John Lott Q&A: The Truth About Right To Carry

posted on March 9, 2017

John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of the new book, The War On Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies, knows more than a thing or two about Right to Carry. In fact, he’s probably done more research on the topic than anyone else in the nation.

This week we asked Lott to answer a few questions about Right to Carry and the current move to pass national reciprocity legislation.

A1F Daily: With introduction of national Right-to-Carry reciprocity legislation, we’re starting to hear the same old horror stories about citizens carrying concealed firearms posing a danger to themselves and others. What does your research show?

John Lott: Just as after Right-to-Carry laws have been passed before, a year or so after reciprocity is passed, everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about. The entire debate will disappear as an issue for gun control advocates.

By any measure, permit holders are extremely law-abiding. Police officers are rarely convicted of any crimes, but permit holders are convicted at even lower rates. According to a study in the December 2010 issue of Police Quarterly, the rate that police officers are convicted of misdemeanors or felonies was 0.102 percent per year. For example, Texas in 2015, the latest available data for that state, with about 1 million concealed handgun permit holders, the rate that permit holders are convicted of these crimes was 0.01 percent. Thus, permit holders were convicted at about one-tenth the rate of police.

If you look at firearm violations, Texas permit holders were convicted at a rate of one-seventh the rate of police officers. Other states show a similar pattern. More detailed discussions are available in my books, The War on Guns and More Guns, Less Crime.By any measure, permit holders are extremely law-abiding.

The main source of alternative information is the Violence Policy Center, which is frequently cited by publications such as The New York Times. Most recently they have claimed that over nine years and eight months there were 900 non-self-defense gun deaths nationwide by concealed handgun permit holders. These non-self-defense gun deaths, they say, include suicides, murder and accidental deaths. 

Suppose for the sake of argument that the Violence Policy Center has accurately identified the cases they refer to. With more than 14.5 million permit holders at the beginning of last year, the 19 pending homicide charges in 2016 implies an annual rate of 0.14 homicides per 100,000 permit holders. And the vast majority of these will be found to be in self-defense. 

Yet the 900 number is wildly inaccurate. Take Michigan, with supposedly 72 homicides and 286 suicides. For homicides, many non-cases are triple or quadruple counted. “Pending” and “conviction” numbers from the Michigan State Police reports are both counted in the total, though cases can be listed as pending for years before going to court, and most never result in a conviction. News stories of these same events are also counted separately. The correct number of homicides in that case is actually 14 over almost 10 years. 

For suicides, Michigan doesn’t collect information on how suicides were committed—just that permit holders committed suicide. Yet permit holders committed suicide at just 38 percent the rate of the adult Michigan population. 

Despite being informed of these errors over the years, The New York Times refuses to publish letters to the editor discussing these problems and doesn’t acknowledge them in their articles. 

A1F: Why do people in anti-gun groups and the so-called mainstream” media continue to warn of going back to the “Wild, Wild West?

Lott: I suppose that they think that they can scare people enough to prevent passage of laws that allow people to carry guns for protection. The risk for gun control advocates is that they keep making extreme claims that keep on being proven wrong. At least to some extent, it makes it more difficult for people to take seriously what they may say in the future. 

A1F: If national reciprocity legislation is passed, what effect do you believe it will have on the violent crime rate across the country?

Lott: My research has shown that crime rates go down as the percentage of people who can legally carry permitted, concealed handguns increases. So the most obvious effect would be to expect the crime rate to go down.

There are surely plenty of stories where criminals have targeted tourists precisely because they believe that they are less likely to be armed and thus less able to defend themselves. For example, in Florida, they used to have the letter “E” on the license plates of rental cars. After Florida’s Right-to-Carry law was passed, criminals would target drivers with those cars because the criminals believed it was relatively less likely that those people could defend themselves. Florida had to change their laws to get rid of the different license plate for rental cars. 

I have also gotten a lot of calls from truck drivers over the years who carry valuable cargo and are worried about being robbed. The problem that truck drivers have is that they worry about violating the law if they have to travel through states such as California, New York and New Jersey that don’t recognize permits from other states.I suppose that they think that they can scare people enough to prevent passage of laws that allow people to carry guns for protection.

A1F: What is the most important thing Second Amendment supporters should remember about legal concealed carry?

Lott: To me the most important issue is one of safety and who benefits the most from having these laws. Anyone who has read my books knows that I believe police are extremely important in stopping crime. Indeed, my research indicates to me that they are the single most important factor in accomplishing that. It would be great if the police could protect people all the time, but the police themselves understand that they almost always arrive on the scene after the crime is committed. The question is, then, what do we advise people to do when they are having to confront a criminal by themselves—and simply telling people to behave passively is not very good advice. 

My work indicates to me that there are two groups of people who benefit the most from having guns: 1) people who are the most likely victims of violent crime, particularly poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas; and 2) people who are relatively weaker physically, particularly women and the elderly.

For additional information dealing with gun control and the Second Amendment, check out John Lott’s newest book, The War On Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies. You can order The War On Guns directly from or


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