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The Bias Against Guns

The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You've Heard About Gun Control Is Wrong is a book by John Lott, following up on his controversial More Guns, Less Crime. It is intended to reach a broader audience than its highly technical predecessor. Lott explores what he sees as the reasons for popular misconceptions about gun ownership, including the practice of carrying concealed weapons.

Main topics

The Bias Against Guns has two parts. The first explains where Lott believes most misconceptions and false information about gun ownership come from. The second examines the issues regarding gun ownership, paying specific attention to topics that often arise in debates over gun politics.

Media bias

Lott contends that news media ignore or downplay stories and statistics which, he says, prove his claim that widespread gun ownership prevents crime.

He feels that some of this bias is due to the fact that crimes committed with guns are more sensational than crimes prevented by guns. Even though there are millions of defensive gun uses each year, almost none of them are reported by the media.

He goes further, though, and explains that this is not enough to explain some of the bias present in media. For example, polls on gun control are systematically skewed to give pro-gun control results. One example is as follows:

Do you think gun control laws
*Decrease crime a lot
*Decrease crime some
*Have no effect on crime

Lott contends that this forces a respondent to take a pro gun control position, because all of the responses indicate that gun control is good, or at worst has a neutral effect. Lott would argue that a fair poll would be structured as follows:

Do you think gun control laws
*Decrease crime a lot
*Decrease crime some
*Have no effect on crime
*Increase crime some
*Increase crime a lot

Lott contends that the answers that the media polls omit tend to be the correct responses.

Finally, Lott examines how the media systematically under reports the benefits of gun ownership. He shows examples of stories where people, even children, have used guns to protect their families from intruders, which receive almost no media attention despite their sensational nature. He also cites a story that gained national media attention in which students were able to stop a school shooting. In almost every report, reporters not only neglected to mention that the students who stopped the shooting used guns to do so but also instead gave the impression that the perpetrator was tackled.

Government against gun ownership

Lott examines two fundamental ways in which he believes the government creates a bias against gun ownership.

The first is that government funded studies of guns in society are heavily biased. One reason is that politicians control the questions that are investigated. It is typical for most studies to investigate questions that are focused on the benefits of gun control, or the harm that guns do in society. It is rare for government funded studies to explore the benefits of gun use, or the detrimental effects of gun control laws.

The second is that the government funds advertisements that are both factually incorrect, and worse, advise citizens to take actions that increase the chances of someone in their family coming to harm. For example, these advertisements state that parents should lock away their guns so that children can not accidentally shoot themselves or other children. However, Lott explains that despite hearing about such events in the media, they are very rare. He points out that more children are killed from adult beds than from guns. Preventing this small number of child deaths by locking guns away in the home would lead to many more deaths per year as guns would not be readily available to use to protect the family.

Mass murders

Lott details the effects of gun laws on multiple victim shootings in public places. His two main arguments are that gun free zones increase these events, and that shall issue concealed carry laws greatly reduce them.

Lott's first argument is that gun free zones are attractive to criminals because no law abiding citizens will be able to stop them from taking hostages or killing. Lott makes the case that gun free zones are the safest places for criminals, and that it should not be surprising that these kinds of situations occur there, when criminals have so much incentive to do so.

Lott also examines the converse, when ordinary citizens are given the opportunity to carry concealed weapons to protect themselves. He shows that mass murders decrease greatly when law abiding citizens are allowed to carry, explaining that criminals know that in public there is a good chance that someone nearby will be able to stop them.

Guns in the home

Lott discusses the effect of having guns in the household, focusing on two points. His first argument is that people are almost never killed accidentally by their own guns. That most deaths involving guns in the home are suicides, and children are much more likely to be killed by household items such as 5 gallon buckets, beds, or pools than by a gun.

The second argument concerns the effect of laws that force gun owners to lock their guns in the home. Lott believes that more lives are lost than are saved when these laws are enacted, because people are less able to defend themselves when they need to.

Conclusions

Lott concludes that media and government bias against guns lead to gun control legislation that is costly both economically and in the number of lives that are lost due to bad policy: when ordinary citizens are allowed to defend themselves, violent crime is decreased and lives are saved.

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