Lopez: Is there any gun-control regulation that makes sense?
Lott: I really wish that I could point to something that seems to work here. If background checks make people feel safer, I suppose that there are worse wastes of money, but, generally, gun-control laws either have no effect on crime or actually make things worse. It seems preferable to take the money that we are spending on gun-control laws and use it to hire more police, whom we do know to be extremely important in stopping crime. The big question that people have to ask when examining a law is, who is most likely to obey it? If the law-abiding, good citizens are the ones most likely disarmed by the law, the law can actually make crime rates worse.
Lopez: But don’t gun bans stop criminals from getting guns?
Lott: Everyone wants to keep guns away from criminals, but the question is: Who is most likely to obey the law? With a ban, if the law-abiding citizens are the ones who turn in their guns relative to the criminals, you can actually see increases in crime rates. And that is what we see happening. In every instance, we have data that show that when a ban is imposed, murder rates rise. In America, people are all too familiar with the increased murder rates in Chicago and Washington, D.C., following their handgun bans. They might even be familiar with the 36 percent drop in murder rates in D.C. since the Supreme Court struck down its handgun ban and gun-lock laws.
Supporters blame those gun-control failures on the ease of getting guns in the rest of the country. The claim is that unless the ban covers the entire country, it isn’t a fair test of how well a ban will work. Still, that doesn’t explain why gun bans increase murder rates. As the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime shows, even in island nations such as Ireland, the U.K., and Jamaica — with their easily defendable borders and lack of obvious neighbors — gun bans haven’t stopped drug gangs from getting either drugs or the guns that they use to protect their valuable product (see the figures here).
Lopez: What have been the most prevalent media errors you’ve heard in recent days?
Lott: No one in the media holds gun-control advocates responsible for past claims. Again, after the federal assault-weapons ban sunset, politicians and gun-control advocates lined up claiming that murder and violence rates would soar, but the opposite happened. So when gun-control advocates now claim that renewing part of the assault-weapons ban is essential to control violent crime, it would be helpful for reporters to once in a while call them on their past predictions.
I have learned that most of the initial media reports will get the type of gun wrong. Terms such as “assault weapon” and “automatic weapon” are thrown around with apparently little understanding of what they mean. The news coverage here was no different, with many stories claiming that an automatic weapon was used.
It is also disappointing how quickly the press jumps to conclusions about motives of the criminals. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that if you were “wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. . . . ‘The whole Tea Party’ was her enemy. And, yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous ‘crosshairs’ list.” He even attacked Palin’s offer of concern and prayers for the victims as insufficient.
And on CNN, correspondent Jessica Yellin singled out Sarah Palin as bearing responsibility for the attack: “political rhetoric, as you point out, in creating the environment that allowed this instance to happen . . . President Obama also delivered that message saying that it was partly the political rhetoric that led to this.”
Well, it looks like those who blamed Sarah Palin and the Tea Party for political gain are going to wish that they had waited just a couple of days. Jared Loughner has been described by a former classmate as “left wing, quite liberal,” and a “pothead,” — hardly a Tea Party fan — who has had a fixation on Giffords since 2007, well before Sarah Palin or the Tea Party made their entry onto the national political scene.