May 28, 2008

John Lott Jr.: There's No Evidence That Banning Guns Cuts Crime

John R. Lott Jr., a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, recently wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Philadelphia had 406 homicides in 2007, and, at 28 per 100,000 people, it also had the highest murder rate of any major city in the United States. No wonder Philadelphians want things changed.”

Lott continued:

Recently, the city focused on a new tragedy, the murder of a 12-year police veteran and father of three, Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, by three bank robbers with long, violent criminal records.

To Gov. Rendell, Mayor Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, the solution is simple: more gun control. After pushes failed for new state and local laws, last Thursday these four politicians announced that the solution to Philadelphia's problems was re-enacting the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.

They focused on the Chinese SKS rifle used to shoot Liczbinski five times. Rendell claims that "the only people who should have weapons like this is the police and the military." Some are calling the SKS an "assault weapon," although it is not so defined in any federal law and is not banned as such. And although the phrase assault weapon conjures up images of the rapid-fire machine guns used by the military, the SKS rifle is not a machine gun, instead functioning the same way as any semiautomatic hunting rifle. It fires a bullet similar to (indeed, slightly less powerful than) those fired from deer-hunting rifles, with the exact same rapidity.

This debate might make more sense if there were some evidence that the Federal Assault Weapons Ban lowered crime rates, but all the published academic studies by criminologists and economists find that neither the initial ban in 1994 nor its sun-setting in 2004 changed rates of murder or other violent crimes. Similarly, there is no evidence that state bans have mattered.

John Lott ( is the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" and "The Bias Against Guns."

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Comments (8)

I guess I wasn't clear concerning the proposal of using the Russian gulags as an economically attractive alternative for prisoner overcrowding with the added feature of being so damn unpalatable that its prospect might actually become a deterrent! This idea was tossed around during the Reagan administration, but as far as I know, it was never implemented. Sorry for the confusion.

Posted by: TW3 | June 3, 2008 9:18 AM    Report this comment

Are you saying the Reagan administration farmed out prison business to the Russians? That's news to me. But my larger point was to suggest that there needs to be a realistic penalty for violent offenders in the US to provide a serious deterrent effect.

Posted by: mattyvac | June 2, 2008 5:46 PM    Report this comment

I know this was more popular during Reagan's administration when the Soviet Union was badly in need of economic stimulation, but don't forget the gulag's in Siberia as a destination for felony convicts. Concsidering the expense of maintaining incarceration in the US ($45-$50,000/year/prisoner); it still might make more sense to pay the Russians $15,000 per just to expand our overflowing requirements. They can use the money, and we certainly need the space. Sure beats returning felons to society, just because we don't have the capacity. The Courts are jumping to that excuse to implement an early release program, which makes sentencing a genuine joke!

Posted by: TW3 | June 2, 2008 8:00 AM    Report this comment

I am in favor of banning criminals. If we would just keep the bad guys in jail, we'd reduce homicide by about 80%, because that is the percentage of all homicides committed by released felons. I can't understand why no one thinks to keep the bad guys in jail longer, thereby lowering the homicide rate by as much as 80%. Plus, to save money, I would send the prisons off-shore to places like China, Mexico, Korea, and India. That would make it less glamorous to go to jail and hanging with your gangster buddies in the local penitentiary. It would be a little slice of hell, a real deterrent, as it should be.

Posted by: mattyvac | June 1, 2008 11:30 PM    Report this comment

To Don B > 5/30/08 : As you seem pretty well informed, there's really no need to remind you that machine guns, and other weapons capable of full automatic firing have been strictly banned or controlled since the 1930's. "Assault Weapons" is a nomenclature which has been promoted by the liberal and truly ignorant press together with the gun control faction which is looking for any excuse to terrify the public into overeacting and attempting to ban those weapons which 'look' dangerous. Machine guns are not readily available to anyone; Assault Rifles do not pose any additional danger to the public than any other firearm that provides another round to fire with the single pull of the trigger. Double action Revolvers, semi-automatic pistols; self-loading rifles and shotguns and "assault rifles" all function to the same result. Some of them look a little less threatening to the general public, but that is no basis upon which to create a prohitibed genre. Knowledge of the facts is the basis for better decisions of the people. By the way, you're right-on with your view concerning criminal activity with a firearm. What ever happened to the 25 year felony add-on sentence for crimes committed withy a firearm?

Posted by: TW3 | May 31, 2008 3:06 PM    Report this comment

I would like to preface my statement by saying that I am not in favor of assault rifles and machine guns being readily available to anyone. I can’t come up with any sensible reason to own an assault rifle or machine gun.
I’m sure that if these weapons were banned, the 3 bank robbers would have used another rifle or pistol to commit the crime. Banning guns in general is idiotic. Criminals would still be able to obtain illegal guns and it would give them an advantage knowing that their prey will probably be unarmed.
The Government needs to spend their time creating stiffer penalties for committing a crime with a weapon. Isn’t it amazing that if you want to have all your rights protected, commit a crime and get a good lawyer. The courts are quick to look at and protect the rights of criminal. What about the rights of the victims……They don’t exist. Courts and juries tend to worry more about improper searches, Miranda rights, and legal tie ups created by a defense attorney. Too many criminals have been released on legal technicalities.
We protest and worry about how humanely the death penalties are. The average criminal has at least 10 years for appeals even if he admitted his guilt???? Does the criminal have pain or discomfort? Are we kidding ! Who cares if it’s painful or humane! How humanely did they treat the people that they murdered.
Stop worrying about banning guns…….let’s try banning criminals by severe punishment for the use of weapons in violent crimes.

Posted by: donba27 | May 30, 2008 2:11 PM    Report this comment

I am not sure that presenting facts will deter the Liberal mindset that gun control laws are the only acceptable response to high profile gun crime. These politicians are obviously following a different path to their goal for unchallenged power. The NRA and its proponents represent a potential challenge to those who revere power over the people rather than representation of the people which they swore to perform when they took office. The only true answer is to remove them from office; with your vote, with your voice, and with your support of those who are truly representing your rights and philosophy.

Posted by: TW3 | May 30, 2008 12:26 PM    Report this comment

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban makes about as much sense as placing a ban on Ford Motor Co. because a drunk driver used a Ford to kill a police officer. Once again, the agenda by the anti-gunners is not reducing crime. They want to take away your rights to give them more power.

Posted by: Robert J | May 29, 2008 8:15 AM    Report this comment

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