This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, December 31, 2014:
With degrees from the University of Chicago, Yale, the Wharton School and UCLA in economics, it was clear from the beginning that John Lott wanted to become an academic, burying himself in esoteric econometric modeling for a narrow audience.
It was not to be. Lott became interested in how anti-gunners were using statistical analysis to prove that more guns would mean more crime, which analysis was then used to buttress political agendas to emasculate the Second Amendment.
He decided, in 1998, to write a small book entitled More Guns, Less Crime, to refute that analysis and present his own. As far as gun ownership was concerned, Lott was an agnostic.
When it was published in June, 1998, his book ignited such a firestorm of protest and indignation among the anti-gunners that he was forced to defend himself. He expanded his thesis in 2000 using more current data and more refined regression analysis, and then again ten years later, in 2010, with his third iteration.
By then, all plans to hide behind the walls of academia had disappeared. He hadn’t found his vocation. It had found him.
Now running his Crime Prevention Research Center, he continues to light the fires of indignation on the left while providing increasing support for the right to keep and bear arms for those on the right. His life, in other words, has been a running commentary on the remarkable sea change that has taken place in the country over the past 25 years.
He revised a 2011 report from the U.S. Government’s Accountability Office that showed an astonishing eight million Americans then holding concealed carry permits. His update, published in July, showed that number now exceeding 11 million and counting:
The number of concealed carry permit holders is likely much higher than 11.1 million because numbers are not available for all states that issue permits, such as New York.
Additionally, four states and the majority of Montana do not require that residents have a concealed handgun permit to carry within the state so [that] number … is not recorded.
In his report, he noted that he had a lot of support for his conclusion that this increase in gun ownership has had a direct impact on violent crime, proving once again his primary thesis: the more people carry, the less violent crime takes place. The debate, he said, “is between those who claim that concealed handgun permits reduce crime and those who say it has no effect.” But the issue is settled, according to Lott:
The large majority of peer-reviewed academic research by economists and criminologists concludes that permitted concealed handguns reduce violent crime.
Specifically, Lott’s study shows that nearly one out of every 20 American citizens how hold a concealed handgun permit, an astonishing 130 percent increase just since 2007. During that same period, says Lott, the rates of murder and violent crime have fallen by 22 percent.
He has a lot (no pun intended) of support. Pew Research just reported that, for the first time in decades, a majority of Americans now support the Second Amendment, while those who want to do away with it are in the distinct minority. Gallup weighed in with their study showing that “53 percent of Americans now believe that having guns at home makes them safer, nearly double the percentage reporting the same belief 14 years ago.”
The shift had a starting point: Florida, in 1987, passed the first “shall issue” concealed carry law, requiring local sheriffs to issue permits to honest and sane Floridians. Today there are 41 states that have enacted similar laws, while Arizona, Vermont, Wyoming, and Alaska do not even require them.
One thing missing from all of these reports is how a citizen behaves once he has gotten his concealed carry permit and then decides to carry a sidearm daily. He becomes a more responsible and polite citizen. Lott noted this when he looked at what has happened in Florida. Since October 1, 1987, the state has issued more than 2.6 million permits. However, over that period of time, just 168 of them have been revoked for any type of firearms violation (and most of them were for accidentally carrying concealed into a “gun free” zone). In the last 77 months, just four Florida permits have been revoked.
As Marty Hayes, the founder of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, noted:
A Network member is probably the least likely gun owner to be involved in a shooting or otherwise use deadly force.
Hayes is on the cutting edge of the cottage industry that has sprung up to serve those who have decided to carry regularly, teaching them the law and the limits and the aftermath of a self-defense shooting. He started his network in 2008 with a single member concerned about that aftermath. Today it numbers more than 8,000.
Twenty-five percent of every member’s dues goes into the network’s Legal Defense Fund, which, according to Hayes:
…we reserve exclusively for the legal defense of Network members….
It all starts with a phone call, telling us that you have been involved in an incident and need immediate assistance. Since we do not at that time know the particulars of the incident, on your word alone and upon request from you or your attorney we will forward up to $10,000 to the attorney of your choice to start your legal representation.
If you don’t yet have an attorney, we will get to work immediately to help you find one.
New members receive a 235-page book explaining their new responsibilities along with a series of DVDs training them in the finer aspects of self-defense and the legal aftermath that is most certain to follow an incident. Renewing members get an updated DVD, along with a note from Hayes reminding them of their new responsibilities and his phone number. There’s also a members-only newsletter that keeps them informed of changes and introduces them to attorneys working inside the network.
While Lott, Gallup, and Pew track the sea change in attitude towards guns by Americans, Hayes is building his network with those who now know of their increased responsibilities and seek to embrace them. As more and more Americans assume their proper role as informed and responsible citizens, the lower crimes rates are likely to continue to fall.
John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center: Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States