skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 204874 Find in a Library
Title: Myths About Defensive Gun Use and Permissive Gun Carry Laws
Author(s): Daniel Webster Sc.D.; Jens Ludwig Ph.D.
Corporate Author: Berkeley Media Studies Group
United States of America
Date Published: 2000
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: Berkeley Media Studies Group
Berkeley, CA 94704
Joyce Foundation
Chicago, IL 60602
Sale Source: Berkeley Media Studies Group
2140 Shattuck Avenue
Suite 804
Berkeley, CA 94704
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper summarizes some of the key problems with the data and data analysis and interpretation of studies that claim gun-carrying in public and gun ownership results in substantial reductions in violent crime.
Abstract: Such studies include a 1998 study by economist John Lott, Jr. and a study by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. The argument by Lott and other proponents of permissive gun-carrying laws is that if more people could legally carry guns in public spaces, criminal predators would be deterred under the risk that would-be victims would be well-armed. The potential risk of these more permissive gun laws comes from the possible misuse of guns by those with concealed-carry permits and the potential complications that such laws may pose for police efforts to prevent illegal gun-carrying. Another cost is the possibility of an "arms race" between criminals and law-abiding citizens. Currently, some 75 percent of robbers do not use guns to commit their crimes. If more potential victims start carrying handguns, those robbers who continue to commit street muggings may be more likely to use guns to commit their crimes. They may be more nervous about the threat of the victim's having a gun and therefore be more likely to shoot first to pre-empt an armed victim response. Research by Philip Cook confirms that cities where more robbers use guns to commit their crimes also have higher robbery-murder rates. After examining the methodological flaws in Lott's study, this paper notes that the fundamental problem with Lott's research is the old social science adage "correlation is not causation," i.e., many variables may be related to one another yet not cause one another. Because of the many factors that are potential influences on the crime rate in a jurisdiction, it is difficult to control for all factors and single out one factor as the cause of a crime reduction when comparing crime rates across jurisdictions. Kleck and Gertz, in their analysis of the defensive uses of guns, claim that there are 2.5 million defensive guns uses per year, based on a telephone survey of 5,000 American adults conducted in 1992. Possible sources of error in telephone surveys, particularly ones that solicit information on actions that have been taken by respondents, are fraught with error risks. Corroborative evidence is crucial in such cases, and such evidence was not forthcoming in the Kleck and Gertz study. Although research by John Lott and Gary Kleck has challenged the prevailing view that gun regulations can reduce lethal crimes, the many limitations of Lott's and Kleck's research indicate that there is no reason to move from the relationship between guns and violence backed by research in previous decades. Until proven otherwise, the best science indicates that more guns will lead to more deaths. 19 notes
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Citizen gun ownership; Citizen gun use; Gun Control; Gun control legislation; Handguns; Violence prevention
Note: Prepared for the "Strengthening the Public Health Debate on Handguns, Crime, and Safety" meeting, October 14, 15, 1999, Chicago, IL; downloaded March 30, 2004.
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.