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Shooting Down the More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis (with John J. Donohue III), 55 Stanford Law Review 1193 (2003)


In a remarkable paper published in 1997, John Lott and David Mustard managed to set the agenda for much subsequent dataset work on the impact of guns on crime in America by creating a massive dataset of crime across all U.S. counties from 1977 through 1992 and by amassing a powerful statistical argument that state laws enabling citizens to carry concealed handguns had reduced crime. The initial paper was followed a year later by an even more comprehensive and sustained argument to the same effect in a book solely authored by John Lott entitled More Guns, Less Crime (now in its second edition). The work by Lott and Mustard has triggered an unusually large set of academic responses, with talented scholars lining up on both sides of the debate. Indeed, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences has been convened to sort through the now large body of conflicting studies. But in the world of affairs rather than ideas, it did not take long for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and politicians across the country to seize upon the work of Lott and Mustard to oppose efforts at gun control and advance the cause of greater freedom to carry guns. For example, in the same year that the initial article was published, Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) introduced The Personal Safety and Community Protection Act, which was designed to facilitate the carrying of concealed firearms by nonresidents of a state who had obtained valid permits to carry such weapons in their home state. Senator Craig argued that the work of John Lott showed that arming the citizenry via laws allowing the carrying of concealed handguns would have a protective effect for the community at large because criminals would find themselves in the line of fire. On May 27, 1999, Lott testified before the House Judiciary Committee that the stricter gun regulations proposed by President Clinton either would have no effect or would actually cost lives, and a number of Republican members of Congress have since included favorable references in their speeches to Lott's work. Moreover, Lott has also testified in support of concealed gun laws before several state legislatures, including Nebraska (1997), Michigan (1998), Minnesota (1999), Ohio (2002), and Wisconsin (2002).

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