12/22/2012

CNN's continued false claims about murder in UK after handgun ban



Here is an interview that I had on December 17th with Becky Anderson and Roland Martin.  Becky claimed: "John Lott, I think that you are massaging the stats."  She also asserted that the murders fell in the UK after the January 1997 handgun ban in the UK.  I suppose that by the end of the interview I was sufficiently stumped about how I was going to convince the audience that they were just making up claims about UK's murder rate.  Here is what I wrote up regarding a very similar discussion that I had with Piers Morgan and Christiane Amanpour.

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Gun Control Advocates Misinformation by Guard in Columbine Attack



1) The guard at the Columbine High School attack did delay and that allowed many students to escape out of the building.
2) The guard was only able to delay the killers for a while because they had homemade grenades.  The guard was hiding around a corner in a hallway, but when the two killers started lobbing their grenades down the hallway his position became untenable.  Despite the claims to the contrary, it wasn't the "assault weapons" that were important in making it so that the guard had to back down. (Some information is available here.)
3) Finally, the officer at Columbine was there because he was such a bad shot.  He was not given regular duty and was assigned to the school because it was deemed that his ability to properly shoot his gun wasn't thought to be an issue.

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Discussion on Megan Kelly's show over new gun control laws

John Fund summarizes some useful facts on Multiple Victim Public Shootings

This is from John Fund's op-ed piece in the Hartford Courant:
•Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media.
•In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
•Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.

•The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning.
•Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.
From Vin Suprynowicz in the Law Vegas Review-Journal:
In 1974, three Arab terrorists broke into an Israeli school and killed 31 children and faculty. Did Israel respond by self-righteously asserting "Firearms have absolutely no place in our schools"?
No. Instead, they armed and trained their teachers and even parent chaperones, with the result that in the past 38 years, terror-beset Israel has not lost a single child within a school. . . . 
Here is a useful summary article from Fox News on guns in Israeli schools, though most might actually know what is written in the piece.
The Jewish state, which has long faced threats of terrorist strikes in crowded locations including schools, takes an all-of-the-above approach to safety in the classroom. Fences, metal detectors and armed private guards are part of a strategy overseen by the country’s national police. And the idea of armed teachers in the classroom, which stirred much controversy in the wake of the U.S. attack, has long been in practice in Israel, though a minority of them carry weapons today. 
Oren Shemtov, CEO of Israel’s Academy of Security and Investigation, noted that attacks typically happen in a matter of minutes, and said gun-toting teachers could, at the very least, buy time for kids to escape while police race to the scene. 
“Two (armed) teachers would have kept (the Newtown shooter) occupied for 45 seconds each,” said Shemtov, who is one of 16 people in Israel authorized to train those who instruct school guards. . . .  
Shemtov said the two most critical keys to protecting schools are armed guards and armed teacher response teams. But, as in the U.S., the idea of teachers carrying guns raised some objections in Israel, he said. 
“At one point the Interior Ministry mandated that a certain percentage of teachers be armed . . . ."

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Debating Canada's Gun Control's Wendy Cukier on the CBC



Note: Wendy had already done an entire segment by herself so I think that they gave me a little extra time to balance things off slightly.

Friday, December 21, 2012 5:12 to 5:19 PM

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12/21/2012

Yet another attack on me involving guns: Can Media Matters ever get anything right?

Media Matters has another attack on my work from December 17, 2012 under the headline "Who is gun advocate John Lott?"  Obviously, Media Matters will not let me put up responses on their website and they won't acknowledge that I have ever responded to their attacks because then they might have to respond to the substance of why their claims are wrong.

1) After Mass Shooting In Aurora, Lott Denied The Fact That America Has The Highest Rate Of Gun Deaths In The Civilized World.


Two responses to this claim about "civilized" countries is available here and here.  Here is part of the discussion from the IBD op-ed:

First, let’s just be clear that lots of nations, including “civilized” ones, suffer from both higher overall murder and gun murder rates.  Indeed, we are very far from the top. In 2011, the US murder rate was 4.7 per 100,000 people, the gun murder rate was 3.1. Much of Eastern Europe; most of South East Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa; all but one South American nation; and all of Central America and Mexico suffer even higher murder rates than we do.  For example, despite very strict gun control, Russia’s and Brazil’s homicide rates over the last decade averaged about 4 to 5 times higher than ours. Indeed, if you are going to look across all nations and not just a select few, what you find is that the nations with the strictest gun control tend to have higher murder rates. . . .    
2) On FoxNews.com, Lott Defended Gun Ownership After NFL Murder-Suicide Shooting

Media Matters defends Bob Costas' claim: "If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."  I have a hard time believing that anyone would believe that Belcher, the 6’2” 228 pound linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, couldn't have killed Perkins without a gun.  Nor did he need a gun to commit suicide.  I made those arguments in my piece available here.  Here is the question: why does Media Matters even want to defend Costas' claim?

3) Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" Hypothesis Maintains That Gun Ownership Helps Curtail Crime and Stanford Law Review: Lott's Central Hypothesis Is "Without Credible Statistical Support."

For a survey of the literature on this point see Table 2 and the surrounding discussion available here.  Not surprisingly, Media Matters only cites those critical of my work and refuses to acknowledge that even more academic papers support my research.  So much for the oft made claim by Media Matters that my research is "discredited."  As to the Stanford Law Review piece, please note that there was another piece in the Stanford Law Review that claimed the piece that they want to cite is wrong (see here) and that I had a long discussion in the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime that shows that there were major mistakes in their piece.

The quote that Media Matters uses where they attribute the Plassmann and Whitley paper to me is explicitly reprimanded by the editors of the Stanford Law Review (see also here).

4) Economist Mark Duggan: Rate Of Gun Ownership "Significantly Positively" Correlated With Incidence Of Homicide.

Duggan uses one gun magazine sales to proxy for gun ownership.  The problem is that was the only gun magazine out of the largest 7 magazines that find that result.  I explain why just that one single magazine gets the strange result (pp. 297-298).  It is because that one magazine was seeing its sales drop during the 1990s and they had to make self purchases of the magazine to keep their promises of certain sale levels for advertisers.  These self purchased copies of the magazine were then given out free to doctors and dentist offices.  The problem was that these purchases and free give aways were not made in random counties.  The magazine made purchases in those counties where they thought that crime rates would rise.

5) In The Wall Street Journal, Lott cited dubious survey research to claim that members of law enforcement generally believe that "too often the laws disarm law-abiding citizens, not criminals, and thus make it easier for criminals to commit crime."

My response to them is available here.  This survey by PoliceOne, which is the largest private association of police officers, also provides useful information on their views.

If I have time, I will respond to the other claims, but the first ones were the strongest ones that they had.

6) "Several law enforcement associations have spoken out against the National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act"

The National Association of Chiefs of Police has polled its members precisely on this point and 79 percent support national reciprocity.  This survey by PoliceOne also shows that street officers in the US overwhelmingly support liberal concealed carry laws.

I have tried to go through their charges in order.  If I get more time, I will go through the remaining false claims.

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12/20/2012

So were Piers Morgan and Christiane Amanpour dishonest about crime rates last night?

CNN has made quite a habit of outrageous statements on gun issues.  You can see previous interviews here, here, herehere, and here.  From my appearance last night on CNN.


MORGAN: . . . How do you justify the claim more guns makes more safe people in America? I don't -- don't get it. 
LOTT: Every place that guns have been banned, murder rates have gone up. You cannot point to one place, whether it's Chicago or whether it's D.C. or whether it's been England of whether it's been Jamaica or Ireland. 
MORGAN: I'm sorry, but that's just a complete lie. It's a complete lie. The gun murder rate in Britain is 35 a year, average. You need to stop repeating a blatant lie, about what happens in other countries.  [cross talk]  No, you're not going to get away with this. You lied about it the other day. Thirty-five gun murders a year in Britain, eleven to twelve thousand in America. Stop lying, because what you say drives Americans to defend themselves. 
After Morgan then claimed multiple times that I had lied, the video then shows that I tried to explain that there is a difference between levels and changes.  In an obvious setup, Christiane Amanpour claimed that the murder rate in the UK had initially been flat after the ban and then fell.
Amanpour: After Dunblane, they put in these bans, they put in these punishments, fines, jail sentences, etc. and its true that straight afterwards there wasn't a huge change, but 2002/2003 until 2011 the rate plummeted by 44%.
Morgan and Amanpour were clearly taking about the number of homicides so initially here is a chart for that (source here see Table 1.01 and the column marked "Number of offences currently recorded as homicide").  She is right that there were substantial increases in law enforcement activity (for the original data see here and here), which one suspects should have been associated with reduced crime rates, but, even with that, how can she make the claims that she did about homicides?  (Note that it often takes a couple of years after a person becomes a police officer before they become very effective.)

Two clear points can be seen from the next two figures.  First, after the ban, clearly homicide rates bounce around over time, but there is not one single year during the 15 years after the ban where the number of homicides is lower than it was immediately prior to the ban in 1996.  By the way, the average yearly homicides from 1990 to 1996 was 601.  For the time period after the ban started it was 707, an 18 percent increase.  Second, the number of homicides remained higher than the immediate pre-ban rate despite a large increase in the number of police officers during 2003 and 2004.





If you look at the percent changes, the change from 1996 to 2003 was bigger than the drop since then.  If she says that there is no "huge change" between 1996 and 2003, how can she say that there is a "plummet" after that (when it fell by 32%, not the claimed 44%)?    


Note also that Morgan must have misspoken about the number of gun homicides a year.  Indeed, at least since 1990, the average has been twice that high and has never even got as low as the average of 35 a year that he claimed.  I think that total homicides are the most important concern, rather than how a homicide was committed, but if that is what some would rather focus on, it is still hard to see that even firearm homicides fell after the ban.  The averages in the pre- and post-ban periods are virtually identical (61 pre-ban and 62 post-ban), and there are only two years that the number of firearm homicides fell below what the number was in 1996 (2009 and 2010).




Obviously, guns are involved in more than just homicides or murders.  One thing that is clear has been the huge increase in gun crime generally in England and Wales since the gun ban (for similar discussions see here, here, and here).  Firearm Offenses involving handguns, rifles and shotguns were falling from 1991 to 1997.  At that point, they stopped falling and kept increasing until 2006.  The number of firearm offenses in 2011 was still 16 percent higher than in 1996 and the average for 1997 to 2011 was 8,326 or 31 percent higher than in the 1990 to 1996 period.  If Piers means to include Scotland in Britain, that would raise the number of gun homicides in 60 to 73.


As an aside, homicides in England and Wales are not counted the same as in other countries.  Their homicide numbers "exclude any cases which do not result in conviction, or where the person is not prosecuted on grounds of self defence or otherwise" (Report to Parliament).  The problem isn't just that it reduces the recorded homicide rate in England and Wales, but what would a similar reduction mean for the US.



More information on the adjustment for England and Wales is below for "Update 4."  If taken literally and as I discuss below, that isn't clear, a simple comparison can be made.  In 2012, the US murder rate was 4.7 per 100,000, a total of 14,827.  Arrests amounted to only 7,133.  Using only people who were arrested (not just convicted) would lower the US murder rate to 2.26 per 100,000.

Gun crimes have apparently also been seriously underreported in the UK.  From the UK Telegraph in 2008:
The internal memo, written by a senior officer, says there has been significant under reporting of serious crime and warns of "serious concerns" that confidence in the police and Government will be knocked when the true levels are revealed.
It was drawn up in response to a briefing paper given to the Metropolitan Police Authority outlining Home Office changes to the definition of crimes.
Under the changes, police have been told to classify all offences as gun or knife crime when there is a threat with a weapon. Previously, this did not happen if the weapons were hidden.
Similarly, more assaults are to be classified as grievous bodily harm rather than the less serious actual bodily harm when a victim is injured.
In the memo, Det Chief Superintendent Peter Barron said: "The potential increase could be a rise in recorded GBH of 58 per cent, a rise in gun crime of 20 per cent and a rise in knife crime of 15 per cent." . . .
The UK Telegraph had this story in 2010 of how this bias has increased over time in Nottinghamshire.
"Their crime figures are totally inaccurate. Unless a gun gets discharged, it often doesn't get reported. A lot of people are brandishing guns out there and they are not put in the figures because a gun isn't discharged.
"If the figures from hospitals, of people coming in with gunshot and knife wounds, were used, the figures would be a lot greater. The hospital figures should be taken far more seriously." . . .


I am more concerned about total murders than just firearm murders, but firearm murders have also risen after the 1997 handgun ban.  Indeed, there are only two years after the ban where the number of murders were below what it was before the ban.  In 2011, there were 60 murders, up from 49 in 1996.

The discussion on CNN was supposed to be a Townhall where people from different views were in the audience.  Instead the people that they brought in from Arizona and Wisconsin and other places were all on the same side. I asked the people in my section if anyone opposed increased gun control regulations and no one said that they did.  Several shouted that they wanted to ban all semi-automatic guns.


So here are previous figures that I put together. These figures are from the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime from the University of Chicago Press (2010). Click to make the figures larger. The numbers for the UK are available here in Table 1.01 (see column marked "Offences currently recorded as homicide per million population").  There is only one year (2010) where the homicide rate is lower than it was in 1996.



The most recent violent crime data for England and Wales is available here and for the US here.  One important thing to note first is that the rate that crimes are reported to police is much higher in the US than England and Wales, and that difference will make England and Wales look relatively better than they actually are.  But still if one uses violent crimes reported to police, US in 2011 there were 1,203,564 and in England and Wales 821,957.  The US doesn't differentiate Violent crime with and without injuries, but in England and Wales 368,647 violent crimes involve injuries and  453,310 do not.  Given that the US has about 314 million people and England and Wales 56 million people (a ratio of 5.6 to 1), 368,647*5.6 = 2,064,423, or still about 72 percent greater than the number for the US.  I have often pointed to the International Crime Victimization Survey as a better comparison because it deals with the different rates that crimes are reported and it tries to make sure that crimes are defined the same way across countries.  As expected, that measure makes England and Wales look even worse compared to the US.


Other information for Ireland and Jamaica.

How about for DC and Chicago (Figures taken from More Guns, Less Crime)?
The raw data for DC over a long period of time is available here (the crime rates are available on the bottom half of the screen).  My books The Bias Against Guns looks at crime data for other places including even a police state such as the former Soviet Union and other countries.

Now Australia didn't have a complete ban on guns, they didn't even ban all semi-automatic guns, but I have a discussion on the changes in their crime rates here (see also here).

Does it look like murder rates fell in any of these places after a ban was enacted?

Here is some other information that might be useful on the two places available here and here.

The International Crime Victimization survey also provides some interesting comparisons on overall violent crime rates across countries.  To roughly get the violent crime totals add robbery, sexual incidents, and assaults.

Further notes on England and Wales homicide numbers:


In the 2002/2003 reporting year, 172 homicides were attributed to the serial killer Harold Shipman. 

In 2005/2006 reporting, 52 homicides were from the 7 July London bombing. 
In 2000, 58 homicides were due to a group of chinese immigrants found suffocated in a lorrie crossing into Britain.  The person who perpetrated the crime was in England.

Two points: 1) Even if these numbers are subtracted from the previous figures, nothing substantial is changed.  None of the values previously showing a higher number of homicides or a higher homicide rate after the ban are changed.  2) There are also similar unusual events in years prior to the ban.


Finally, the definition of homicides have changed over time in England and Wales.  If case it wasn't obvious earlier, because of this change and in order to insure that the same definition is used over time, I used the measure of homicides provided here, see Table 1.01 and the column marked "Number of offences currently recorded as homicide"


It is hard to do a similar comparison for Japan because their gun laws have been essentially the same for hundreds of years.  Even prior to WWII only the Samurai could own guns for anything but hunting and hunting is still allowed now.


UPDATE:  Jason Riley has one of his typically interesting pieces in the Wall Street Journal.  After recounting the exchange that I noted at the beginning of this post, Mr. Riley writes:

. . . In his book, "A Brief History of Crime: The Decline of Order, Justice and Liberty in England," Peter Hitchens cites a 2001 study that found "the use of handguns in crime rose by 40 percent in the two years after such weapons were banned in the U.K." The study is not an outlier. Joyce Lee Malcolm, the author of "Guns and Violence: The English Experience," reports that "armed robberies in London rose from 4 in 1954, when there were no controls on shotguns and double the number of licensed pistol owners, to 1,400 in 1981 and to 1,600 in 1991." She adds: "In 1998, a year after a ban on virtually all handguns, gun crime was up another 10 percent." . . .
UPDATE: Discussion on CNN International from December 18, 2012 where there were similar attacks on the data that I discuss above.




UPDATE2: Here is an amusing clip of Piers Morgan preaching about the importance of civil discourse (thanks to Breitbart TV).

UPDATE 3: After Piers had on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones last night.  What is amazing is how Piers called up Politico reporter Dylan Byers to complain that Jones demonstrated "vitriol, hatred, and zealotry [that] is really quite scary."


UPDATE 4:  There is a much more serious problem in comparing homicides in the US and England and Wales.  Homicides in England and Wales are adjusted based on the outcomes of trials.  This adjustment reduced the number of homicides in 1997 by about 12 percent.  There is no similar adjustment for the US data.



To compare conviction rates in the US and England and Wales, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has some numbers here (other related information is available here).


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12/19/2012

Appearance on PBS Newshour: "Examining the Efficacy and Limitations of Gun Control Laws to Stop Violence"

The transcript and video of my appearance from 7:12 to 7:20 PM on Wednesday is available here:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now Ray Suarez takes a closer look at the potential powers and limitations on what the president and individual states can do.
RAY SUAREZ: And for that, we get two views from people who have written extensively on gun-related issues.
Adam Winkler is a professor of constitutional law at UCLA School of Law and author of "Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America."
And John Lott has been a prominent voice in the gun rights debate, arguing against further restrictions. He's an economist and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime."
And, John Lott, just heard the president and Pat Quinn, the governor of a very large state, talking about using state and federal power to work against gun violence. Is there any track record?
Have there been laws passed either at the state or federal level that showed any track record in pushing down the amount of violence, the number of incidents, restrictions on size, type, availability of weapons, anything we can point to in the past?
JOHN LOTT, author, "More Guns, Less Crime": Right.
Well, obviously, I understand the reactions. I mean, we have all been torn apart by this. I wish the problems were quite as simple as the president and the governor seem to indicate.
We have tried a lot of the laws. The governor himself was saying he'd like to see something similar to the assault weapons ban that we had before.
If you go back when the assault weapons ban sunset in 2004, many of the same people who are pushing it now, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Chuck Schumer, were predicting large increases in murder rates and violent crimes when it sunset. Since it sunset, though, murder rates and violent crimes have both fallen by about 20 percent.
Somebody should ask them why they were so far off in terms of their predictions. And, you know, the other -- and that covered many of the things that are being talked about now, from limiting the size of ammunition clips, to bans on so-called assault weapons.
I think a lot of the problem is, with all due respect to the governor, I'm not sure he really understands what the different types of guns are. There's something that's put out there, this mythical assault weapon. It's really trying to ban guns on the way they look on the outside, rather than how they actually function.
RAY SUAREZ: Let me turn to Prof. Winkler at this point.
Is there any track record, sir, for using state or federal regulation to turn back the rate, the frequency of gun violence?
And respond to John Lott's point about previous legislation not having done much.
ADAM WINKLER, UCLA School of Law: Well, it's true that a restriction on assault weapons is not likely to have a huge impact on ordinary crime rates, in part because assault weapons are generally not the preferred firearm of the criminal, who generally prefers to have handguns at their disposal.
Since 2004 and the sunset of the assault weapons ban, we have really seen a spike in the number of incidents of mass shootings. So maybe these firearms are attractive to them.
We have also seen, with the Brady background check bill, adopted in 1993, that requires background checks, that about 60 percent of gun purchases, that well over 1.5 million people who have tried to buy firearms from federal licensed dealers have been turned away for failing that background check.
I think there is strong evidence that if we require a background check on every gun purchase, we will close a major loophole that allows criminals or the mentally ill to get their hands on gun easily.
RAY SUAREZ: John Lott, that is often referred to as the gun show loophole, a place where in fact you don't have to have your past looked over. And that's been talked about quite a lot in the past several days, closing that, just as a starting point for the national response to what happened Friday.
JOHN LOTT: Right.
I have to disagree with what Adam just said. If you look at the Brady Act, which is obviously a part of this puzzle here in terms of background checks, when he cites the 1.9 million number, that's initial denials.
Something like 90 -- I can't remember the exact number, but it's like 98 percent or so of those are false positive.
And so what happens? You have a name that is similar to somebody else's name, and they will flag you, and you will be initially denied.
RAY SUAREZ: So, sir, are you saying a lot of those people come back and eventually do get guns?
JOHN LOTT: I'm saying criminals aren't trying to buy guns that way.
Those -- pointing to the number of initial denials, rather than final denials, is not a very useful way of looking at it.
And, in addition, with regard to the so-called gun show loophole, it's really a bit of a misnomer.
What they -- what wants to be done is to have -- regulate and have background checks on all private transfers. So if you're a father giving a gun to a son or whoever, you would have to go through a background check system.
The notion that they focus on gun shows, I mean, I could go outside the gun show and transfer the gun there.
Are they going to say that that's OK then? When states have passed these rules, usually, it's going to be on all private transfers. And that's fine, if they want to make that argument. But the thing is, again, both criminologists and economists have looked at this extensively.
And I don't know of any study by either economists or criminologists that have found a benefit from having the states that have these types of background checks. There's only about 0.7 percent of all crime guns come from either gun shows or flea markets.
RAY SUAREZ: Prof. Winkler ...
JOHN LOTT: And so ...
RAY SUAREZ: Let's give him a chance to respond.
JOHN LOTT: Sure. Sorry.
ADAM WINKLER: Well, the truth is, we don't really know, because not all the gun shows -- you don't have to report the sales at gun shows.
And it also defies logic to think that gun shows are not a vehicle for criminals to get their hands on guns.
If you're a criminal, one of your big -- the big issues you face is that you can't go to a gun store and buy a gun because they will do a background check on you.You could buy a gun in the black market. And many criminals indeed get their guns just through the black market.
But if you want to have selection and want to have the kinds of choices that you get at a gun store, you go to a gun show.
I agree with John that it's not a gun show loophole. Gun sales at gun shows occur with the exact same rules as gun sales everywhere else. The problem is that they are basically a marketplace for people who don't want to do a background check to go and purchase a firearm without having to undertake one.
It's time that we require every single person who buys a gun to go through a background check. That doesn't offend anyone's Second Amendment rights.
And all over the country, when I went and talked about guns to people when I was out there on a book tour for "Gunfight," I found gun owners all over telling me they wanted to do more to see that criminals and the mentally ill don't have easy access to guns.
Make it difficult for criminals to get their guns.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Lott, quick response?
JOHN LOTT: Yes, sure.
Well, there's costs and benefits from all these laws. For example, during the Clinton administration, the gun show -- or the computer checks were shut down for about six days or so each month. And they run into problems now.
So, if you're running a gun show, and let's say it's shut down for an hour or two hours or a day or a weekend, all your sales are gone.
Imagine running a grocery store where, randomly, the government would shut you down and not tell you when you would be able to go and get back up. That is a real cost.
Now, if the government wants to go and guarantee that that won't be or compensate people financially for that, my guess is the amount of opposition would quickly be reduced.
If they think that there's this big gain in terms of reduced crime, despite the fact that there's no academic studies there, then share part of that gain to offset the costs that would be imposed on those individuals that would have their businesses possibly ruined otherwise.
RAY SUAREZ: Gentlemen, it's apparent there's a lot more to talk about on this issue. We will continue this conversation.
Thanks for joining us.
JOHN LOTT: Thank you.
ADAM WINKLER: Thank you.

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