun activists complain that no reliable data exists linking concealed weapons to crime because the gun lobby has been successful in hiding it." James N. Thurman, "As more carry hidden guns, who's safer?" Christian Science Monitor, September 1, 1999, p. 1.


My response:

The type of people who obtain permits tend to be extremely law abiding. That holds true for Texas as well as other states. Texas issued over 192,000 permits during the first three years of its right-to-carry law from January 1, 1996 to December 31, 1998. Arrests for crimes involving a gun are a particularly misleading statistic because someone who uses their gun defensively is still likely to be arrested unless the police officer was completely sure that the person behaved properly. By March 1999 an Associated Press report was able to state that: "only 515 of the charges . . . resulted in convictions, though some were still pending. . . . the bulk of the convictions against licensed concealed-handgun holders were misdemeanors, including 185 for drunken driving and 21 for prostitution. Felonies included 31 convictions for aggravated assault, six for assault causing bodily injury and five for aggravated sexual assault. No licensed handgun holder in Texas has been convicted of murder . . ." Tela Goodwin Mange, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman, noted that "The fact there are so few incidents relative to the number of people who have concealed handguns is a positive thing."

Doug Weil is correct that Texas experienced a 54 percent increase in arrests between 1996 and 1997, but what he fails to mention is that the number of permits increased by 50 percent between those two years. Weil's statement also makes it appear that Texas' law changed between the two years, but Texas' law actaully went into effect January 1, 1996.

Yet, the experience in Texas is probably best summarized by Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association: "I lobbied against the law . . . because I thought it would lead to wholesale armed conflict. That hasn't happened. All the horror stories . . . didn't happen. No bogeyman. I think it has worked out well . . . I am a convert."

As I document in my book, the experience has been similar in other states. The vast majority of revocations involve misdemeanors and even when gun related violations occurred, the vast majority of those involve cases like carrying a gun into a restricted area like an airport. There is no evidence that any of these violations involving taking a gun into a restricted area amounted to anything more than an accident and that the permit holder had simply forgot that he had the gun with him.

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