On Saturday, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) published her plan to combat gun violence on blogging site Medium.
The Daily Wire reported on the plan, noting that several of the measures being proposed by the presidential hopeful are rather controversial. Given the nature of the plan, we reached out to Dr. John R. Lott, economist and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), whose research in the field of gun violence is nearly unparalleled.
Here’s what he had to say about Warren’s article.
First, as a prelude to her gun control pitch, the senator from Massachusetts claims that once the auto industry began introducing features like seatbelts, airbags, etc, deaths related to car accidents dropped precipitously.
“Over fifty years, we reduced per-mile driving deaths by almost 80% and prevented 3.5 million automobile deaths. And we’re still at it,” Warren writes.
Lott thinks this logic is misleading, and that it’s important to understand why in the context of possible gun regulations:
It is pretty deceptive to claim that government regulations reduced motor vehicle deaths by 80%. Those deaths were falling much faster before the federal started regulating auto safety.
As indicated by the figures from my book, “The War on Guns”: 1) it is easy to see that cars were getting safer from the time the very first data was released in 1921, long before there were mandated federal safety regulations, and 2) when you look over the entire period, the rate at which car safety improved actually slowed down after the federal government started regulating car safety. The first seatbelts were introduced in 1950 by car companies that were figuring out on their own how to make cars safer. But the New York Times’ graph doesn’t show the even faster drop in vehicle deaths per-mile-traveled that occurred before 1946.
It is important to note that accidental deaths from all sources are falling over time. Companies are competing against each other to provide customers with safer products, and items such as seat belts, shatter proof glass, padded dashboards, and safety cages were just some of the many safety features adopted by car makers long before the federal government got involved in regulating auto safety.
Government regulations slowed down safety regulations for a simple reason: the government micromanaged how companies would meet those safety improvements. It isn’t just that the government mandated that car companies had to use airbags in their cars, it is that the government would tell the companies exactly how to make those bags and how to install them. That forced car companies to wait on installing these safety features until the federal government told the companies exactly how they wanted the product made and installed. If the companies didn’t wait, they may find themselves spending hundreds of millions of dollars, or even billions of dollars, only to find that they had to redesign everything and start all over.
Regarding Warren’s idea that private gun sales should require background checks, Lott states:
A lot of academic research by criminologists and economists on background checks on the private transfer of guns has found no effect on crime rates. There is a simple reason for this. A major source of illegal guns are drug dealers, who have weapons to protect their valuable property. You will have about as much success stopping drug dealers from selling guns as you have in stopping them from selling drugs, and if you think that you have stopped criminals from being able to buy illegal drugs, good luck thinking that you will stop them from being able to obtain guns.
Lott continues, touching on Warren’s assertions regarding the alleged “boyfriend loophole” and “Charleston loophole.”
He first cites an op-ed from May 2019 in which he wrote:
Harris and Booker want to close the “boyfriend loophole” to prevent dating partners convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns, but this misstates existing regulations. Under federal law, “domestic violence” already includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by an “intimate partner.” Even a misdemeanor conviction involving a violent crime bans someone from owning a gun for life.
Regarding the “Charleston loophole,” Lott tells The Daily Wire that “there is no such loophole. Dylann Roof was not a prohibited person at the time of his attack. If you are arrested for a crime that may result in up to two years of prison, you can’t purchase a gun while you are waiting for the offense to be prosecuted. But Roof was only facing a prison term of up to six months.”
He also notes that increasing “taxes will just price poor people out of the ability to defend themselves and their family.”
Regarding Warren’s desire to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, Lott states:
It might be hard to remember, but prior to the 2005 laws, gun makers were being sued because they “specifically geared” their weapons to make them attractive to gang members. Among the offending characteristics listed are low price, easy concealability, corrosion resistance, and high firepower, but these are all characteristics that make guns attractive to law-abiding citizens. Suing an industry for making affordable products shows how far the liability-litigation madness has gone.
The lawsuits were simply an attempt to raise the costs of doing business by simultaneously bringing lots of lawsuits and bankrupting the companies. Warren may claim she cares about the poor, but poor people in the highest-crime areas benefit the most from gun ownership, and they are the people who would be priced out of owning guns for protection.
Lott concludes by stating that Sen. Warren “relies on misleading claims about guns,” then offered links to three pieces from CPRC pertaining to Warren’s claims that “our firearm homicide rate is 25 times higher than other comparable countries”; that “women in the US are 21 times more likely to be shot to death than women in other high-income countries”; and that “21 children and teenagers are shot every day.”
The Daily Wire would like to thank Dr. John Lott for taking the time to speak with us about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s gun control proposals.