7/14/2008

New Op-ed at Fox News: Gun Debate Is Hardly Over

My new piece begins this way:

The Supreme Court may have confirmed that Americans have the right to own guns for protection, but the gun debate is hardly over. The District of Columbia, whose handgun ban was struck down by the Supreme Court, is still planning on banning most handguns. And the court decision has spurred the media into overdrive to paint guns as dangerous to their owners.

No one who has taken even a quick glance at the crime data can seriously argue that the DC gun ban lowered murder or violent crime rates. The concerns being raised are not the threat from criminals, but that guns poise a risk to their owners. In particular, buying a gun and having it in your home is said to increase the likelihood of suicide.

Mike Stobbe for the Associated Press emphasized the problem by pointing out that the majority of gun deaths are suicides. He also noticed that Supreme Court Justice Breyer mentioned his concerns about gun suicides 14 times in his dissent. By contrast, he mentioned accidental gun deaths rated only three times. That is not surprising given that the accidental death rate from guns is so low, not only absolutely but in comparison to other common household items.

A nationally syndicated article by Shankar Vedantam, a Washington Post columnist, has a similar concern. . . .

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22 Comments:

OpenID SPACEDg1 said...

Thank you so much for your article. It was dead-on. It makes it clearer to me that these liberals will use the thinnest of arguments to ban personal guns. It also makes me wonder where they got the idea that only officialdom should possess firearms. Was it from the large urban centers where liberals are concentrated, do you think?

7/15/2008 12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article cited by Vedantam is junk science at its worst.

The NEJM article cited(1) was thoroughly and long ago debunked.(2) The supposed Washington DC homicide drop began during 1974, two years _before_ the gun ban. Though the data were available when the article was written, the authors stopped their study as the DC homicide rate skyrocketed from 26.9 in 1976 [derived from population(3) and homicide(4) statistics] to 80.6 by 1991(4) despite or due to DC’s gun ban. Justifiable and excusable homicides, including those by police officers, were treated the same as murders and were not excluded from the study. The study used raw numbers rather than population-corrected rates. The 20% population decrease in DC and 25% increase in the control population during the study period exaggerated the authors’ errors. Too, the study used the adjacent affluent suburbs as a control group, an area with demographics drastically different from the inner city study group.

How did such junk science ever see publication in a prestigious medical journal? Answer: The NEJM editor, since sacked, stated that when it comes to guns, “no data are needed.”(5) Go figure.

Edgar A Suter MD
Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research Inc.

(1) Loftin C, McDowall D, Wiersema B, and Cottey TJ. Effects of Restrictive Licensing of Handguns on Homicide and Suicide in the District of Columbia. N. Engl J Med 1991; 325:1615-20.
(2) Suter EA. Guns in the medical literature – a failure of peer review. Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia. March 1994; 83: 133-48.
(3) US Department of Commerce. Statistical Abstract of the US. - 96th. Edition. 1976. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office.
(4) FBI. Uniform Crime Reports Crime in the United States 1976 and 1991. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office.
(5) Kassirer JP. Correspondence. N Engl J. Med 1992; 326:1159-60.

7/15/2008 1:41 AM  
Blogger Cengiz said...

I believe this debate is clouded by gun control advocates who, seeing the writing on the wall and realizing that statistics are proving that the lawful availability of guns deters crime instead disingenuously cling to peripheral arguments to support their opposition to an element of American society (guns all around) that they find merely unattractive.

I would have a lot more respect for a liberal who would show the courage to remain true to what I believe is actually their fundamental thesis: that the need for force is inconsistent with the advancement of a society. By that, I don't mean (just) military action, but rather that liberals see an advanced society as being one where such things as force, protection, and military action are all unnecessary. "Oh we've advanced beyond all that," they'd like to say, as if this were all some episode of Star Trek and we were looking back on our earlier, more primitive selves.

Granted, this is seat-of-the-pants reasoning on my part, but I have some liberal friends and I think I understand the mindset to a degree.

But such honesty is not at hand. If only they valued that quite as much....

7/15/2008 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Max Effort said...

This piece is representative of the high quality of presentation that I have come to expect from John Lott.
I regret that our politicians and the news media do not share the same intellectual and communication skills.
One of the issues that truly amazes me is that the uninformed masses expect courts to modify or change the Constitution. Is there educational experience lacking? Didn't they ever hear of amendments to the Constitution?
I also find that most of the opponents of gun rights are misinformed on the issue itself regarding individual rights. I urge them to read this recent Supreme Court ruling written by Justice Scalia, but also to read the Department of Justice memorandum to the Attorney General regarding these rights.

7/15/2008 10:00 AM  
Anonymous B Clark said...

As usual, a great article. Unfortunately for us, trying to educate the anti-gun crowd on all facets of reality is a massive information overload. One must in fact have an urge to learn (which antis rarely do) in order to properly understand the gun issue, because it is quite complex. But if one can bear out digestion of basic societal principals and a handful of statistics, the conclusions clearly favor our right to keep and bear arms.

I think there is value in these short, digestable pieces which do not overload the casual reader with issues. While the op-ed starts out broad and succinctly points a viewer to heavier information, the eventual segue to the drug control is an easily appreciated talking point which will stick with most people regardless of partisan favoritism.

However, a possible weight against this positive impact is the chance uninitiated readers discount (or run away from) the articles as a result of polarizing aspects (e.g. “un-PC” generalizations such as liberals’ chronic misinterpretation of data and women being ineffective at suicide). That is not to say I don’t agree - true and repeatable data does support these assertions. I also acknowledge the need to write for one’s primary audience. However, the consequence may be an additional hazard of clouding readers’ minds with peripheral issues and biases that dampen the piece’s full effect.

Regardless of my layman’s input, it’s good work, and important to disseminate. Please keep it coming.

7/15/2008 10:06 AM  
Blogger weilerb said...

If guns are so deadly for their owners through accidental shootings and suicide why don’t we give all the bad guys guns and they’ll eventually kill themselves off?

7/15/2008 10:24 AM  
Blogger Karl said...

"If people are unable to make these decisions for themselves, how can people figure out which politicians should make these decisions for them?"

I think you just pointed out the next freedom that is to be targeted by the liberals. There is plenty of evidence out there to suggest that people are, in fact, incapable of electing politicians who reflect their core values. Look at the generally religioius black and hispanic populations voting wholesale to support liberal politicians who promote promiscuity, abortion, religious suppression, etc. or the UAW that blindly supports politicians who do all they can to make it difficult for the employers of the UAW members to actually sell the products the members are producing.

The obvious solution to this "problem" is to simply stop having elections. Think of all the good that would come out of such a policy. There would be a tremendous reduction in the pseudo-violence because we would no longer have a reason to argue over which candidate is better and think of all the money we could save because candidates would no longer have to promote themselves and their ideas.

I also suggest that everyone read both opinions in this case. The majority opinion is very entertaining besides being informative and highlights the sophistry of the dissenting opinion very well.

7/15/2008 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure that home invasions, rape, home robberey, car jackings, bank robberey, parking lot crimes far outnumber suicides. If gun control works, why dont we have rape control, bank robberey control, drunk driver control etc. Criminals must pray for gun control because they know only the innocent will surrender their guns while criminals wont. Ask the criminals which they prefer is the real answer.

7/15/2008 4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's really very simple... Pass a law. Commit suicide and we'll put you in jail.

Problem solved!

7/15/2008 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, having a gun in the home increases the probability of injury/death with the firearm being the item involved. Having a chainsaw in the home increases the probability of injury/death with a chainsaw. This is a silly argument. There are three things to remember: 1. The American Revolution began when the British tried to capture and destroy a cache of arms owned by the colonists. As such the Founding Fathers knew all too well the power of government over an unarmed populace. The Second Amendment comes right behind the right to speak freely and assemble. 2. Precedent. This country has a long, proud history of individual rights to keep and bear arms. Finally, any notion of the right being limited to the "militia" should read the United States Code defining the "Militia". There, you will discover that the "unorganized militia" consists of "members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia" (10 USC 311).

7/15/2008 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Independent in CA said...

Not much to add really: Logical, fact-based and clear, as always. Now, if we could just get the "open-minded" liberals to actually consider the facts in an "open-minded" way we might make some progress.

Keep up the great work!

7/15/2008 10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find frightening is that your arguments are so clear precise and basic that a fifth grader could not argue with them, but the people who sit on our highest court in the land do not understand your point. I hate to say this, but maybe it is time to amend our constitution so that a 75% popular vote could recall a Supreme Court justice from the bench. Have these people become enemies of the state, or are they senile?

7/16/2008 12:32 AM  
Blogger PGrossjr said...

the real problem is that judges now feel compelled to legislate from the bench as Breyer shows by citing concern with suicide. Suicide had nothing to do with the argument in front of the court. Another symptom of our nanny government. it is none of the states concern whether or not I wish to kill myself or wear a seatbelt or eat trans fats or Foie Gras for that matter

7/16/2008 9:18 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

Excellent analysis, reasoning, and statement of facts. Always a pleasure to read and ponder. Who is "anonymous"? One person or several anonymous writers? I agree with "anonymous", let the liberals do what they do best, make a new law which makes suicide with a firearm a capital offense. Of course, it sure be punishable by death.

7/16/2008 9:30 AM  
Blogger Charlie said...

Look folks the long and the short of it is that the Dems love government and want to build more of it to take over our lives if that is possible in the police state in which we currently live. The second amendment was created so that we could protect ourselves from a government that attempts to to do exactly what they are doing. Why would they not fear the gun and try and keep them away from the persons they supposedly represent?

7/16/2008 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Do "Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research Inc." have a web site?

7/16/2008 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liberals/Socialist-Democrats simply ignore the prohibitions in the Constitution against government intrusion into the lives of The People and they create arguments based on feelings rather than on the Law. They've recreated the British government of 1775 but their contemporary version is far more powerful and insidious because its seat isn't separated from us by an ocean. The rights of the States as set down in the Constitution are many and vague while the provinces of government are defined and limited, but, to them, that Document is irrelevant; those are mere words to be ignored or redefined according to their intentions. Liberals/
Socialist-Democrats have injected government into health care, retirement, interstate commerce, energy production, taxation, education, climate -- even how much water a toilet is licensed to use per flush and what kind of cap a medicine bottle is licensed to employ. They seek to muzzle political opposition through the "Fairness Doctrine" thereby ignoring the First Amendment. It should come as no surprise that the Second Amendment is also being negated simply by being ignored. So what if the Supreme Court denies liberals control over the Bill of Rights? They have their own agenda and will not stop until they're in absolute control of this nation. It doesn't matter to them if this nation degenerates into a dung heap, so long as they're in control.

7/16/2008 6:32 PM  
Anonymous Abernathy said...

Well done Dr. Lott. My Father chaired the Econ Dept. at the University of North Texas for almost 30 years. I know the level of effort in research and analysis performed before publishing such articles. Stay the course, we need you and others like you to help us navigate the mountains of statistics thrown from those that attach the wrongful stigma to guns and gun owners.

Regards,

7/17/2008 3:12 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

The government has no duty to protect us from crime but they sure spend a lot of effort to protect us from ourselves. Suicide is not a crime, it's a mental illness.

We need to ban crime, not guns. Anyone who commits a violent crime needs to do serious time. Enforce the laws we have now. Mandatory gun crime sentences. Repeat offenders should be given a gun shown how to commit suicide.

7/17/2008 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent article in logic and facts no less, Something the anti-bill of rights crowd cannot do.

7/19/2008 10:51 PM  
Blogger Kelly Clark Boldt and David Boldt said...

John --

Excellent piece on guns and suicide. It really cleared the air (for those who want the air cleared).

There was one further point I wish you had addressed. Somewhere recently (and, alas, I cannot remember where, though it was a reputable publication) I read a piece claiming that the number of suicides was in fact affected by the availability of an effective means of carrying out the act, such as guns. However, the principal example offered was the switch in England from coal oil to . . . .something else (natural gas?) for gas ranges in the homes of many clinically depressed people in Great Britain sometime between the end of World War II and the present.

This resulted, it was argued, from the fact that people found it relatively easy and painless to end it all by lying down in the oven and turning on the coal gas. (Trust me -- I am not making this up.) Suicides declined because the new fuel, whatever it was, was either not as reliable or somehow more painful.

This was said to prove that suicidal people were often impulsively so, and if the act were made less convenient they would be less likely to do it. (Or at least do it successfully.) Ergo, because guns are the most effective way to commit suicide, making fiearms less available would deter many people from committing the act.

I was wondering if you had seen this and had any comment on it.

Regards,

David Boldt
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

7/25/2008 2:27 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Thanks very much, David. I think that the reference that you are making is to this here. It seems to me that there were many close substitutes for committing suicide, such as taking sleeping pills, but I suppose that it is possible. My response though is that it should be possible to put together much more convincing data than I have seen put together for this. Rather than looking at the change for the country as a whole, somebody should breakdown the data by where the switches were occurring at different dates and observe whether the drop in suicides occurred in those areas that switched first relative to those areas that didn't yet make the change. Overall, I have seen so many changes in different countries that go after one particular method of committing suicide without altering the overall suicide rate. For example, Japan has had a large number of suicides where men simply fall down in front of trains. The government finally responded by imposing a massive million yen fine on their families as a way of making them lose face. Train assisted suicides have fallen, but as other articles have noted the total number of suicides has essentially remained unchanged (even up slightly).

7/25/2008 3:48 PM  

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