Second Amendment Project Newsletter, Dec. 20, 1999

About once a month, Dave Kopel produces a free e-mail Newsletter containing short summaries and links to important new research and writing involving the Second Amendment and firearms policy. The newsletter also reports on Kopel's latest writing.

The content of this newsletter is produced by the Second Amendment Project at the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colorado. The newsletter is electronically distributed by the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, Washington. Thus, the Second Amendment Foundation will be given your e-mail address.

Archive of past issues.

The Second Amendment Project is based at the Independence

Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colorado.

Table of Contents for this issue

New Research available on the Internet: Philosophy; National Center for Policy Analysis; Guns and Public Health.

Book review of John Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime." By Dave Kopel in Chronicles magazine.

Report from the Channel Islands. What's up with gun rights in the islands between England and France

George Washington

1. New Research Available on the Internet.

a. Philosophy

The Independence Institute is proud to announce the web premiere of two important articles about philosophy and firearms:

In "Arms as Insurance" University of Connecticut Philosophy Professor Samuel Wheeler explores the ethical case for owning firearms as insurance against unjust attack.

In "Self-Defense: Rights and Coerced Risk-acceptance" Professor Samuel

Wheeler examines the morality of self-defense.

Both articles were originally published in Public Affairs Quarterly, and are reprinted on the Web with the permission of Public Affairs Quarterly and Professor Wheeler.


b. National Center for Policy Analysis

The National Center For Policy Analysis, a think tank based in Dallas, has been producing more and more fine research about firearms policy in recent years, by NCPA senior analyst H. Sterling Burnett.

For Burnett's research on abusive lawsuits, and other topics, go to:


c. Firearms and Public Health

Another think tank that has been investigating the firearms issue in recent years is the Claremont Institute, in southern California. Claremont is the home of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, which counters the misinformation spread by gun prohibitionists in the public health community.

DRGO's latest publication is "Firearms: A Handbook for Health Professionals," written by David C. Stolinsky, MD and Timothy W. Wheeler, MD. Even if you're not a health professional, you'll find the publication useful. To find out more about DRGO and its publications, go to


2. Book Review of "More Guns, Less Crime"

Damn Lies - or Statistics

by David B. Kopel

More Guns, Less Crime:

Understanding Crime and

Gun Control Laws

by John R. Lott, Jr.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 225 pp., $23.00

The most important book ever published about firearms policy is John Lott's superb More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws.  No other firearms book has reshaped the political debate so profoundly or its author been subjected to such a determined campaign of lies and libels.  The intensity of the campaign against Lott is a powerful confirmation of his book's importance and one reason why it should be read by everyone who cares about firearms policy, which is literally a matter of life or death: Lobbyists who are trying to prevent the public from discovering John Lott's research are indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people every year.

Throughout the 19th century, "the right to keep and bear arms" meant exactly what it said: The right to carry a gun was protected just as firmly as the right to own a gun.  Some states, particularly in the South, enforced laws against carrying handguns concealed, but the right to open carry was almost universally respected.  By the 1970's, however, the right to carry had been restricted in most jurisdictions.  America was well on the way to treating guns like cigarettes: permissible in private but completely banned from public spaces.

In 1988, however, Florida-thanks to the energetic support of the Florida Chiefs of Police Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida-initiated a national trend by enacting a "shall issue" handgun permit law, allowing any adult who has a clean record and has taken safety training to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun for protection.  Now, 29 states have a law similar to Florida's, while Vermont and Idaho (outside of Boise) require no permit.

Before John Lott came along, a few researchers (myself included) had studied the effects of these laws.  Clayton Cramer and I (in the Tennessee Law Review) had analyzed changes in murder rates in "shall issue" states compared to national trends and found tentative evidence that murder rates fell after enactment of "shall issue" laws.  David McDowall (in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology) had analyzed murder rates in five counties and reported that they rose.  These efforts, nevertheless, proved far inferior to Lott's.

John Lott has blown all the previous research away: His work amounts to the most thorough criminological study ever performed.  Lott collected data from every one of the 3,054 counties in the United States over an 18-year period and, in contrast to the Kopel and McDowall homicide-only studies, examined changes in the rates of nine different types of crime.  He also accounted for the effects of dozens of other variables, including variations in arrest rates, in the age and racial composition of a county's population, in national crime rates, and in changes made to gun-control laws, including the adoption of waiting periods.  Lott's findings show that concealed carry laws significantly reduce violent crime.  On average, the murder rate falls by ten percent, that of rape by three percent, and aggravated assault by six percent.

While crime begins to fall off immediately, the benefits of concealed handgun laws take about three years to make themselves fully felt.  This is not surprising: In most states, a flood of applications occurs in the first few weeks the law is on the books, followed by a gradual rise in the percentage of the population which has acquired permits.  The larger the percentage of the population with permits, the greater the drop in crime.  (That percentage typically ranges from one to five percent.)  Interestingly, Lott also found a small but statistically significant increase in nonconfrontational property crimes such as larceny.  Apparently, while concealed handgun laws do not reduce the appetite criminals have for other people's property, they do encourage the more rational subset to acquire it in ways that do not put their own lives at risk.  And everyone, not just gun carriers, benefits from the reduced crime rate, since aggressors cannot know which potential victims might have a concealed weapon.  (The only remaining safe zones for criminals are schools, thanks to laws in many states which forbid gun-carrying on school property, even by licensed adults.)

Despite the book's high level of statistical sophistication, More Guns, Less Crime makes for enjoyable reading.  Lott lays out the data in an accessible manner, building from simpler statistical models to more complex ones.  Indeed, the book is a good antidote to the "innumeracy" which infects even the best-educated Americans.  Statistics are comprehensible if you pay attention, and More Guns, Less Crime is an excellent way to overcome numerophobia.

The most interesting part of the book is the chapter in which Lott addresses his critics.  In marked contrast to the anti-gun number crunchers funded by the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lott has made his data readily available to any and all researchers, even supplying them with a computer disk so they needn't key it in again.  Even so, certain critics have chosen to offer superficial talking points rather than reanalyze the data.

Lott's most sophisticated critic is Prof. Daniel Nagin, who engages in a form of research called "data torturing."  Turning data every which way but loose, Nagin demonstrated (and Lott conceded) that concealed handgun laws require several years to have their full effect.  Nagin's other criticisms, however, such as the often-repeated assertion that all the benefits of concealed carrying vanish if one removes Florida from the equation, turn out to be meaningless.  The Florida factoid has partial validity-but only if one throws out the data from all U.S. counties with a population of less than 100,000.  Under such conditions, concealed-carry laws do not appear to affect the incidence of murder or rape.  Yet even if one looks only at counties outside of Florida with a population of over 100,000, the data still show a large decrease in aggravated assault and robbery rates.

While academic critics of Lott's research have stuck to statistical analysis, the anti-gun lobbies have unleashed a furious and thoroughly dishonest public relations campaign against Lott himself, with the most scurrilous attacks coming from the Violence Policy Center (an organization which chides Handgun Control, Inc., for its timidity).  The VPC claims that Lott's study was "in essence, funded by the firearms industry."  In truth, Lott's study wasn't paid for by anybody: While at work on the book, he drew his regular salary as a University of Chicago law professor.  (Lott is presently a member of the Yale Law School faculty.)  The University of Chicago, like many other high-ranking universities, was given an endowed chair by the Olin Foundation.  The Olin Foundation plays no role in selecting the holder of a chair or in determining his field of research.  Some of the Olin Foundation's money came from the late John M. Olin, who acquired part of his fortune in the firearms and ammunition business.  To claim that everything any Olin professor does is "paid for by the gun industry" is like claiming that everyone who gets a grant from the Ford Foundation is subsidized by the automobile industry. 

The anti-Lott campaign continues to bear fruit in the form of opinion columns written by propagandists who are too lazy to read Lott's book and rely instead on bullet-points from groups like the VPC.  For example, Molly Ivins claimed that Lott "himself admits, he didn't look at any other causative factors-no other variables, as they say."  Of course, anyone who bothered to crack the book would see that Lott accounted for dozens of other causal factors.  These distortions show just how weak the case against concealed carry really is.

The vicious campaign against Lott reveals the fundamental extremism of the anti-gun movement.  Concealed handgun laws are precisely the type of moderate, "reasonable" laws which the anti-gun groups claim to support.  Except in Vermont and rural Idaho, a person must go through a licensing process and background check in order to get a permit, and many states require applicants to take safety training as well (though Lott found that the safety training requirement had no statistically discernible effect on crime rates or gun accident rates). 

So why the intense opposition to laws which encourage controlled gun use?  The answer is that the anti-gun movement's greatest concern is not that Lott might be making up his data, but that the data might be correct.  In their minds, armed self-defense by private citizens is immoral.  As Sarah Brady of Handgun Control, Inc., put it, "To me, the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes."  Her husband, Jim Brady, identified the circumstances in which he believes people should be allowed to possess handguns: "[F]or target shooting, that's okay.  Get a license and go to the range.  For defense of the home, that's why we have police departments."  Mrs. Brady's long-term goal, she told the New York Times, is a "needs-based licensing" system.  Under the Brady system, all guns would be registered.  The local police chief would decide if a person who wanted to buy a gun had a legitimate "need."  Mrs. Brady listed hunters and security guards as persons having a legitimate need, but not regular people who wanted guns for self-protection.

Much of the anti-gun lobby's agenda involves trying to restrict self-defense by marketing gun restrictions as "reasonable."  For example, there is currently a push to require gun owners to lock up their guns, in the name of preventing access by juvenile criminals.  But if a gun has to be locked up all the time, then it is much less readily available in an emergency, such as a home invasion.  And concealed handgun laws (which cost the government nothing, the licensing system being paid for by user fees) are a far more cost-effective way to reduce crime than prison construction, hiring more police, subsidizing midnight basketball, or anything else that government does.

The longer the gun-prohibition lobby and its political allies delay "shall issue" legislation in the 19 states which do not have such a law, the more people will be murdered, assaulted, robbed, and raped.  And the more people who read More Guns, Less Crime, the sooner streets in every state will become safe zones for good citizens, rather than for predators.

To buy a copy of Lott's book, go to: 


3. Report from the Channel Islands

The Channel Islands, which lie in-between England and France, in the English Channel, are part of the United Kingdom, but they are not subject to the British Parliament. They have their own Parliament, and make their own domestic laws. Below is a report on the firearms situation in the Channel Islands, written by Derek Bernard, head of the Firearms Users Group in the Channel Islands.




A Historical Perspective

The passage of the new Firearms Law through the States on 17th November 1999 was clearly some sort of a watershed in FUG's history - hence this review. If all the amendments that were passed in the States debate, are actually reflected in the new Law when it finally emerges, then there is no doubt that, while the Law will certainly be a thoroughly bad Law, it will also be,

by a substantial margin, the least destructive of the 7 Firearms Laws in the British Isles. That result is something that FUG and all those who lobbied States Members so effectively, should feel quite proud of.

Nevertheless it is a great deal less satisfactory than seemed reasonably probable right up to October, when the Defence Committee suddenly discovered, 120 years after the Porte d'Armes Law was introduced, that it was so badly written, that it unintentionally did not allow visitors to shoot. Many States Members who had been intending to oppose the Law, felt

compelled to support it in the light of the perceived threat that, without the new Law, Clay Target shooting was likely to be substantially destroyed.

The ability and readiness of our Government to use its own past mistakes to distort the democratic process, crush reasoned opposition and ban traditional and entirely benign sporting activities is very frightening.

FUG became aware of this development in October, when Mo Gotel told Derek Bernard that he was being forced to cancel the Open Clay Championship event scheduled for the end of the month, with the loss of #6,000 in sponsorship, because the authorities were refusing to issue Visitor's Certificates. Derek immediately spoke to both Senator Pierre Horsfall and the Attorney General and managed to persuade the AG to exempt the Championship from the new interpretation, on the basis that it had been planned under the previous interpretation. The AG so instructed the Police the same evening.

To go back to FUG's birth. In 1985 a draft new Firearms Law was published. It was substantially based on the 1973 UK Green Paper No. 5297, despite that Paper having been withdrawn because of the heavy criticism it attracted. It is interesting to note that that Green Paper was in turn based on the still-unpublished McKay Report of 1972 and that that Report disclosed the true, long-term agenda:

"we consider that the number of firearms in private hands should be kept to the absolute minimum."

Derek Bernard wrote to the then Attorney General, Vernon Tomes, in October 1985, seeking clarification on and the reasoning behind, various aspects of the draft Law. This started a long discussion process with Vernon, which culminated in 1995 (see 10. below).

More correspondence followed, with the President of Defence, Chief of Police and others. The letters and replies were circulated to a widening circle of interested parties in the shooting community. This process led to a well-attended, open meeting at the Quatre Bras Hotel on 5th December 1985, with further meetings in January and February '86. It was agreed that an ad hoc organisation called "The Jersey Group of Shooting Clubs and Associations" would be formed and an initial delegation of Derek Bernard (Chairman), David Dorgan, Chris Le Boutillier and Mo Gotel was elected to seek consultation meetings with the Constables, Defence and the Police. The Group's recommendations resulted in the formation of a Firearms Advisory Council, initially under the Chairmanship of Deputy Edgar Bequet.

Over the following years the Group made tremendous efforts to develop a genuine consultative dialogue, based on serious research and analysis, with the FAC and its successors. This proved to be a very uphill struggle and remained so even after the States formally adopted a policy of strict cost/benefit analysis for all regulations. Somehow Defence has remained totally immune from such reasonable requirements. Nevertheless, the established existence of the Group was of immeasurable value in being able to respond promptly, knowledgeably and effectively after the Hungerford murders of 1987 (and again after Dunblane in 1996).

By 1992 the Committee of Derek Bernard, Richard Benest, George Arnold and David Dorgan was well-established. That year the name changed to FUG and a very useful and packed meeting in St. Mary was organised by Senator Jean Le Maistre to see if New Zealand experience could be of use. Sadly, Defence and the States Police denied that they had anything to learn, presumably because the evidence from NZ clearly showed that the registration of firearm serial numbers was an expensive and wholly counter-productive process.

In 1995 Defence brought their new Law to the States. FUG mounted a powerful campaign to expose the absence of any meaningful consultation, as well as the serious flaws in the Law. Senator Vernon Tomes was by then wholly convinced that the Defence Committee's position was fundamentally unsound. He prepared a very powerful speech recommending that the Law be thrown out, but even without using it, the Law was rejected by 37 to 13.

In 1999, the Defence Committee's secret weapon undermined both reason and good government and forced a bad Law onto the Statute books. Sadly, it is a fact that the new Law provides ample mechanisms for the authorities to damage, destroy, or simply crush with bureaucracy, any or all branches of sport shooting, without the slightest realistic prospect of any social benefits. Thus, much as all the FUG Committee Members would like to lay down their pens and focus on shooting and organising good competitions, the need for a strong and united FUG remains as great as ever. To borrow and modify a well-known saying, we are sadly confident that, if we do not hang together, we are very likely to hang separately.


4. George Washington

As America's most immoral President ever prepares to devote his final year in office to destroying the Second Amendment, it is a good idea to look back at America's first President. Below is a commentary on George Washington, written by Larry Arnn, President of the Claremont Institute.

December 14 was the 200th anniversary of Washington's death, and Arnn's commentary reminds us of the great example set by Washington, which ought to still be imitated today. The commentary is reprinted with permission of the Claremont Institute.

If you would like to receive excellent commentary every weekday from the Claremont Institute, you can subscribe for free at:

And BTW, the long George Washington quote about firearms and liberty which circulates on the Internet is bogus. George Washington did enough great things in his life that we don't need to invent good speeches for him.

The Claremont Institute--PRECEPTS   |

December 14, 1999


No. 207

As the century (not quite the millennium) comes to a close, we reflect upon the sweep of the past, and we look for its peaks and its valleys. Today is the 200th anniversary of the passing of one of the highest peaks of human excellence in all of time.

In a more literate era, children learned that George Washington was the Father of Our Country, because he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Today we forget the deeds that won him this appellation.

In war, George Washington possessed that rare sort of courage that exhibited complete self-control in the face of menace. At the Battle of Princeton, for example, he rode his horse deliberately upon a line of British soldiers firing, it seemed to those standing near, all directly upon him. When the smoke cleared neither he nor his horse had been harmed or even diverted, and the British were in retreat. For such actions as these, he became known to brave men in that brutal and direct form of warfare as the bravest of them all.

He began to prepare for peace before the war was over. Near the end of the war, the men Washington had commanded were transformed from a rabble to a warrior clan, victorious over the vast armies and mercenaries of the British. The politicians in the Continental Congress had not seen fit to pay them. And so talk began that they should demand their pay or quit the field to some unsettled place, which would leave the nation unarmed. It was only right. They were owed, and mighty men such as they need not beg anyone for what was theirs.

At a meeting called to discuss this scheme, Washington surprised his officers by appearing in person and begging leave to speak. He reminded his comrades of the service they had done together and of the principles for which they had fought. And then he promised that they could "command his service" in the matter of their pay. And so these warriors were taught by precept and example the magic that lies at the bottom of freedom, namely that strong and weak alike -- and especially the strong -- must sacrifice interest on the altar of liberty. Only a man who had suffered with them, only a man who had served himself in refusal of pay, could have the stature to make that argument. But Washington was more than that: he was the best man on every battlefield he walked. And every soldier knew it.

The King of England, George III, expected that Washington would become the King of America. We can forgive him this, if only we consider that this was the natural result of conquest, in all the experience of the world before Washington. King George rested hopes that Washington would prove a bad king, and the people would want back their rightful monarch. Said a Minister, "I understand that General Washington intends to resign his office and return home." "If he does that," replied the startled King, "he is the greatest man alive." And so he did, and so he was.

Events such as these, multiplied by every year and every month of the war, gave Washington the stature to make the constitutional convention possible to call, and the Constitution it wrote possible to pass. In all the fierce debates that raged over that greatest instrument of law ever conceived, one fact anchored support and moderated opposition. Washington was for it. And so of course not Hamilton nor Jefferson, not Adams nor Lee, not Madison nor Henry, nor any other could be considered for the first presidency. Of all the great men who lived in that day, and there were so very many of them in that day, for Washington alone was that office constructed.

When one wonders at the success, the greatness and the goodness of this greatest of modern nations, he can find some explanation in the remarkable fact that we are the children of George Washington. About midway through the first speech a president ever gave, President Washington said: "there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an

indissoluble union between virtue and happiness."

Had we not a better (if similar) one in the Declaration of Independence, this could be the creed of our nation. It gives us the terms by which we may safely call George Washington one of the happiest men who ever lived.

Other great men have had great things to say about our First President. I invite you to read some of these reflections on our web site at, or go to

our home page at


Larry P. Arnn

President, The Claremont Institute

Copyright (c) 1999 The Claremont Institute

As always, the Independence Institute website contains

extensive information on:

Criminal Justice and the Second Amendment:

The Columbine High School murders: and

The Waco murders:

The Independence Institute's on-line bookstore. Start your

browsing at the Second Amendment section:

This is the last issue for 1999. May Christmas and the New Year refresh you for the epic struggle for truth, justice, and the American Way which awaits us in 2000.

Have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

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