Article published Wednesday, December 29, 2004,
in the New York Post.
By John R. Lott Jr.
[Presented here for fair-use, non-profit, educational purposes only,
as part of an examination of blatant high-profile news-media bias.]
THIS month the National Academy of Sciences issued a 328-page report
on gun-control laws. The big news is that the academys panel couldnt
identify any benefits of the decades-long effort to reduce crime and injury
by restricting gun ownership. The only conclusion it could draw was: Lets
study the question some more (presumably, until we find the results we
The academy, however, should believe its own findings. Based on 253 journal
articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, a survey that covered
80 different gun-control measures and some of its own empirical work,
the panel couldnt identify a single gun-control regulation that
reduced violent crime, suicide or accidents.
From the assault-weapons ban to the Brady Act to one-gun-a-month restrictions
to gun locks, nothing worked.
The study was not the work of gun-control opponents: The panel was set
up during the Clinton administration, and all but one of its members (whose
views on guns were publicly known before their appointments) favored gun
Its bad enough that the panel backed away from its own survey and
empirical work; worse yet is that it didnt really look objectively
at all the evidence. If it had, it would have found not just that gun
control doesnt help solve the problems of crime, suicide and gun
accidents, but that it may actually be counterproductive.
The panel simply ignored many studies showing just that. For example,
the research on gun locks that the panel considered examined only whether
accidental gun deaths and suicides were prevented. There was no mention
of research that shows that locking up guns prevents people from using
The panel also ignored most of the studies that find a benefit in crime
reduction from right-to-carry laws. It did pay attention to some non-peer
reviewed papers on the right-to-carry issue, and it also noted one part
of a right-to-carry study that indicated little or no benefit from such
laws. What the panel didnt point out, however, is that the authors
of that particular study had concluded that data in their work did much
more to show there were benefits than to debunk it.
James Q. Wilson, professor of management and public policy at UCLA, was
the one dissenting panelist and the only member whose views were known
in advance to not be entirely pro-gun control. His dissent focused on
the right-to-carry issue, and the fact that emphasizing results that could
not withstand peer-reviewed studies called into question the panels
contention that right-to-carry laws had not for sure had a positive effect.
Wilson also said that that conclusion was inaccurate given that virtually
every reanalysis done by the committee confirmed right-to-carry
laws reduced crime. He found the committees only results that didnt
confirm the drop in crime quite puzzling. They accounted for
no control variables nothing on any of the social,
demographic, and public policies that might affect crime and he
didnt understand how evidence that wouldnt get published in
a peer-reviewed journal would be given such weight.
While more research is always helpful, the notion that we have learned
nothing flies in the face of common sense. The NAS panel should have concluded
as the existing research has: Gun control doesnt help.
Instead, the panel has left us with two choices: Either academia and the
government have wasted tens of millions of dollars and countless man-hours
on useless research (and the panel would like us to spend more in the
same worthless pursuit), or the National Academy is so completely unable
to separate politics from its analyses that it simply cant accept
the results for what they are.
In either case, the academy, and academics in general, have succeeded
mostly in shooting themselves in the foot.