In May, just prior to the Million Mom March, the IWF hosted author and legal scholar John Lott to discuss his controversial new book More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. John Lott has taken on one of the most contentious debate topics in recent history, and arrives at a startling conclusion-more guns mean less crime. Through analysis of over 20 years of FBI crime data from every county in the United States, Lott discovers, “Criminals as a group tend to behave rationally-when crime becomes more difficult, less crime is committed.”

These selected remarks are from his talk to the IWF:

These selected remarks are from his talk to the IWF:

These selected remarks are from his talk to the IWF:

There are a lot of bad things that can happen with guns, and guns can make it easier for such things to happen. But guns can also prevent dangerous situations from arising and also make it easier for people to defend themselves. That is the story that is not being told. No matter what one’s views are on the issue of gun control, there is one issue in the debate that concerns us all: Will allowing law-abiding citizens to own guns or carry concealed handguns on net save lives? The answer is yes, it will.

What I’ve done in my research is to look at all 3,054 U.S. counties over 20 years, as well as the largest national gun ownership surveys and state documents on illegal gun use. Gun control laws either have no impact or increase violent crime. I have also found that the states now experiencing the largest reduction in crime are also the ones with the fastest-growing rates of gun ownership.

It is interesting to look at the differences between men’s and women’s opinions on this issue when they are surveyed. Anywhere from 30 to 40 percent more women support gun control than do men.

Even when surveys are conducted to determine who actually owns guns in America, there are striking differences between men’s and women’s responses, including married couples. Married men claim to own guns at about a 30 to 35 percent higher rate than married women report having guns in the home. I suppose there are a few possible interpretations here, either (1) the husband has not revealed that he actually owns a gun or (2) guys brag about owning guns when they don’t or (3) the women don’t want to admit that their husbands are gun owners and that they have guns in the home even when they know it to be true. My guess is that the latter explains most of the discrepancy.

A lot of the perceptions that people have about guns come from what we hear in the news media. Constantly hearing about the bad uses of guns must have a big impact on people’s perceptions of the risks of guns. Yet, we very rarely hear about the tragic events that are avoided through the use of guns. When was the last time you watched the national evening news on ABC, NBC, CBS, or CNN-or even any story on the local evening news-and heard about someone who had used a gun to save a life? In 1997, for example, while people used guns to commit crimes about 440,000 times (with over 9,000 of those being murders), few Americans would guess that our best estimates indicate that guns were used defensively about two million times. Simply being able to brandish a gun was sufficient 98 percent of the time to cause a criminal to break off an attack.

However, many dramatic cases of guns saving lives go unreported. Consider the school shooting in Pearl, Mississippi. If you do a Lexis-Nexis search for the month after the October 1997 attack, you will find about 700 news stories on the shooting. Of those 700 articles, 19 of them mention the school’s assistant principal, but only 13 of those mention that he had something to do with stopping the attack. There was no national evening news broadcast that mentioned this assistant principal’s heroic efforts.

What actually happened was that he was able to stop the shooting by brandishing a gun. He obeyed the federal law, which requires that you do not bring a gun within the boundaries of the school, a law we have had since December 1995. He had locked the gun in his car and parked it more than a quarter of a mile off the school property. When the attack occurred, he ran all the way to his car, got the gun, came back, pointed the gun at the attacker, and at gunpoint ordered him to the ground and held him there for more than five minutes before the police arrived. Police believe that the attacker was apparently leaving the high school to go down the street to the junior high to continue his attack there.

I can give you lots of cases. Everyone remembers the day-trader shooting in Atlanta last year, but few people know that within a ten-day period, there were three separate cases where citizens used guns to stop similar types of attack. While no one was killed or injured in any of those cases, someone was able to stop the attack and possibly because of that, it was not considered newsworthy. You are not going to see any news stories outside the local Atlanta media market that talked about those cases. My guess is that a lot of the discussion we have these days about guns would be quite different if even a few of these cases, sometimes very dramatic ones, got some news attention.

The ability to defend oneself with a gun is particularly important for those people who are not the physically strongest members of society. Of all the people who would benefit the most from being able to protect themselves, whether it’s the poor who live in high-crime urban areas, or women, or the elderly-it is particularly out of line that the Clinton Administration thinks these people are better off if we instantly eliminate legal gun ownership.