Book Monitor

The Bias Against Guns

by John R. Lott, Jr.

Most people don't know whether gun control laws are good or bad. How could they, given the relentless disinformation campaign waged by government and the major media?

John Lott's latest salvo in the gun wars, The Bias Against Guns, explains why virtually everything one hears about gun control is wrong. With a cool and analytical tone that is a refreshing contrast to the overheated rhetoric of the anti-gun crowd, Lott makes the case that private ownership of guns and the right to carry them actually results in a safer society. He includes reams of data to back up his claim.

People are inundated with biased information. We are bombarded with negative news stories about guns, and only rarely do we hear of guns being used defensively to prevent a crime or save a life. Who would guess, for example, that academic and private studies show that guns are successfully used defensively millions of times each year?

Guns make it possible for bad things to happen, but they also prevent bad things from happening in situations where there isn't a good alternative for a person under assault. Lott personally conducted a survey which indicated that merely brandishing a gun prevented a crime 95% of the time. But this sort of story is rarely reported in the press. Why not?

A poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times in 1985 found that while only half of the public supported more gun laws, 78% of journalists did. This bias is coupled with the fact that the media tends to focus on dramatic events (like bloody deaths) as opposed to only potentially tragic events (like crime prevention). The result is an underreporting of the good news of deterrence.

Lott gives many examples of news reports of attackers being subdued that do not mention that a gun was used to do the subduing. Not only is this dishonest, it is dangerous, since it gives the impression that an armed attacker can be stopped without a weapon, which is usually not the case.

Lott presents convincing evidence that states and countries with the strictest gun laws have the highest crime rates. Women benefit disproportionately from the advantage of having a gun. Which is the better advice for a lone woman: behave passively in the face of assault, or pull out a gun and deter the assailant? Lott convincingly shows that the latter is the correct answer.

Regarding gun safety at home, Lott vehemently disagrees with the universal advice to keep guns locked up with triggers disabled, for the simple reason that this makes them useless when needed for defense. He further shows that safe-storage laws have no impact on accidental shootings or overall suicide rates.

Lott believes that the ultimate goal of gun-control advocates is the disarming of law-abiding citi-zens and that only honest reporting of the defensive use of guns can change the terms of the debate.

(Regnery 2003, 226 pps., $27.95)