More Handguns, Less Crime — or More?
In 1998, John R. Lott Jr. dropped a bombshell on the academic and legal worlds with More Guns, Less Crime. Lott had conducted perhaps the most detailed study of crime in history, using data from every county in America, and concluded that right-to-carry (RTC) laws — which allow citizens to carry concealed guns, but typically require them to receive training and pass a background check first — reduce crime.
The University of Chicago Press has just released a third edition of the book, with updated numbers and more than 100 pages of new material. In addition to expanding Lott’s argument with data from the last decade, it provides an excellent chance to look at the current state of the gun-policy debate.
Three things are clear. One, despite years in the academic spotlight, this book’s central argument about right-to-carry laws has failed to create any kind of consensus. Two, the dire predictions of right-to-carry opponents have not come true. Three, the next great gun-control debate will concern handgun bans — and, Lott’s attempt to demonstrate that they increase murder notwithstanding, their effect on crime rates is no clearer than right-to-carry laws’.