John Lott's alleged error

Volokh, Eugene VOLOKH at mail.law.ucla.edu
Tue Aug 29 20:15:25 PDT 2000


        I much appreciated Prof. Bellesiles' recent post, but I was a bit
puzzled by his description of John Lott's alleged statement "that there were
no gun laws prior to 1968."  I tried to find the article to which Prof.
Bellesiles' post refers, but after searching through WESTLAW's WSJ database
for all the pieces by John Lott (there were 12), I couldn't find any.

        The closest thing I could find was a statement in "More Gun
Controls?: They Haven't Worked in the Past," Wall St. J., Jun1 17, 1999, at
A26, that "As late as 1967, it was possible for a 13-year-old virtually
anywhere in the U.S. to walk into a hardware store and buy a rifle. . . .
Since the 1960s, however, the growth of federal gun control has been
dramatic.  Federal gun laws, which contained 19,907 words in 1960, have more
than quadrupled to 88,413 words today.  By contrast, in 1930 all federal
gun-control laws amounted to only 3,571 words."  Obviously that can't be
what Prof. Bellesiles is referring to, but I really couldn't see any other
Wall St. J. op-ed by John Lott that even mentions the change in laws since
the 1960s.  A search through other publications, looking in LEXIS's CURNWS
file and ARCNWS file for articles by John Lott that contain 1967, 1968, 67,
or 68 (there were over 60 articles total by Lott, so I had to include the
condition) likewise revealed nothing that answers the description that Prof.
Bellesiles gave.

        Quite possibly I've missed something, though I'm not sure how.  Does
someone have a cite to the article to which Prof. Bellesiles is referring?
(I e-mailed him off list asking for such a cite, but haven't yet been
hearing back.)

Michael Bellesiles writes:

> I have been very surprised to discover
> that many legal scholars are unaware of the long history of gun regulation
> in this country. For instance, John Lott recently wrote in the Wall St.
> Journal that there were no gun laws prior to 1968, which is clearly false.
>
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