Denver Post on Guns

Michael Booth and Kevin Simpson have written a surprisingly balanced article about gun ownership for The Denver Post, not a paper to which readers usually look for balance regarding such issues.

Unfortunately, the authors do get some points wrong. My criticisms should not be interpreted as a blanket condemnation of the article, but as a corrective to an article that’s largely good.

The authors sound surprised to report that, in handgun safety classes, people spend much of their “class time learning how to avoid actually using a gun.” The authors call this a “paradox,” but it is the standard orientation of gun owners.

The authors correctly note that those with concealed-carry permits compose an “exceptionally law-abiding group.” Unfortunately, the authors misstate the evidence regarding guns and crime. They write: “Gun enthusiasts argue more guns equal less crime… but researchers point to a long-term decline influenced by larger forces and no impact on crime attributable to concealed-carry laws.”

It is true that “larger forces” play the bigger role. However, it is simply not true that “researchers” — suggesting all researchers — have found no impact of concealed-carry laws. Some researchers have found that concealed-carry reduces crime, others have found that it does not reduce crime, and no researcher has found that concealed carry increases crime.

Moreover, plenty of unassailable research shows that gun ownership reduces “hot” burglaries when the owners are home. John Lott, in addition to running statistical regressions showing that concealed-carry reduces crime, also ran regressions showing that gun ownership generally relates to lower crime, other things equal. (Lott reviews the research regarding guns and crime in The Bias Against Guns and More Guns, Less Crime. Such scholars as Joyce Malcolm, Gary Kleck, Don Kates, and Dave Kopel discuss many other issues including burglary. I review a portion of the evidence in my 2003 article, “Guns and the Media.”)

The main problem with the Post’s article is that it advocates “middle ground” gun restrictions but does not offer any actual evidence that such restrictions would work. The article ignores the evidence that existing restrictions (such as Brady registration checks) have failed, as well as the well-developed arguments as to why various proposed measures would cause more problems than they solved. For example, the article quotes State Senator Sue Windels, who has offered “lock up your safety” legislation that would demonstrably make homeowners less safe. Instead, the article offers polling data indicating that many people want more restrictions, as though polling data were a substitute for sound arguments. The article thus reveals a deeply pragmatic mindset that assumes a principled, consistent view must be wrong by virtue of the fact that it is principled and consistent, despite the fact that it is also supported by tight logic and robust empirical evidence.