CPRC’s John Lott continued debate with Gary Kleck over his attacks on “More Guns, Less Crime”

Dec 24, 2015 | Featured

Ari Armstrong cropped-header-960x2501

In mid-November John Lott got into an exchange with Gary Kleck about “More Guns, Less Crime.”  This took place after other Kleck statements to the media about me.

In the new discussion, Gary continues to go out of his way to engage in personal attacks on Lott: “he instead invents a distorted straw man,” “presents a fantasy version,” “Lott’s version of economic theory is one that has been dead for decades,” “One of Lott’s many errors is to blindly assume,” “In his efforts to distort my positions . . . blatant falsehood,” “This is pure invention,” “Lott’s error was in simplistically assuming,” “Lott tells another especially bizarre whopper,” and “The rest of Lott’s comments are filled with misinformation that betrays an extraordinary ignorance of the research literature.”

Here is part of the discussion:

Kleck: “Lott tells another especially bizarre whopper about me: ‘Gary feels very strongly that gun ownership doesn’t make people safer.’  This one is especially weird because I am usually attacked by pro-control people for my research showing the defensive gun use is both frequent and effective. . . .”

Lott: Take this quote from Gary’s initial interview with Ari: “across areas, there is no effect of gun ownership rates on crime rates, including homicide rates.” And in his last posting he makes the claim: “national gun ownership rates have no net effect on national homicide rates (the position I [Kleck] endorse).” But Gary has been making this claim even more broadly for some time.

Similarly, this past summer, Gary told Mother Jones magazine: “Do I know of anybody who specifically believe with more guns there are less crimes and they’re a credible criminologist? No.” Gary is saying clearly the debate isn’t just about whether guns are increasing. He is claiming that even if gun ownership is increasing, there won’t be reduced crime.

Everyone knows of Gary’s work on guns being used defensively, but there is a contradiction here. While Gary points to guns being used defensively and those defensive uses exceed the number of times guns are used in the commission of crime, he repeatedly says that increased gun ownership doesn’t reduce crime.

I don’t understand why Gary claims that more gun ownership doesn’t mean less crime, and I have asked him about this in multiple conversations, but whenever I have asked him to explain how these different claims could be reconciled he has declined to do so.

People can read the debate themselves available here.

UPDATE: There are two primary parts of Lott’s debate with Kleck: whether the number of concealed handguns being carried has increased and whether that increase has reduced violent crime.  Kleck claims that there has been no increase in concealed handguns (that the increase in legally carried guns has just offset the drop in the number being carried illegally) and that even if there was an increase it wouldn’t effect the crime rate.  On the first point, Lott noted how more concealed handguns accidentally being checked in with baggage at the airport is closely correlated with more concealed handgun permits being issued.  Robert VerBruggen at Real Clear Policy looks at the issue more carefully and reports:

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. . . For his part, Armstrong wrote that he personally knows people who carried guns after getting their permits but not before. I do as well — in fact, I’m one of them. And a closer look at the TSA data reveals a stark pattern: More guns are being found in states with permissive concealed-carry laws, but not in states where it’s hard to get a license. . . .

The places with strict laws are home to more than one-quarter of the U.S. population, but they accounted for just 8 percent of the guns TSA found, mostly in massive California. Of course, this isn’t just carry laws at work — these states also have lower gun ownership and harsher penalties for people who run afoul of gun laws, even accidentally. (See New Jersey, especially, on that latter point.)

The trends are much more convincing. The stricter states accounted for 157 guns in 2012, 141 in 2013, and 165 in 2014 — a pattern consistent with randomness, with a decrease between the first two years. The states that grant permits liberally, by contrast, saw their gun count climb steadily and dramatically, from 1,334 to 1,652 to 1,945. Many of these states saw substantial increases individually as well. Texas’s number rose from 292 to 417. . . .



  1. Phauxtoe

    Perhaps Gary means that there aren’t less crimes , but neglects to mention that there are just better outcomes for the victim?

  2. Jeff Stanley

    I’m thinking Kleck may just be jealous of Lott’s book sales compared to his own. Especially since his arguments, as far as I’ve had time to review them, are incoherent. The notion that the same number of people carried before shall-issue laws were passed as after is ridiculous on its face.

  3. Sean Sheridan

    Could it be possible that the reason more guns are being found by TSA after permissive carry laws go into effect is that people who carry illegally are more likely to put more attention to not getting caught with guns because they know they’re doing something illegal, whereas those who carry with a license have no reason to think they’re doing something wrong by carrying and thus are more likely to forget that they are when they cross into a prohibited area than those who carry illegally?