Wednesday, February 25, 2009

School: John Lott on the Multiple Victim Shooter

John Lott of "More Guns, Less Crime" fame came to talk at the law school today. The talk was a brief economic overview of the costs and benefits of guns and gun control. Specifically, he talked about how concealed carry permits affect the mutliple victim shooter scenario (defined as more than three victims killed by the shooter).

A part of the talk that most gun rights supporters will be familiar with is the persistent exclusion of stories about citizens using guns to stop crime. Whether from the desire to sell newspapers ("if it bleeds, it leads") or from subtle political bias, news organizations in the mainstream media often fail to report defensive gun uses as often as gun crime.

A lot of it was old hat for people familiar with Lott's work, but it's heartening to know that the statistics are on our side. For instance, after Israel relaxed its permit requirements in 1972, Lott said, terrorists attacking crowds in public places switched from using machineguns to using bombs. Israeli efforts to stop gunman with police and military were mostly failures since terrorists could merely wait until the uniformed officers were not in the area.

Lott explained that mass shootings are disproportionately affected by relaxed concealed carry laws, because in any given public place there's a good chance someone in the crowd will be armed. Other crimes, though, are not as affected by right to carry, since criminals in those crimes face far fewer potential victims. Lott also argued that traditional criminal deterrents, like the threat of prison and execution, are ineffective for stopping these kinds of shooters, since they expect to die at the scene anyway.

Oh, and for an interesting discussion of the university spree shooter phenomenon and whether the universities should bear the burden of preventing them, see Ben Williamson's seminal note, "THE GUNSLINGER TO THE IVORY TOWER CAME: SHOULD UNIVERSITIES HAVE A DUTY TO PREVENT RAMPAGE KILLINGS?," at 60 Fla. L. Rev. 895.


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