Anti-gun attorney's Dispatch op-ed filleted in response by John Lott

by Chad D. Baus

On Friday, July 29, The Columbus Dispatch published a guest op-ed by Columbus attorney Jack D'Aurora, entitled "Concealed-carry laws do not reduce crime."

In the op-ed, D'Aurora parrots an article by Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue, published in the Stanford Law Review back in 2003, claiming that laws that permit concealed-carry licenses correlate to higher crime rates. At the time, Ayres and Donohue were responding to a 1998 book by economist John Lott, entitled "More Guns, Less Crime."

It is apparent that D'Aurora either was unprofessionally ignorant or intentionally ignored the work of other academics that don't fit in with Ayres and Donohue's world view. Nor is D'Aurora capable of considering that Ayres and Donohue would so distort what Lott's work was.

Even more bizarre is the fact that D'Aurora writes his op-ed as though Ayres and Donohue had published their piece yesterday, rather than more than eight years ago, and before the release of TWO new editions of "More Guns, Less Crime." D'Aurora also offers the types of "blood in the streets" -style warnings about concealed carry that Ohioans were accustomed to hearing in 2003, during the debate that led up to passage of our concealed carry law, but have since been recognized by the general public as having been extremely Chicken Little-esque.

While the Dispatch allowed D'Aurora 756 words in a heralded guest op-ed to attack Lott, they saw fit to allow Lott just 400 words on the Letters to the Editor section with which to respond. Despite those limits, Lott has succeeded in absolutely filleting D'Aurora via his response, which was published on Saturday, August 6.

Following is the letter from John Lott, a long-time friend to Buckeye Firearms Association and Ohio gun owners:

Will letting law-abiding citizens carry concealed handguns deter criminals and offer protection? Or is Jack D'Aurora right (Forum column, July 29) when he states that "heated arguments can escalate into shootings" and that criminals will become "more inclined to pack heat"?

He alleged that my research, published in my book More Guns, Less Crime, ignored such concerns. But obviously D'Aurora did not trouble himself to actually read any edition of my book.

According to D'Aurora, my research found a benefit from concealed-handgun laws merely because it covered the time period from 1977 to 1992, and, supposedly, if I had studied the seven years up to 1999, the results would have been different.

This is absurd. Even the first edition of my book covered up to 1994. I updated the evidence with each new edition, and by the third edition in 2010, I covered county- and state-level data for all the years from 1977 to 2005. No matter the time period, the results remained very similar.

D'Aurora also conveniently ignored the massive amount of work by other researchers during the past 15 years. Among peer-reviewed studies in academic journals by criminologists and economists, 18 studies examining national data found that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, 10 indicated no discernible effect, and none — absolutely none — found a bad effect from the law.

D'Aurora further mischaracterized the law-review article he cites by Ian Ayres and John Donohue. That paper claimed to find a small temporary increase in crime, subsequently followed by a downward trend in crime rates. Other evidence of theirs shows no temporary increase.

His accusation that I "did not account for the large increase in crack cocaine use" is false: I did so in five different ways, such as studying county-level cocaine prices.

Questions about whether heated arguments can escalate into shootings were not ignored. If permit holders did these things, they would be put in jail and lose their permits. But permit holders are extremely law-abiding. In Ohio, about 178,000 had concealed-handgun permits last year, but just 206 — 0.1 percent — had their permits revoked. Most revocations involved people losing their permits because they moved out of state, died or decided not to hold their license anymore.

Other states provide more detailed data. Florida is typical. From Oct. 1, 1987, to June 30, 2011, more than 2 million people were issued permits, with the average person possessing one for more than a decade. One hundred sixty-eight (about 0.01%) had their permits revoked for any type of firearms-related violation, mostly for accidentally carrying a concealed handgun into a gun-free zone.

There is no research showing that criminals are more likely to "pack heat." In fact, right-to-carry laws cause gun crimes to drop more than non-gun crimes.

Finally, the most telling fact may be this: No state that has adopted a right-to-carry law has ever even held hearings on rescinding it.

Burke, Va.

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