3 Key Research Findings

The full title of this book is, More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws. Key questions professor of economics John Lott, Jr., initially sought to consider through his research were these: Does allowing people to own or carry guns deter violent crime? Or does it simply cause more citizens to harm each other? (Page xi.)

Chapter 1 – Introduction

SUMMARY. In this chapter, Dr. Lott focuses on how American culture is a gun culture. He weaves together key concepts about gun-related violence and the defensive use of firearms with research statistics and specific historical examples, mostly from the 1990s through 2010. Through this, he raises various core issues to address in the rest of the book:

  • Defensive use of guns to resist crime, and risks of injury to intended victims.
  • Differences between the risk/safety benefits to men and to women of using a firearm to resist a crime.
  • Dynamics of crime deterrence based on how criminals think – risk factors, the drive for self-preservation, the “substitution effect” of choosing a less risky form of crime – and how this relates to the argument for allowing concealed handguns.
  • Ways that news reporting overemphasizes gun-related violence as occurring more often than it actually does, when compared with crime statistics.


Data Used: Multi-year statistics on gun control and crime – gun ownership polls, FBI yearly crime rate data, other sources.

Key Question: Do gun control laws save lives, or cost lives?

Main Conclusion: “Criminals as a group tend to behave rationally – when crime becomes more difficult, less crime is committed.” (Page 20.)

Factors that figure into crime deterrence:

  • Police and courts – higher arrest rates and higher conviction rates.
  • Society – the possibility or presence of citizens with concealed handguns deters many kinds of crime, especially those crimes that involve direct contact with a potential victim.

Some other findings from Dr. Lott’s research (Pages 20-21):

Crime Decreases: Citizens with concealed handguns deter many kinds of crime, especially those crimes that involve direct contact with a potential victim.

Crime Increases: However, with decreases in these more costly/risky crimes might come small increases in lesser crimes that do not involve direct contact with victims (e.g., larceny, auto theft).

Urban Crime: Urban counties with the highest populations and crime rates had the largest drops in violent crime from legalized concealed handguns.

Gun-Related Deaths: Rates for accident deaths and suicides were unaltered by the presence of concealed handguns.

Gender: For each additional woman who carries a concealed handgun, it reduces the murder rate of women by about three to four times than each additional man carrying does to reduce the murder rate of men.

Penalties and Deterrence: There is evidence of a small effect in reducing crime when there are increased penalties for gun use in the commission of a crime.

State Laws: There is no crime-reduction benefit from mandated waiting periods and background checks before allowing people to purchase guns.

Federal Laws: “The Brady law has proven to be no more effective” in reducing crime. (Page 21.)

Training and Age for Permits: “There is little benefit from training requirements or age restrictions for concealed-handgun permits.” (Page 21.)

Bottom Line: “Of all the methods [for fighting crime] studied so far by economists, the carrying of concealed handguns appears to be the most cost-effective method for reducing crime.” (Page 21.)