Robert Moffitt

Saturday, July 1st, 2000

Robert E. Moffitt, Ph.D., of Severna Park, Maryland, is the designated recipient of the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month Award for July.

In nominating Moffitt for the Award, John Michel Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, said, “I’ve known Bob for decades and he always has been a staunch proponent of the individual Second Amendment civil right of law-abiding American citizens to keep and bear arms. A true intellectual and eminent scholar, Bob is the son of a Philadelphia police detective and he comes from a family of police officers. He knows for sure the truth of what he speaks when he maintains the right of law-abiding citizens to be able to defend themselves against the violent thugs who prey upon the innocent. His statements in a recent publication show he is most deserving of this Award.”

Dr. Moffitt is the Director of Domestic Policy at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D. C. He is the chief author of a Heritage Foundation issue report on “Crime, Making American Safer” in the Foundation Issues 2000 Candidate’s Briefing Book series.

In a section on Gun Control and Crime, Moffitt and co-author David B. Muhlhausen note that “in the aftermath of shocking public school shootings, proposals to restrict the use and availability of firearms have increased. Advocates of gun control often portray strict firearm legislation as an effective means to curb crime. But serious policymakers should determine whether strict gun control laws actually reduce violent crime rates.

“To shed light on this question, The Heritage Foundation Center for Date Analysis analyzed the crime rates of all 50 states and the District of Columbia as published in the FBI’s 1997 UNIFORM CRIME REPORTS, as well as their handgun license or permit laws in 1997. Licenses or permitting requirements for the purchase and ownership of firearms have two main purposes: restricting who can own or purchase a handgun and requiring owners to receive training on how to operate a handgun safely.”

Moffitt indicates that, while many factors cause differences in crime, analysis demonstrates that “states with permit or license restrictions on the purchase and ownership of handguns in 1997 had an average violent crime rate of 654.1 per 100,000, while states without such restrictions had a much lower violent crime rate – 482.9 per 100,000. In other words, the violent crime rate in states with these restrictions was 35.5 percent higher than the violent crime rate in states without such restrictions.

“Some 95 percent of the states without handgun permit/license requirements had a violent crime rate between 399.6 per 100,000 and 566.2 per 100,000. The mean violent crime rate for states with license/permit requirements was 654.1 per 100,000, well above this range.

“Intuitively, if licensing and permitting restrictions on handguns were an effective means of reducing crime, states with such policies would have lower crime rates. As this analysis shows, it is not at all obvious that handgun restrictions do indeed reduce crime rates.

“Largely ignored in the gun control debate is the significant number of defensive gun uses per year by citizens against criminals.

“According to researchers Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, citizens use their firearms to thwart criminal attacks anywhere from 670,000 to 1.5 million times per year. Further, the researchers found that only one in 1,000 instances of gun-carrying resulted in a violent gun crime.”

Moffitt notes that a review of the scientific literature on gun buy-backs conducted by the University of Maryland Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice in 1997 indicates that gun buy-back programs operated in Seattle and St. Louis have not been accompanied by a reduction in crime.

“There are several reasons why gun buy-backs do not reduce crime,” Moffitt states. “First, these programs often attract sellers from outside the city. Second, they attract firearms that are not in use. For instance, the guns are often left untouched and forgotten in the home until the city offers cash for them. Third, potential criminals may use the payment from the gun buy-back to purchase a better, more lethal firearm. Perhaps most important, gun buy-back programs simply ignore the criminal’s economic incentives: The value of a firearm to a criminal exceeds the small amount of money offered. Simply put, the economic value of a firearm to a robber over the course of his criminal career will outweigh the city’s payment. Policymakers should concentrate limited funds in programs with a demonstrated track record of success.”

“State lawmakers can enact laws that make all criminals on probation and parole subject to the ‘nonconsensual’ search for guns or other weapons as a condition of that probation or parole. Stopping and frisking such persons, especially in ‘hot spot’ high-crime areas, would be an innovative way to combat gun violence. Local police officials also could create specialized units that combine surveillance and sting strategies to catch the offender in the act of crime. The resulting evidence is stronger than arrests made after the fact, thus increasing the odds of the offender being imprisoned.”

Dr. Moffitt has earned three degrees in political science, his Bachelors from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, and his Masters and Doctorate from the University of Arizona, where he graduated with Distinction.

He and his wife Barbara are the parents of four children.