Remember Al Pacino’s great line from Godfather II when he tells some mobster that, “my father always taught me to keep my friends close but keep my enemies closer.” Which is why I listen to AM Talk Radio whenever I’m alone in my car. Because when it comes to guns, I know what my friends are going to say. It’s what the other side is saying that I need to hear. In that respect I was listening the other day to Mark Walters whose show, Armed American Radio, is actually a running advertisement for a clever marketing scheme called U.S. Concealed Carry Association, but occasionally there’s a time-out from endless USCCA promotions for a brief interview with a guest.
And the guest just happened to be none other than John Lott who has become the poster-boy for the armed-citizen movement, or maybe sometimes he’s the poster-girl, depending on whether or not he’s pretending to be John Lott or Mary Rosh. Either way, within a sentence or so after he begins, you can count on John to start mumbling about how safe people are when they carry a gun or keep a loaded gun in their homes. And he cites all kinds of ‘studies’ and ‘research’ from various right-wing academics and pundits who share his point of view. The truth is he hasn’t done any serious research in more than twenty years.
Oh, I take that back. In 1997 he allegedly conducted a telephone survey about defensive gun use but he couldn’t produce the data because his hard-drive crashed. Then to prove that he wasn’t faking the loss of data he produced testimonials from a couple of people who thought they remembered answering questions over the phone. You can read a very comprehensive analysis of Lott’s attempt to defend himself right here. And what Tim Lambert’s article points out is that Lott has gone to great lengths to validate the idea that he suffered a hard-drive crash but his attempts to prove that this hard drive contained any kind of DGU survey falls far short of the mark.
In any case, it doesn’t really matter whether or not Lott’s telling the truth because his audience could care less about whether guns protect us from crime or protect us from anything else. The bottom line is that there are simply plenty of people out there who believe that any attempt by the government to implement any kind of progressive social policies at all represents nothing more than the imposition of some kind of Islamo-Fascist-Socialist-Communist world order brought directly from Kenya to the U.S. Think I’m kidding? In 2010, Pew Research stated that 18% of Americans believed that Obama is a Muslim. You going to argue gun control with them? And this is John Lott’s audience, which is something that some of his critics, as well-intentioned as they may be, sometimes tend to forget.
Two of his most well-intentioned critics happen to be Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes, whose website, Armed With Reason, is sprinkled with endless articles which accurately capture both the misstatements and wrong-headed research of Mary Rosh, a.k.a. John Lott. But I’ve decided to take a different tack towards Lott’s work and, for the sake of argument, pretend that everything he says is true. Let’s quantify how much money is saved because bad guys breaking into homes are stopped by good guys inside who happen to have guns. This is CDC and DOJ data, not some phony telephone survey, and it looks like this. Each year roughly 830,000 people are at home when someone tries to break in. Of this number, roughly 8,000 used a gun to scare the bad guy away.
Know how much all those good guys saved by protecting their homes with guns? Somewhere around two million dollars. Know how much the victims of unintentional gun shootings cost in medical bills and lost wages? More than one billion bucks. And that’s what it costs us to let some misguided John Lott fans take their hero at his word. Oh well, maybe the world really is flat.