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John J. Lott

Monday, June 1st, 1998

John R. Lott, Jr. of Chicago, Illinois is the designated recipient of the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month Award for June.

In nominating Lott for the Award, John Michael Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, stated that Lott “has rendered outstanding service to the cause of freedom, to the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.

“Lott most certainly is most deserving of this Award.”

Lott is The John M. Olin Law and Economics Fellow at the School of Law of the University of Chicago. He received national recognition a couple of years ago when he and David Mustard, a graduate student in economics at the University of Chicago, gathered and analyzed evidence showing that by adopting laws allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns if they do not have a criminal record or a history of significant mental illness, states reduced murders by 8.5 percent, rapes by five percent, aggravated assaults by seven percent and robbery by three percent. The full results of that study were published in the January, 1997 issue of the university’s JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES.

Now Professor Lott has produced an even more thorough and complete empirical study of gun laws and crime rates. Entitled MORE GUNS, LESS CRIME and subtitled UNDERSTANDING CRIME AND GUN CONTROL LAWS, it is his first book and it is published by The University of Chicago Press in both Chicago, Illinois and London, England.

In his book, he demonstrates that “allowing citizens without criminal records to carry concealed handguns deters violent crimes and appears to produce an extremely small and statistically insignificant change in accidental deaths. If the rest of the country had adopted right-to-carry concealed-handgun provisions in 1992, about 1,500 murders and 4,000 rapes would have been avoided. On the other hand, consistent with the notion that criminals respond to incentives, county-level data provide some evidence that concealed-handgun laws are associated with increases in property crimes involving stealth and in crimes that involve minimal probability of contact between the criminal and the victim. Even though both the state-level data and the estimates that attempt to explain why the law and the arrest rates change indicate that crime in all the categories declines, the deterrent effect of nondiscretionary handgun laws is largest for violent crimes. Counties with the largest populations, where the deterrence of violent crimes is the lowest, are also the counties where the substitution of property crimes for violent crimes by criminals is the highest. The estimated annual gain in 1992 from allowing concealed handguns was over $5.74 billion.

“Many commonly accepted notions are challenged by these findings. Urban areas tend to have the most restrictive gun control rules and have fought the hardest against nondiscretionary concealed-handgun laws, yet they are the very places that benefit the most from nondiscretionary concealed-handgun laws. Not only do urban areas tend to gain in their fight against crime, but reductions in crime rates are greatest precisely in those urban areas that have the highest crime rates, largest and most dense populations, and greatest concentrations of minorities. To some this might not be too surprising. After all, law-abiding citizens in these areas must depend on themselves to a great extent for protection. Even if self-protection were accepted, concerns would still arise over whether these law-abiding citizens would use guns properly. This study provides a very strong answer: a few people do and will use permitted concealed handguns improperly, but the gains completely overwhelm these concerns.

“Another surprise involves women and blacks. Both tend to be the strongest supporters of gun control, yet both obtain the largest benefits from nondiscretionary concealed-handgun laws in terms of reduced rates of murder and other crimes. Concealed handguns also appear to be the great equalizer among the sexes. Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but the effect is especially pronounced for women. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about three to four times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men. Providing a woman with a concealed handgun represents a much larger change in her ability to defend herself than it does for a man.

“The benefits of concealed handguns are not limited to those who use them in self-defense. Because the guns may be concealed, criminals are unable to tell whether potential victims are carrying guns until they attack, thus making it less attractive for criminals to commit crimes that involve direct contact with victims. Citizens who have no intention of ever carrying concealed handguns in a sense get a ‘free ride’ from the crime-fighting efforts of their fellow citizens. However, the ‘halo’ effect created by these laws is apparently not limited to people who share the characteristics of those who carry guns. The most obvious example is the drop in murders of children following the adoption of nondiscretionary laws. Arming older people not only may provide direct protection to these children, but also causes criminals to leave the area…

“Preventing law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns does not end violence; it only makes victims more vulnerable to attack. In the final analysis, one concern unites us all: Will allowing law-abiding citizens to carry handguns save lives? The answer is yes, it will.”

Born May 8, 1958 in Detroit, Michigan, Professor Lott is married and has four children. He received his BA in 1980, his MA in 1982 and his Ph.D. in 1984 in Economics from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

In addition to teaching courses in economics at UCLA and the University of Chicago, Dr. Lott has taught at the Cornell University Law School, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, Stanford University and Texas A&M University. He was the chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission during 1988 and 1989. He has published over 70 articles in academic journals.