FW from Calvin Johnson: 1st v. 2d Amendment

Greg Sisk greg.sisk at DRAKE.EDU
Tue Feb 20 09:09:27 PST 2001


I have to say, having conducted empirical studies and consumed many
more, this study strikes me as among the most flawed I have seen
summarized, because it is not measuring what it purports to measure.
I can't imagine a much weaker proxy for gun ownership than the
subscription rates for a magazine.  The weakness of this proxy is
revealed by the resulting suggestion that gun ownership rates dropped
from 42 to 35 percent in only five years, which I find so implausible
as to undermine the validity of the study by itself.  Likewise, a
study of the effect on crime of concealed weapons permits ought to be
tied to the number of such permits issued and in effect, not the mere
existence of legislation that authorizes such permits.

Empirical studies of gun ownership and gun laws and the effects on
violence could make an important contribution to knowledge and policy
analysis.  But, come on, surely researchers can do better than this.

>-----Original Message-----
>From:   Calvin Johnson [SMTP:chjohnson at mail.law.utexas.edu]
>Sent:   Monday, February 19, 2001 7:40 AM
>To:     volokh at law.ucla.edu
>Subject:        1st v. 2d Amendment
>
>Eugene,
>         Could you post this for me on Con Law list serve?  I thank you.
>,
>         >Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 09:35:37 -0600
>>To: Conlaw
>>From: Calvin Johnson <chjohnson at mail.law.utexas.edu>
>>Subject: 1st v. 2d Amendment
>>Cc: MSharlot, SLevinson, LBaker, EYoung
>>
>>        Notwithstanding what we might think after a particularly long faculty
>meeting,  there is in fact no known correlation between number of words and
>number of deaths.    If words could kill, we would ban them.   There is
>however a strong correlation between number of guns and number of deaths.   .
>>        This is a serious National Bureau of Economic Research working paper,
>which is a very serious group.
>>
>>        >(2) FEWER GUNS MEAN FEWER GUN HOMICIDES
>>>
>>>"About one-third of the gun-homicide decline since 1993 is explained by the
>>>fall in gun ownership."
>>>
>>>Increases in gun ownership lead to a higher gun-homicide rate and
>>>legislation allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons does not reduce
>>>crime, according to a recent NBER Working Paper by Mark Duggan. After
>>>peaking in 1993, gun homicides in the United States dropped 36 percent by
>>>1998, while non-gun homicides declined only 18 percent. In that same
>>>period, the fraction of households with at least one gun fell from more
>>>than 42 percent to less than 35 percent. Duggan finds that about one-third
>>>of the gun-homicide decline since 1993 is explained by the fall in gun
>>>ownership. The largest declines occur in areas with the largest reductions
>>>in firearm ownership.
>>>
>>>Previous research on the relationship between gun ownership and crime has
>>>been impeded by a lack of reliable data on gun ownership. But in "More
>>>Guns, More Crime"
>>>(<http://papers.nber.org/papers/W7967>http://papers.nber.org/papers/W7967),
>>>Duggan uses a new
>>>proxy for gun ownership -- state and county-level sales rates for the
>>>nation's largest handgun magazine -- to show that guns foster rather than
>>>deter criminal activity.
>>>
>>>In theory, the effect of gun ownership on crime is ambiguous. If criminals
>>>are deterred from committing crimes when potential victims are more likely
>>>to possess a firearm, then more gun ownership may lead to a reduction in
>>>criminal activity. If instead guns increase the payoff to criminal
>>>activity, or simply increase the likelihood that any particular
>>>confrontation will result in a victim's death, then an increase in gun
>>>ownership will tend to increase the crime rate.
>>>
>>>Proving one theory over the other has been difficult because of the lack of
>>>adequate data on gun ownership measured across geographic areas over time.
>>>But as evidence of the accuracy of the gun magazine subscription data,
>>>Duggan shows that sales rates are significantly higher in counties whose
>  >>average demographic characteristics are similar to those of the typical gun
>>>owner according to national surveys. Furthermore, he shows that the death
>>>rate from gun accidents and the number of gun shows per capita are
>>>positively related to the magazine sales. While Duggan admits that
>>>relatively few readers may be criminals, he points out that the majority of
>>>firearms used in crime are obtained either from burglaries or from the
>>>secondhand market. Thus as the rate of gun ownership in the general
>>>population increases, the ease with which criminals can obtain a gun will
>>>increase.
>>>
>>>Duggan finds that state and county-level changes in the rate of gun
>>>ownership are positively related to changes in the homicide rate. His
>>>findings suggest that gun ownership causes crime, and does not simply
>  >>reflect individuals purchasing guns in response to increases in criminal
>>>activity. In support of this, he finds that increases in gun ownership are
>>>positively related to future increases in the gun homicide rate, but bear
>>>no corresponding relationship to non-gun homicides. His findings reveal
>>>that the relationship with other crime categories is much less marked,
>>>suggesting that guns primarily affect crime by increasing the homicide
>>>rate.
>>>
>>>He then examines whether legislation that allowed individuals to carry
>>>concealed weapons had an important impact on the crime rate. He shows that
>>>this legislation did not lead to a substantial increase in gun ownership,
>>>nor did it reduce crime relatively more in counties with high rates of gun
>>>ownership. This latter finding suggests, Duggan writes, "either that gun
>>>owners did not increase the frequency with which they carried their guns or
>>>that criminals were not deterred by the greater likelihood that their
>>>victims would be armed." Taken together, his results suggest that Carrying
>>>Concealed Weapons legislation did not have an important effect on the rate
>>>of gun ownership or on the crime rate.  (David R. Francis)
>>
>
>Calvin H. Johnson
>Andrews & Kurth Centennial Professor of Law
>The University of Texas School of Law
>727 E. 26th St.
>Austin, TX  78705
>(512) 232-1306  (voice)
>FAX: (512) 232-2399
>Website:
><http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/calvinjohnson>http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/calvinjohnson
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