Jason talks with John R. Lott about how gun ownership reduces crime rates. More info and free audio at: http://www.holisticsurvival.com/. John is also the author of The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You’ve Heard About Gun Control is Wrong; Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don’t; Straight Shooting: Firearms, Economics and Public Policy and Are Predatory Commitments Credible?: Who Should the Courts Believe? John has published over 90 articles in academic journals and received his Ph.D. in economics from UCLA in 1984.
Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, how to understand threats, and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places, and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host, Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show. This is your host, Jason Hartman, and this is episode #28. Thanks so much for joining me today. Today we’re going to talk about guns. We’re going to talk about the second amendment. We’re gonna talk about your right to protect yourself and how vitally important that is. Many people look at guns as a negative thing. They look at is as something dangerous and I just want to propose a new belief system on firearms. Firearms create equality. Think about it. It doesn’t matter about physical strength or size or anything like that. When it comes to guns, it equalizes and levels the playing field. And a society where gun ownership is available to the citizens tend not to be oppressed by a government, a totalitarian regime in history. That’s the first thing they do is they make sure the citizens do not have arms. So this is an important topic when it comes to protecting the people, places, and profits you care about in these uncertain times.
They say an armed society is a polite society. And my friend Mel, one of our listeners, sent me a bunch of Thomas Jefferson quotes recently. And Jefferson said the strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against the tyranny of their own government. Jefferson also said no free man shall ever be debarred from the use of arms. So this is a very important thing and it’s one of the things that really separates America from so many other countries is that second amendment that allows us to protect our self. We’re going to go to the interview with John R. Lott, Jr. He is the author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. And these two are inextricably tied together. I think you’ll see that.
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Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome John R. Lott to the show. He is the author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. John, you’ve written a great piece here and you’ve got several books, and it’s great to have you on the show and talk about this all important topic to our freedom as Americans. How are you?
John R. Lott: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on, I appreciate it.
Jason Hartman: Talk to us if you would, John, about the effects of gun control on crime. We’ve seen recently Australia, England, other places you hear around the world, cities in the US, where they become very restrictive on the gun laws. And you know the old saying, when you outlaw the guns only the outlaws have guns, and they know the people are defenseless. What really happens in practice out there with these gun control laws?
John R. Lott: Well, I think you’re exactly right. I mean we all want to try to take guns away from criminals. The problem that you face with gun control laws generally is who’s most likely to obey the laws? And if you pass a law, let’s say something like a ban for a simple case and it’s the law abiding good citizens who turn in their guns but not the criminals, you can actually have very perverse results there that rather than making it safer for the victims, you may unintentionally make it safer for the criminals who have less to worry about in terms of victims being able to defend themselves. And one thing that I hope people take away from this edition of the book, the third edition that just came out as well as other work that I’ve done, is that if you look around the world, every time that we’ve had a handgun ban go into effect, there’s been increases in murder rates. So if you were to go and debate somebody about gun control, I would just ask them to point to one place where we’ve had a gun ban and murder rates have gone down because I can’t find it. Americans are generally familiar with what happened in Washington D.C. and Chicago about how when those bans were put in place we saw huge explosions and murder rates in both of those cities. And some people may know that since 2008 when the Supreme Court struck down the DC gun ban and their gun law requirements, we’ve seen about a 30% drop in murder rates since then. Murder rates now are back below where they were before the ban.
But what they often think is that well Washington D.C. and Chicago are just special cases that gun control laws control laws really couldn’t work too well. Some gun control components will claim here in the United States because even though you have bans in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, unless you
have a ban every place, criminals can go and get guns from other places in the country. I get two responses to that, one is if they thought it was somehow destined to fail, it would have been nice for them to tell everybody before they pushed for the bans to begin with. But secondly, as they say, if you look around the world, it’s just now in the United States that you see these increases. And whether it’s whole countries that have passed bans or whether it’s island nations which have passed it which presumably have relatively easy to defend borders, you see increases in murder rates and violent crimes and never see a drop in murder rates or violent crimes generally after these bans go into effect.
Jason Hartman: That’s an interesting point and I remember, I think it was an economics professor I had in college who actually did this, and I’m not sure why it came up in econ class, but he told everybody to move to one side of the room or the other based on their thoughts about gun control. So on one side of the room were the people that think there should be no guns, they should be completely illegal. And on the other side there were people that think there should be very little gun control.
And then he prevented this. And when you said that issue about how criminals can move about, of course, and they can bring guns into an area, they can bring them in from Mexico. Mexico, the drug cartels, are bringing them from the US I guess and it’s going both ways. But other states, so when you take a place like Chicago or Washington D.C. or something you can just bring them from the neighboring areas. And, he said, how many of you would be in favor of gun control if within 10 years we could really, really clean up the guns and completely eliminate them from our society? If that were possible, how many of you would be in favor of outlawing guns completely? I don’t think that’s possible, is it John? I mean it’s a big world. And that’s a utopian idealistic dream, right? That could never happen.
John R. Lott: I mean, you know, we see in countries around the world go and try to ban guns completely and with little success. I mean during the 1970s and 1980s, Soviet Union had a murder rate that was someplace between about twice and five times higher than the murder rate that we had in the United States over the same period of time. You know, they supposedly banned guns for 70 years. And you see other countries which they go and ban guns and one of the things that they learn is that a lot of gun crime is related to drug gangs. And just as you can’t stop the drug gangs from going and smuggling in illegal drugs into their country, they can’t stop them from smuggling in weapons. And one drug gang tries to invade another drug gang’s turf. It’s not like they go and call up the police and say can you go and get this other gang to leave this area? This is our area.
What they do is they set up their own little military essentially to protect their turf. They had a very valuable product there with the drugs. And they’re gonna spend a lot of effort to bring the drugs in. They’re going to spend effort to go and make sure that they have the weapons to protect their valuable drugs. And I don’t think you’re going to be any more successful or have been any more successful in stopping illegal drugs coming in or illegal guns than there have been so far. I mean you may want to try to ban those things, but as England and Jamaica and other places which are island nations which have banned guns, they have huge drug/gun problems.
Jason Hartman: Just as an aside, and I know this is not really the topic, but since you mentioned it, the war on drugs has been pretty much a miserable failure. In fact, it’s empowered the business of drug running. What are your thoughts on drugs and the legalities there if you have thought much about it? You kind of gave the parallels to the guns and that’s why I thought I’d ask.
John R. Lott: Right. No, sure. Well I mean I thought a lot about it. I guess I have some mixed
thoughts on it. But most people don’t know that the highest murder rates that we’ve ever had in the United States was in 1933 and then the murder rates fell fairly dramatically by about 6% within two years after that. And the reason why 1933 was the highest murder rates, is because it was the last year of prohibition. The Mond groups or others that control the alcohol distribution in different areas which fight against each other to be the ones who would be able to sell alcohol in a particular area. It’s basically the formation of organized crime. And as soon as alcohol was legalized, there was no longer any incentive to go and try to fight against each other to control that turf. And so we saw this big drop in murder rates.
It was basically until you get to the mid to late 60s when we started the war on drugs with the Vietnam and a lot of the legal drugs coming into the country again you began to see the big increase in violent crimes and murders again. Even during the 1990s one of the reasons why we have the big drop in violent crime during the 1990s was because of changes in how we did drug enforcement at the beginning of the decade. Towards the end of the cold war and after the cold war, our military had been used a lot for drug intervention. And basically, only the largest drug cartels were able to have the resources to go and bring drugs into the country. And so what that meant is you basically had a relatively few suppliers that controlled the sale of drugs. So prices of drugs were higher, but it also meant that there were more profits.
And after the end of the Bush…first Bush administration and the very beginning of the Clinton administration there were huge cutbacks, almost between eliminations in many areas of drug intervention by the military. So you had a lot more drugs coming into the country from a lot more different sources, probably because the drugs fell. But what also fell, just because you have a less concentrated industry, was the profits from selling it. And so there was less profits for gangs to go and fight against each other in order to go and control drug turfs in different areas.
So I think a lot of the crime over time can be explained or changes by changes in alcohol prohibition or drug prohibition type rules. On the other hand, I think when it’s going out that drug use increase when you have lower prices for drugs, alcohol use increase, and so there’s a tradeoff. You’ll have less crime if you liberalize the rules, but you’ll have more usage. And I suppose if you make me have to come down on one side or the other, I’d probably choose the less crime just because I think the damage in terms of lost lives and other things is even greater. But it’s not like nirvana that you can pick from between these things. I think the net benefits are probably greater from liberalizing it, but there’s still tradeoffs that you face there.
Jason Hartman: That’s a very good analysis, very cogent. It’s the lesser of two evils for sure. But the crime is a larger issue. And in addition to the crime, it’s actually sort of just enriching bad people. And that’s a negative too. Instead of enriching people that are doing good things in the world, you’re enriching a bunch of criminals.
John R. Lott: You know, one of the things that’s interesting with regard to crime is I don’t think most people realize how geographically concentrated crime is in the United States. Take something like murder. About 50% of the counties in the United States have 0 murders in any given year. About 25% of the counties have 1 murder. You have about 75% of the murders are in a little bit over 3% of the counties. And if you ever see a map of where murders have occurred over a year in a big city newspaper, sometimes they’ll go and have a map that will show you where the murders have taken place, even within the little over 3% of the counties with 75% of the murders, even that is very concentrated in very small areas within those counties. So you have almost all the murders, a huge
majority of the murders just in small places within small places. And that’s basically drug gang activity that’s occurring in those areas. And the Department of Justice came out with a study last year that indicated that about 80% of the violent crime in the United States was gang related and that most of that, almost all of that, was drug gang related. And so it’s not just murders but you also have other types of violent crimes which are associated with that.
And so often when people talk about the United States is a high murder country. What they’re really talking about is that they’re very small areas within the country where you have all these crimes occurring. And it’s really a misnomer to go and talk about how United States as a whole in terms of crime.
Jason Hartman: That’s a very, very good point when you really drill down and you really analyze it. Can you name a few of those counties by the way? And if it’s not a recognizable county name, maybe name the greater metropolitan area.
John R. Lott: I mean they’re well-known counties. I mean it’s basically the big urban counties. The counts were maybe about the 3%, it counted for about 23% of the population, but they’ll count for about 75% of the murders. And so you have Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., places like that, basically big urban centers, Detroit, where you have these crimes. But even within there, you look at Los Angeles or New York or D.C., most of the areas they’re not going to have any murders. And even though you have a huge number of people living there, you’re going to see the murders are going to be very heavily concentrated. And you look northwest, you’ll hardly find any murders that were occurring in those places. But you go to Southeast or something, you’ll find virtually all the murders in the city occurring there and even then within just some areas within there.
Jason Hartman: You know what’s really interesting to me, John, about the gun control arguments, it’s generally down the right and left sides of the aisle whereas the left doesn’t want guns and the right wants the right to have guns and second amendment. And what’s interesting about it is that for some reason the liberal side of the aisle, the left, has branded themselves as the people who are tolerant and who want equality and all of this kind of stuff which I think is a complete misnomer unfortunately for those on the right. But that seems to be the association unfortunately. And what’s interesting is that guns are the greatest equalizer. If you have someone who is handicapped, elderly, just between the genders and the strength of the two genders, it makes everybody equal because even a little old lady can now protect herself against a big, strong man. And that’s equality.
John R. Lott: My research finds pretty much what you’re saying, that there are basically two groups of people who benefit the most from having guns. It’s people who are relatively weaker physically, women and the elderly. And it’s people who are most likely to be victims of violent crime, and that’s overwhelmingly poor blacks who live in high crime urban areas. These are basically people who would normally be thought of as the most vulnerable people in our society who would benefit from that and should be able to protect themselves. You know, it would be great if the police were there all the time to protect everybody. My research shows, at least to me, that the police are probably the single most important factor for reducing crime. But one thing I think the police understand themselves and that they virtually always arrive on the crime scene after the crime’s already been committed. And that raises the question, what do you advise someone to do when they’re having to confront a criminal by themselves and simply telling people to behave passably isn’t very good advice.
And when you look at the data, women, for example, who behave passably, are much more likely to be seriously injured or killed than a woman who hasn’t gotten them. The benefits, as you say, are much greater for women than for men. And the reason is simple is that when you’re talking about crimes against women you’re almost always talking about a male committing the crime, and there’s a largest strength differential that exists there between a man and a woman, a smaller difference between a man attacking a man. And so the presence of a gun represents a much bigger relative change in a woman’s ability to go and defend herself than it does for men. Women who behave passably are about 2.5 times more likely then to be seriously injured than a woman who has a gun. Men who behave passably are about 1.4 times more likely to be seriously injured than a man who has a gun.
Jason Hartman: That is absolutely accurate. It’s unassailable logic. I don’t know how anyone could possibly argue with it, which means logically no one can argue with it.
John R. Lott: One point you’re bringing up also I think is very interesting and that is the political differences. I’ve seen multiple polls over the years that when they ask self-identified liberals and conservatives their views on different issues, the one issue that stood out to show the biggest differences between self-identified liberals and conservatives, even more than taxes or abortion, has been the issue of gun control. And it kind of gets, in many ways, to the core of issues about whether people have self-defense, do we trust people or not, or do we trust experts to go and do certain things? I think on many of these things, gun control seems to most sympathize kind of the differences in terms of fundamental philosophy between the different groups.
Jason Hartman: What I was about to say is it just becomes a political issue and it just becomes sort of a let’s gain power type of thing and buy votes and appeal to illogical conclusions and so forth to get in office basically. So talk to us if you would about the concealed handgun laws and crime rates specifically. It’s one thing to own a gun. It’s another thing to be able to carry the gun with you on your person, in your car. How do the concealed carry laws impact all of this? And what are the places where you can carry a gun or you need a permit or it’s really hard to get a permit and all the sort of grey there if you would?
John R. Lott: Well, uh, we’ve had a big change in concealed handgun laws over the last couple of decades. If you go back to the mid-1980s you would have had maybe a dozen states that would have had a Right to Carry laws. And now we have 40. Right to Carry laws are laws where once you meet certain objective criteria, you pass criminal background check, you’re a certain age, you pay your fees, about half the states require some type of training, but once you’ve met those objective criteria and you pass them, if you apply for permits then it’s automatically granted.
And there’s only two states that completely ban people carrying permit concealed handguns, and that’s Illinois and Wisconsin though. I suspect that Wisconsin’s sort of likely to change and possibly Illinois after this coming election. But in their 8 states, such as New York and California, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, states like that which have what we call May-issue which are you have to go and demonstrate some type of need to some public official so you can say I feel threatened, I carry large amounts of money with me, I’ve been a victim of crime before. I’m being stalked or threatened. And then if the public official feels that they view your concern as relatively reasonable or believable, then they’ll make a decision whether or not to grant you a permit. And those states may issue, you know, 1/10th as many concealed handgun permits as you’ll see in the more liberal Right to Carry states. Right now, there’s probably about 6.2 million people that have concealed handgun permits in the country. That’s up fairly dramatically in the last couple of years. We’ve probably seen about 1.2 million
increased in the number of permits over the last couple of years. I think a large part of that’s been due to the 2008 election, just like there was a big increase in gun sales right at that time, there was a big increases in concealed handgun permits.
And I think there’s a line from dozens of academic studies that indicate that as the percentage of the population which has concealed handguns, goes up, you see drops and murder rates and other violent crimes. My own estimates indicate that for each additional year that you have a right to carry one, and in fact you’ll see about 1.5 percent point drop to the murder rate, and about a 2% drop in rapes and aggravated assaults.
Probably the easiest thing, a question to go and answer, is just what is the behavior of concealed carry permit holders? And what you find time after time is that these guys tend to be extremely law abiding by any measure of it. Florida for example, between October 1987 and May 31st of this year had given out permits to over 1.80 million people. Many of those had renewed their permits multiple times. Out of those 1.8 million people, 167 had had their permits revoked for any type of farms relation over those 20 years, 27 years. And most of those were for very minor offenses such as accidentally carrying a permit concealed handgun into a restricted area, a gun-free zone. So maybe one of the more famous examples of something like this would be Barry Switzer, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, who was late for a team plane a number of years ago, and ran into the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, forgetting that he had the permit concealed handgun on, and of course he got in trouble for doing that. But nobody…Even though the Cowboys were having a bad year, probably nobody thought that he was actually gonna do something bad with it.
We get a lot of people doing it every once in a while, and somebody’s gonna forget that they’re not allowed to take a gun into a particular area. And if you look over the last 2 and a half years, you’ve only had three more people in Florida that have had their permits revoked for a firearms violation. Over the whole time, you’re talking about 1/100th of one percentage point And if you’re talking about the last three years, the rate is really like 1/10,000 of a percentage point of people who have had their permits revoked for a firearms related violation. And I would argue it’s pretty hard to find any other group, just not as law abiding as the type of person who’s willing to go through the process to get a permit. Somebody wants to go and commit a crime, they’re not gonna bother to go through the process of getting a permit.
Jason Hartman: We’ll be back in just a minute.
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Jason Hartman: It’s a very interesting point. Are there any examples that you can think of offhand that a concealed carry citizen saved the day? You hear these awful stories about Columbine, Michael Moore makes a movie with all the wrong conclusions of course, and people going into McDonald’s and shooting them up and all these kinds of things, or the workplace or whatever. And you just know that if some good citizen had their firearm with them, they would have saved many lives.
John R. Lott: There’s so many things to bring up on what you just raised there. I’ll just mention one thing since you mentioned Columbine, one of the things that I point out in More Guns, Less Crime is that relatively few people know that the day of the Columbine attacks, they did it that day because the state legislature was voting on a right to carry law. It’s like the two high schoolers who had engaged in the attack, one of them had written multiple letters to the state legislature opposing the concealed handgun law and was particularly upset about the provision in the concealed handgun law at the time that would have let people carry permit concealed handguns on school grounds. And…
Jason Hartman: Really? That’s amazing.
John R. Lott: So it’s kind of amazing to me that particular thing seems to have gotten so little attention. It was actually a front page article in the New York Times that actually mentioned that briefly. But just the general notion of news coverage, people, without even having to think very hard about these things, can recall what seems to hundreds or thousands of bad stories that happen with guns. You know, when was the last time you watched the national news and heard a story about somebody using a gun to protect themselves or saving others’ lives?
Jason Hartman: You never hear that.
John R. Lott: The department uses surveys to try to figure out how many crimes occur each year because we know a lot of crimes aren’t reported to police. So for example, we believe that only about half of rapes are reported to police. But how do we figure that out? Well, we have the reported crimes. We know that those are. And they’ll go into these massive surveys, the big survey in something called the National Crime Victimization Survey where the department of justice surveys about 100 to 150 thousand people each year. And we find that in the case of guns, for example, we have about 250,000 gun crimes that are reported to police each year and they’re probably someplace between 400 and 450 thousand though. The other ones aren’t reported above the 250. Well, if you use similar types of surveys to try to find out the reason people use guns defensively to stop crimes, the average result indicates that it’s about 2 million times a year. So that means people use guns to stop crimes about 4 or 5 times more frequently each year than they use to commit them. But very few people would know that because, if anything, they’d think the ratio is the other way just because they constantly only hear about the bad things that happen with guns and never hear about the benefits. There’s multiple websites that started getting set up. One good one is called KeepAndBearArms.com, but there’s other ones that are there too. I have some links on my website.
Jason Hartman: Go ahead and give out your website if you would, John.
John R. Lott: Yeah, my website is just JohnRLott.com.
Jason Hartman: Excellent.
John R. Lott: And if you just do a signed thing on the page for defensive, you’ll probably find the links for the defensive gun uses, links that I have there.
Jason Hartman: Let me ask you a question about that, John. You mentioned the thing about why you really just never hear on the news a story about someone defending themselves with a gun, about any positive news. Why is that? Is the new media just so left wing liberal? And that’s fortunately not as true as it used to be, there are other options nowadays. But why is the big conspiracy to have this whole anti-gun mentality? I mean it’s directly opposite of what our founding fathers had intended.
John R. Lott: I actually have a whole book on this entitled the Bias Against Guns, the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime goes into the sum, but The Bias Against Guns goes into this a lot more. I mean first of all, I think you can explain a lot of the coverage without resorting to bias.
So let me give you an example. If you’re editor of a news bureau and you have two new stories and one case there’s a dead body on the ground, sympathetic person like a victim. In another case, let’s say a woman’s brandished a gun, would-be attackers run away, no shots are fired, no dead body on the ground, no crime actually committed. You’re not even completely sure what crime would have been committed, if you’re editor of a news bureau or if I’m editor, I think any of us would make the decision that the first story with the dead body on the ground is a lot more newsworthy than the second story is going to be. And about 95% of the time that people use guns defensively, simply brandishing a gun is sufficient to cause a criminal to go off and attack. In fact, fewer than 1 out of every 1000 times that people use guns defensively is to attack or kill. Woundings are more frequent. But you’re still talking about something that’s about 7 or 8 times more common than killing the criminal. But it’s still just a fraction of 1%. And so just in terms of the “It bleeds, it leaves”. It’s kind of understandable why the vast majority of the defensive gun uses don’t get coverage. That said, there’s a lot of things which are hard to explain there than with some type of bias in terms of the media coverage.
For example, relatively few people know that almost 30% of the public school shootings in the United States, multiple victim public school shootings have been stopped by citizens with guns before the uniform police were able to arrive. And the reason why most people won’t know those types of things is because when a citizen stops a multiple victim public shooting at a school. Only about 1% of the news stories will mention that that was the case. If a police officer stops a shooting, you’ll find about 34% of the news stories will mention how it stopped by a police officer doing it. So, I’ll just give you a couple of examples, but you look at the very first of the public school shootings in Pearl, Mississippi in October 1997 in which two students were killed. You had assistant principal there at the school, a guy named Joel Myrick, a former Marine who had a permit to carry a concealed handgun, and apparently he regularly carried his permit concealed handgun with him on school property up until the end of 1995 when the Federal Safe School Zone Act was passed, banning guns within 1000 feet of a school unless you have the state legislature specifically passing exemptions for concealed carrying holders. And for being a good law abiding citizen, he would lock his gun in his car and park his car more than a quarter mile off of school property every morning when he got there. When he have started, he literally had to run a half mile to get his gun, a half mile back, and he held the attacker on the ground for about five minutes at point blank range before the police arrive. The attacker was just in the process of leaving the high school to go to the middle school across the street where he was going to continue his attack.
And if you do what’s called a nexus search, lawyers will know what this is but basically a computerized news service where you have computerized records of all the different news stories, TV shows, other things from around the country, and you’ll find in the one month after that attack about 687 separate news stories about the incident. Of those 687, 19 mention the assistant principal in any way. 13 of the 19 mentioned that the assistant principal had something to do with stopping the attack, and only 10 of the 13 mentioned they actually used a gun to stop the attack. 8 of those 10 new stories where local media near where the attack had occurred, two of them were on national news, but one was on ABC World News Now at 4am in the morning. And the other one was on CNN Early Prime, about a two sentence mention the day after the attack.
To just give you another quick example, a few years ago there was an attack at the Appalachian Law School in Virginia in which three people were killed. There were two students who were outside the
school when the shots started. They ran into the cars, got their permit concealed handguns, came back, pointed their guns at the attacker, ordered him to drop his gun. When he did so, a third student tackled him and the three of them held him there for over 11 and a half minutes before police arrived. Again, if you do a news search, you can see the same type of distribution. You have about 280 stories mentioning the attack and the week after. Only three of them, all of them local, mention that the students use their guns. And so what I decided to do after that, when I was writing my book The Bias Against Guns, would call up reporters just to find out did they know about the facts? If they did, why did they decide to write up the story the way they did? Because the stories would be things like “And the students pounced on the attacker and held them until police arrived” or that students subdued the attacker, not mentioning that the students had used their guns to do it, which in some sense was creating porn because you’re somehow giving people the impression that unarmed students were running up against an armed guy and succeeded in tackling him, which may not be the best advice to go give people.
And so like Maria Glod, a reporter at the Washington Post, I asked her about this and she said well the reason why she only mentioned that they had tackled the student and not mentioned that they had a gun was because she only had 913 words for the story and didn’t have enough space to get into it about the students using their guns to stop the attack. And in fact, she had interviewed one of the students who had used the gun to stop the attack. I talked to one of the students on a radio show, Larry Elder used to have a national radio show and he had Tracy Bridges, one of the students on with me on the air. And Bridges says that the day of the attacks, she had been interviewed by like 50 different news outlets, and being a law school student, checked to see what quotes, just normal human interest, and he was amazed that nobody…All these people had interviewed him or the other student who had done it, and they just didn’t quote him or have him in the stories the next day on the incident. And so I call up other reporters and reporter after reporter basically told me the same thing that the person at the Washington Post had done, and that was they just had space constraints that they couldn’t get into the details there. But, you know, they have like two paragraphs on the gun that was used by the attacker. And to me, the interesting thing is there. The first explanation I gave you about why it’s understandable to me and why that covers certain things, saying oh it’s kind of more bloody or more unusual the situation is the more likely it’s going to get covered. But here, if anything, the situation’s reversed.
What’s more likely to go and grab people’s attention? That they’re going to think it’s unusual to say the students used a gun to stop the attacker or to say that they subdued him? My guess is you’d get more interest in the news story if they had gone through more detail. Now finally, I think from talking to Washington Post reporters, given that they’re relatively close to the crime there, when the trial went on and what have you they went into detail at that point about the students using their guns to stop the attack. But that was well after the initial rush of publicity.
Now I’m going to give you just one other example on this and that is when I was doing the bias against guns, I accidently collected ten stories during 2001 of young kids, 8, 9, 10 years old, who had used their guns to save the life of a family member from some crime that was occurring, often very dramatic stories. And I noticed that these stories tend to be small stories buried in the back of a newspaper, and that they never got picked up on AP. Whereas you would see something like a taxi cab driver by the same reporter in let’s say South Bend, Indiana, who had been killed in some years, be it taxicab driver is the most dangerous profession in the United States, and it had been picked up in 28 newspapers. So I called up the reporters for these 10 stories and I asked them why is it that these other crime stories you’ve written gets so much more attention, but these cases of these young kids don’t.
So the South Bend, Indiana case was the instance where the boy’s mother was a drug addict. She left the scene. She had dated a gang leader, told the gang leader that the grandmother who’s taking care of her son had money and jewelry at the house. The gang leader went over, stamped the grandmother in the stomach, had a box cutter knife to her throat and was threatening to kill her, demanding that she tell him where the money and jewelry was. She felt she was gonna get killed. She told him, her grandson…The father had died a year earlier from cancer, but before he had died, he kept taking the son out and showing him how to shoot, got the grandmother’s gun, came down, and fatally shot the gang leader in the chest. Now that got 250 words in the back of the paper there, and I was saying, you know, it seems that that should have been a big story.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, and look at all the money it saved the taxpayers.
John R. Lott: Right. But the reporter told me something that the other reporters did and that was she was very concerned about accidental gun deaths involving kids and she and the others there had felt that if they put it in too much of a positive light with children and guns, then maybe people out there would let their kids get access to guns and let them use them, and then that would result in more accidental deaths involving kids, and then they would be responsible for those deaths. And I didn’t really get into an argument with her about these things, but something like accidental deaths involving…You know, you’re with a ten year old kid, you take accidental deaths with kids under ten, you’re talking about typically you’re someplace between 20 and 30 accidental gun deaths for all the kids in the United States under 10. I think the most recent numbers for under 15 you’re talking about 52. It’d be better if it was 0, but my guess is there’s a lot less than these reporters think that they are. And even if you look at the ones under 10, about 2/3 of those deaths are not from a child shooting the gun. 2/3 are from an adult male with a criminal record in his mid to late 20s. So it isn’t even relevant.
So here you have a situation where reporters have kind of convinced themselves that they’re doing the right thing to kind of control the information out there on these things, but it just snowballed because you don’t hear about these kids doing these heroic things and so the next time they have a heroic story they’re even less likely to report it, and they over-report in some sense, in terms of the amount of coverage, these accidental gun deaths, because there you see hundreds of stories across the country on each accidental gun death involving a child. You compare it to any other way the children die and it’s much more heavily covered. I mean you have more kids under age 5 drowning in five gallon plastic buckets than you have children under age 10 who die from accidental gunshots. But yet you would never know that from the news coverage.
Jason Hartman: Maybe we should outlaw buckets.
John R. Lott: Maybe. But buckets do good things and they also can cause some bad things sometimes. Bathtubs are the same way. You have about 90 something kids every year under age 5 who drown in bathtubs each year, but presumably we’re not gonna ban bathtubs and I guess I would just say there’s similar trade-offs for guns and that there are [00:41:29] and benefits for all these things and I think people kind of overestimate in their mind because the news coverage, the cost for some of these items is more than others.
Jason Hartman: Absolutely true. Let me take a brief pause. We’ll be back in just a minute.
Narrator: Did you know that we offer one on one coaching programs? This includes six months of one on one coaching for only $4997 for six months. For more details, go to JasonHartman.com.
Jason Hartman: We’re running long on time here, but I want to ask you about one other comment and I don’t know that you’ve covered this, but when you talked earlier about the police coming to crime scenes and how it’s almost always after the fact, the damage is done, the bodies are there, and the criminal has left probably or they’ve shot themselves, it’s a murder and then a suicide at the end, but one of the things I’m noticing, and this is not to say anything bad about our finest in uniform, our law enforcement personnel, but it’s just sort of a general sort of trend that I see going on. And that is that police departments are in the business of raising revenue. They are in the business of giving tickets and doing things like that and those easy things have no cost and they have all revenue attached to them.
The reason I ask you this, because I was talking to a retired police officer friend of mine just last week and we were talking about crime and so forth. And he says cops don’t make arrests anymore if they can help it. And I said what do you mean when you say that? That’s a crazy statement. And he says well there’s just too much liability. There’s just too much liability in arresting people now. And I thought my god, it’s like we’ve got a tax revenue generator which is the police department, give out tickets and so forth, and they don’t want to have liability of making an arrest and being accused of discrimination or brutality or…And I’m talking the good cops here that are good people. But there’s a lot of liability associated with it.
Narrator: What I can say is over the last couple of decades, there has been a big increase in arrest rates and conviction rates per crime that’s occurring. Now, we also have many more police now per crime which is one of the reasons why you had the high arrest rates. But possibly you could have a drop in arrest per police officer but still have an increase in the overall arrest rate per crime. That’s there just because we have kept so many police even though crime rates have fallen. I think that’s also one of the reasons why crime rates have fallen because some drop. You keep the same number of police, same number of police going after, trying to solve fewer crimes, you solve more of them. And as you solve more of them, you make it riskier and more costly for criminals to go and commit crimes and so that deters more of them to commit it. And then you have even police going after a fewer number of crimes and so they’re even more effective than that. And so we’ve had kind of a snowballing effect to some extent over time with regard to that. But over the last couple of decades, there has been a significant increase in both arrest rates and conviction rates and I think that’s been very important for helping to keep crime rates down. I mean I’m sure the types of concerns that the officer friend of yours is raising are true.
Obviously the numbers I’m talking about right now are national. I can’t tell you for every state or every county that they all are moving in the same direction by any means, but nationally I think that’s definitely been the case. And I will say that’s where police are extremely important. Police arrest rates impose a big cost on criminals even if they’re not eventually convicted, though that also poses the next biggest cost on them. But it does impose significant cost on these guys to go through the legal process and it is a deterrent. So I think police should be encouraged to do it and if there are things, then surely I can understand why it’s a legal issue to make it harder for them to deal with stuff, over time should minimize it.
Jason Hartman: And just a note here, the person I was talking to was LAPD, and LA, between the gang violence and the ethnic strife and so forth and the political correctness going on and what’s happened since the Rodney King thing, and every time you make an arrest you’re accused of discrimination, brutality, it’s making it really tough for these guys to do their job. But anyway, listen, John, just kind of sum this whole thing up for us and you’ve given out your website, so that’s great. People should go there for more info. But any additional resources, closing shots you want to share?
John R. Lott: Well sure. Look, I think guns make it easier for things to happen, but they also make it easier for people to protect themselves and prevent bad things from happening. And there are a lot of good people out there and a relatively small number of bad people there. And I think we should be thankful that people are willing to go and carry concealed handguns around for protection. I mean I’ve been amazed that a lot of liberal groups are even upset letting police carry concealed handguns off duty. I mean here you have guys who have trained, who have spent their whole lives to know when to do something and deal with problems, and they’re willing to do it for free. They may even feel more comfortable carrying a concealed handgun when they’re all off duty because they know how valuable it is and they’re willing to do it for free, and yet we still give them half over doing things like that. And the other thing is just the people who benefit the most from being able to have a gun, just generally, are the most vulnerable people in our society. As we talked before, it’s basically people who are weak physically, women and the elderly in particular, and people most likely to be victims of crime. And I worry that a lot of the laws that we have in Chicago, they go and make you have to pay these high fees to go and now register a handgun even though it’s regal and have to pay hundreds of dollars for these training courses and have to go someplace outside of the city to do it. The types of people who they’re going to keep from getting guns in those situations are basically poor blacks, the people who benefit the most from being able to have a gun to protect themselves in those areas. And that’s something that concerns me a lot that these rules often end up making it so it’s basically white wealthy people who are able to o and get guns for protection and not often the people who need them the most.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, very good point. Well John R. Lott, Jr., More Guns, Less Crime is the book and it’s in its third edition. I recommend everybody to go out and get this. Thank you so much for joining us today. And we want to have you back on my Creating Wealth show to talk about your other book Freedomnomics. I can’t wait to have you on to talk about that.
John R. Lott: Well, thank you. That’d be great.
Jason Hartman: Thanks so much, John. Appreciate you joining us.
John R. Lott: Thank you. (Top image: Flickr | aaronmcintyre)
The Holistic Survival Show
Transcribed by Ralph