Background Checks Are Not the Answer to Gun Violence

There are problems in the background check system that need fixing. But even then, there are better ways to prevent mass shootings.

Comments: 227

  1. All processes of checking are subject to "false positives." Mr. Lott's argument would mean that no doctor could ever test for any disease or injury, no police force could ever check for outstanding warrants, no mechanic could ever put your car on the computer to see why its engine is losing power, and no terrorists would ever be identified by any agency whatsoever.

    Further, Mr. Lott gives no evidence beyond anecdotes that gun background checks produce millions of false positives. Certainly enough is known about the patterns of common names to distinguish, say, Andrew Johnson from Lyndon Johnson, and to distinguish between "close enough birthdate" and "exact birthdate."
    Of course there should be an appeal process. But background checks could not only prevent mass shootings by people like Kelley, they could also prevent things like those convicted of domestic violence from later going back and shooting their families, or those with mental illnesses giving them a propensity for violence from shooting a neighbor or co-worker for some imagined slight. That's why all polls show that a considerable majority of Americans favor background checks.

  2. My dad used to have a saying "What is written stays written."

    Mr. Lott has, on a national publication, permanently aligned himself on the wrong side of this issue.

    How shameful.

  3. "Background checks involve fees that drive up the price of guns...and make it harder for poor people to defend themselves"?
    Background checks are cheap in most states; guns are not, costing many times the cost of a background check. If the author is truly concerned about providing more access to guns for those that have limited incomes, he could appeal to gun manufacturers and dealers to request that they make guns free or cheap for low-income buyers. He would not get far, and I don't hear any proponents of increasing gun ownership suggesting this either. Could it be because some of them stand to profit from gun sales?

    Second, the author presupposes that gun ownership allows people to defend themselves although the preponderance of the evidence shows the contrary. If guns made us safer, public health advocates would be promoting gun ownership. They are not.

    The author really has to stretch to find examples of people that were even inconvenienced by the background check system, never mind harmed. Background checks aren't a burden on lawful gun owners. He and everyone who's ever gone through a background check knows that-- it takes an average of seven minutes.

    Last-- sure, let's pay for background checks out of government revenue so that everyone can get them. If that means universal background checks, I'm all for it.

  4. So how about we fix what's problematic with the background check process? There is absolutely no defensible reason to push for still more guns in our communities. Even if every American owned multiple firearms, that would hardly make us all safe. Keep refining the checking protocols, and keep enforcing them.

  5. People who think they need a gun to protect themselves by killing other people, absent some specific threat, shouldn't be allowed to have a gun. Many are cowards who live in fear and are very likely to shoot first and ask questions later in situations where they only imagine themselves threatened.
    The reality is that having a gun in the house makes people who live there less safe.

    But its not just the people who live there. Most professional criminals guns come from irresponsible gun owners who don't adequately secure them from theft. And most accidental deaths come from guns that are left loaded and unattended. The NRA can blame that angry 8 year old who shoots his father and uncle, but the real culprits were the folks that let an 8 year old have unattended access to a loaded gun.

    Instead of background checks, we need to start holding gun owners accountable for controlling their guns and keeping them out of the hands of people who misuse them. They can sell a gun to whoever they want. but if that person uses it for a crime they are an accessory. You can make exceptions for sports guns

  6. Hear, hear! It's time for some sanity around the plague of guns that is killing more and more Americans every day.

  7. I'm hunter, sport shooter and licensed concealed carrier who has twice used defensive display to unwind incidents that otherwise would have ended very badly for innocent people. I find it remarkable that without even trying I've found the one guy who's qualified to decide who's a coward and who shouldn't have a gun. Replacing background checks with "accountability" is absurd. The NICS is flawed, and can be greatly improved with a bit of diligence and common sense, as well as stricter enforcement of existing law, including personal accountability. While I don't hold with everything Lott says, his argument about lax prosecutions holds some water. To a lesser degree so does the statement about false positives, albeit much less in my opinion. The punitive nature of high fees on private transactions speaks for itself. Let's remember that the entire system is riddled with flaws, sinkholes like the one that Frank Wise fell into, and we'll never be done fine tuning things to fix them. Recent efforts by the military to come into full and strict compliance go a long way.
    I've argued here (many times) for early rigorous firearms training, it would counter many problems before they developed, and give us a look at those who perhaps should not have guns in the first place. I'd also argue for some degree of ongoing training and testing, none of us really practices enough and complacency doesn't comport well with firearms. I'm not qualified, however, to speak to cowardice in others.

  8. " Many are cowards who live in fear and are very likely to shoot first and ask questions later in situations where they only imagine themselves threatened."

    News flash. There is a rational side to gun ownership.

    1- Having lived through the roving gangs in the immediate aftermath of superstorm Sandy, having witnessed the lawless anarchy in New Orleans in the weeks following Katrina, I will not be left in another situation having to protect my family with only a crowbar. Not everyone who owns a gun thinks they are Charles Bronson or Bernard Goetz.
    2- There is room in our regulations for law-abiding citizens to shoot for sport, purely because it is enjoyable.

    Both can be done after thorough background checks.

  9. The Federal background check form allows the applicant to include his/her Social Security number to cut down on confusion of people with similar names. I always include it, even though my last name is rather uncommon.

    And for those who find no need to ever own a firearm to protect oneself, try moving to a place with no local police and calling 911 dispatches a State Police response from a station 40 miles away. Then, have someone banging on your front door at 11 pm at night, as I did two months ago.

  10. RM. please finish your story! What was the outcome? Who was “banging” on your door? Why were they so desperate that they had to bang rather than just ring the doorbell? Were you asleep or were you up watching Stephen Colbert? Did you call 911? Did you answer the door with a gun in your hand or did you sneak out the back door and confront the door banger from behind a bush at the end of your front porch? Did you yell “who goes there? Friend or foe?” Did this person turn out to be your neighbor desperately needing your help? Did you shoot him? Is Vermont a nice place to visit? Should I bring a gun if i go to Vermont?

  11. Please finish this story. I can't help wondering if maybe for the same reason (no public safety within 40 miles) the person banging on your front door might have been someone who needed help. I would very much like to know what happened next. Did you open the door? Just wait till they went away? Was the fact that you have a gun (at least it appears from your comment that you do) any use to you at all in this incident? I certainly hope you did not even consider shooting first and asking questions later.

  12. So, RM, as you're still here, what about the 11pm door banger? Did you have to shoot him/her? Or was it a someone with a legitimate emergency?

  13. Mr. Lott's argument is apparently that rare inconveniences for law-abiding people are more problematic than allowing deranged criminals to buy guns. It's better that a nut-job should be able to buy a gun than a law-abiding person should be denied one, is that it? No law or bureaucratic intervention will ever be perfect, but on which side of the argument would one prefer to err?

  14. Touche -- well said.

  15. I’m not terribly worried about imposing the cost of background checks on gun buyers. Other than in limited circumstances, a gun is a toy—a deadly, dangerous toy that lets people live out their Wyatt Earp fantasies. Almost nobody needs a gun.
    Of all the “fundamental” rights in the constitution, the second amendment is the most dubious.
    People talk a lot about “law abiding gun owners” and legal versus illegal guns, but S&W doesn’t have two assembly lines (one for legal guns, the other for the illegal ones), every gun is legal when it’s made.
    It’s wannabe heroes who lose their weapons or fail to secure them, or straw buyers who put the guns on the streets.

  16. Yes, the shooter in Ohio who killed two police officers had a straw buy the gun for him.

  17. And I'm not terribly worried about imposing the cost of a $10 photo ID onto a person who wants to vote, or imposing the "hardship" of having to wait 24 hours for an abortion or to find another baker for a wedding cake, but those issues seem to throw you liberals into a tizzy.

  18. By all means, let's have the most efficient and thorough background check system available, as Mr. Lott suggests. I note in passing that there is no reason for the purported gun buyer in the picture to be holding a firearm while filling out a background check form - especially with one of the fingers of his or her hand inside the trigger guard.

  19. What is shown is the seller entering the serial number on the form (the buyer doesn't fill it out). There is a trigger lock on the weapon, his finger is resting on the guard, not inside it, and you can bet the ranch the weapon is not loaded, no display weapon is ever loaded. All unholstered weapons are inspected when you enter a gun store, loaded ones are forbidden. You may keep your loaded weapon holstered. I'm afraid your imagination has saddled up your ignorance and ridden off a cliff, after jumping to conclusions. Had you phrased them as questions you might have learned something.

  20. EricR
    You are mistaken Eric. There is no place on the form (ATF 4473) for the serial number of the weapon. The customer fills it out, not the dealer. There are spaces on the second page for the dealer to add information after it is completed.

  21. Ari: having bought a number of guns from licensed dealers, I've never filled out anything but some personal info, all the rest is done by the dealer. Perhaps this is because my concealed carry permit expedited the process or excused.immunized me from some part of it.

  22. The sad truth is that background checks will not stop the gun violence that is only getting worse. I am not an expert to offer a solution to reduce the epidemic of gun violence. However, I think I can make an observation as to why it is occurring, simply put it is the large number of very angry people (mostly male) that believe their problems can only be solved by taking innocent lives because they can. With the outrageous numbers of guns of all kinds in our country someone intent on using one for bad reasons can one way or another obtain a weapon.

  23. Statistically gun violence is not getting worse and mainly involves and or is financed by illegal drugs and takes place in inner cities. Any realist solution needs to acknowledge that fact. Ending drug prohibition would reduce the violence just like ending alcohol prohibition ended much violence of that era.

  24. @ Jeff G You conveniently ignore the number of guns used in domestic violence. Domestic violence is a common factor among men who become mass shooters.

  25. aside from the sport of hunting, not to be debated here, why does anyone need a gun? a good police force serves as the guardian of citizens

  26. No, they don't.

  27. Spoken like a true urbanite, who has police nearby all the time. Ask a rural person, miles and hours from the police, her opinion on the right to bear arms.

    And you have apparently never heard of shooting sports like: skeet, trap, sporting clays, five stand, flurry, helice, bullseye, benchrest, biathlon, black powder, action, silhouette, long range, small bore, high power, muzzle loader, cowboy and many others that are enjoyed by tens of millions of people every year.

    Perhaps if you tried any of these you would find that they are immensely enjoyable, relaxing, and habit-forming. With the current interest in mindfulness, there are few pursuits more focused and mindful than shooting, which Scientific American a few years back called 'the most cerebral of sports".

  28. It's gotten to the point that Safeway grocery stores now display AK47 monthly type magazines on the bottom (kiddie's) shelf next to Harry Potter magazine and Barbie magazine. I asked the manager if we could move the magazines to the top shelf where kids could not see them, she said sure, but the distributor would arrive the next week and move them back down next to Harry Potter magazine, to adhere to the distributor's magazine display "schematic". I counted no fewer than seven magazines at Safeway at last visit dedicated entirely to the topic of guns. Three on the bottom shelf. Several on the middle shelf, visible to tweens. A few on the top shelf. Not fashion magazines with an article on guns, not outdoors magazines with a feature story on guns, seven different magazines with every article dedicated just to guns. Granted, one of the seven print magazines was ONLY on the topic of handguns. One of the seven was more on the topic of rifles. And five of the seven had machine guns on the cover. We have an over-supply problem with guns, and it's getting worse.

    (There is apparently a moms against guns group, but they organize through facebook, and I really believe facebook is where civic action gets mired in selfies, personal performance, approval-seeking, and dies.)

    Read this week of death of the "Benedict Arnold" of the gun industry, "If William Ruger Sr., the late co-founder of gun maker Sturm, Ruger & Co. There is more to say on this but comments limited to 1600 words. :(

  29. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It is part of Everytown for Gun Safety. I urge you to check them out and support them.

  30. Much of Mr. Lott's reasoning and argument does not hold up under scrutiny. For one, he states that an overwhelming percentage of denials are false positives and that the federal gov't is preventing "millions" of good people from getting guns -- what about submitting a FOIA request for the data to get the actual facts and numbers before asserting outlandish claims.

    Secondly, I haven't seen any data that suggests more guns makes people safer. Or that concealed carry makes people safer. If this is true, why not present this evidence to support these claims?

    This issue seems simple to me, why not run an analysis on the past 10 years to see if universal background checks were in place, how many mass shootings would have been prevented? If the answer is even one, then anyone in their sane mind would trade that for the mere inconveniencing of few who may get caught in the drag net of purchase denials unnecessarily.

    I'm a physician and we routinely screen the population for cancers. We don't do universal screenings such as mammograms because they inconvenience people that don't have cancer. We do them because it catches the people that do have cancer. That's the point of universal screenings.

  31. John Lott, as if it wasn't obvious, is part of the gun lobby. He likes to claim that the more people with guns, the more likely they are to use them against the criminals.

    He uses the massacre in rural Texas, where a gunman killed 26 people in a church, as evidence that background checks don't work because of false positives, restricting law abiding citizens from legally acquiring guns, who could then protect the public from mass shooter lunatics.

    Unfortunately, he seems to forget that many people in that small town had guns, but the gunman managed to kill all the church goers before two men with guns finally engaged the shooter outside the church, after the fact.

  32. Maurie: So, how many more might the shooter have killed had he not been intercepted by the two men with guns?

  33. I disagree with you on a few points here;

    1 - Doing nothing has not worked, the inconvenience of a false positive and a minor delay in purchasing a gun pales in comparison to being a victim of a shooting - we must act now before there are more victims.

    2 - I don't think that everyone should pay for background checks, it should be a user fee just as with a drivers license, or in some states a cigarette tax.

    3 - There have been some mass killers who did not self-identify as mentally ill and were not prevented from buying a weapon, but we should not abolish background checks entirely or not even try because of a few exceptions.

    Doing nothing has not worked, we must try to do something to prevent more shootings.

  34. Background checks could save lives if the system was improved. Sadly our politicians are beholden to and intimidated by the gun lobby and so they do nothing because that's easier than upsetting the NRA. I've yet to hear about a citizen with a concealed weapon saving lives during a mass shooting but this tired idea keeps being trotted out after every shooting. It would be nice if we could have an actual conversation with reasonable solutions based on compromise and public debate with feedback from gun owners, law enforcement, and everyday citizens.

  35. Of course all these new and proposed regulations make the cost of gun ownership much higher - that is the point. The anti-gun lobby uses the same tactics as the anti-abortion lobby - they cannot overturn the Second Amendment but they can make gun ownership, like abortion, incrementally more difficult, costly, and unavailable.

    Here in California we now need an expensive background check even to buy ammunition. My elderly friends and I are treated as criminals each time we want to shoot a round of skeet or go duck hunting. We enjoy shooting very old firearms which cannot handle modern ammunition; until now we have been able to order special old style ammunition from a source in the east, but now our antiques are mere curiosities as we are forbidden to buy it online.

    How many murders will these new laws prevent? Zero, but they certainly will discourage youngsters from getting into any shooting sport. Precisely the goal of the anti-gun, anti self defense lobby.

  36. You're unhappy because these regulations discourage young people from getting involved in shooting sports? Maybe there are more people friendly sports they could be encouraged to join.

  37. "My elderly friends and I are treated as criminals each time we want to shoot a round of skeet or go duck hunting."

    Yeah I know what you mean. My elderly friends and I are treated like criminals each time we buy a car or our driver's license expires. It's a tough life when you live in a society that tries to look out for each other.

  38. It’s true that a poorly developed and maintained system can be log little good use and create a lot of confusion and rapidly alienate public support. However, if it is done with intelligence and care, it could be very useful in reducing the availability of guns and ammunition to those who are likely to misuse them.

    The concept of having more people carrying guns in public as a deterrent to gun violence is absurd. In wide open spaces with safe ranges for shooting and hunting with guns carrying them is far less dangerous than in crowded public areas where people are all going about their own business. A gunfight is likely to harm lots of innocent people. In addition, since guns are all around even an unarmed person could likely take one from a person nearby. Police would have difficulty determining who is a threat because of criminal inclination and who might shoot them out of foolishness.

  39. Bravo. Guns are simply offensive to some people and any law making them harder to acquire is celebrated. The truth is in this article. The laws and regulations only hurt the law abiding citizens. It’s a truth that the anti gun zealots will likely never acknowledge.

  40. Laws and regulations don't hurt law-abiding citizens half as badly as bullets do. Especially if you include children in the body count.

  41. A law abiding citizen can buy a dozen guns a day for a year? is that a right we need to protect when it is clear that his law abiding status means he has not yet been caught illegally reselling guns? A law abiding citizen can be denied a seat on an airplane because he's on a watch list but can stroll down the street and buy twenty semi-automatic rifles?

  42. i'm not uncivilized and i don't want to think or live like the uncivilized. i should be able to decide how to dress every day without a bullet proof vest as part of the routine.

  43. Mr. Lott, whose credentials indicate a strong bias, asks us to accept his analysis that there's a high fraction of improper denials. It would be more convincing if could provide a disinterested source.

    It's interesting that he wants everyone else (i.e., taxes) to fund background checks. I wonder if he'd be willing to frankly advocate for a new tax, and if so what kind? Or if he'd care to specify what current programs he thinks should be cut to pay for this?

    But what I'd like to see is gun owners required to carry liability insurance.

  44. Liability insurance would not prevent the crime of murder, but it goes along way to pay the costs of injuries to innocent people that are in the crossfire of that untrained "good guy". Insurance on cars doesn't prevent auto accidents either but it pays for damages done by the driver. Is that concept so hard to understand?

  45. Liability insurance would help pay for treatment of bystanders who are shot accidentally. Happens all the time.

    Every day or so, a child under the age of 7 finds a gun that someone left out "only once" and accidentally shoots someone. Accidental shootings by adults are common as well.

  46. Make people properly store their firearms in a safe? Not leave them in their unlocked car at night? "I forgot it was in the glove box".

  47. For those who find guns totally offensive and think that gun sales should be discouraged and manufacturers go out of business, you should be thankful for the election of President Trump.

    Gun sales escalate when gun owners feel that the opportunity to buy may be cut off by government action. Gun manufacturers, anticipating the election of Hillary Clinton, expanded production capacity in 2016, expecting that, with her becoming President, there would be Washington struggles to constrain gun sales. Instead, Trump was elected, and potential gun purchasers found no need to engage in "panic buying".

    As a result, manufacturers are now carrying underutilized production capacity and a slow moving inventory. Remington, one of the major manufacturers, is about to file for bankruptcy.

  48. Shows just how gullible, fearful, excitable and impressionable gun owners are. Not a good combination given they crave the power to deal out life or death.

    Obama didn’t grab a single gun in his 8 year term. And yet purchases spiked horrendously every time there was an appalling mass shooting incident, mostly perpetrated by a fellow American gun owner. The NRA sowed irrational fear, and their acolytes duly reached for their wallets.

  49. RM wrote,
    "Gun sales escalate when gun owners feel that the opportunity to buy may be cut off by government action."
    This is a ruse, used by the gun industry to get more firearms sold, in the run up to every election. The firearms industry, NRA and gun magazines said "Obama is going to take away your guns", so you better buy more while you can. Same thing in the Trump versus Hillary election; "The Democrats/Hillary have a secret plan to take away your guns." So the stupid rubes rush out to buy more guns, at elevated prices (they don't need) while the gun manufacturers count their money.

  50. I've bought a few long guns in my time and have had to sign the federal yellow form each time. It has never cost me anything. The seller has to verify that you are allowed to own a firearm with your state of residence. It is the state records that get mixed up, and most states have a simple procedure for correcting mistakes.

    Last time I bought a rifle (in Albuquerque) my state of residence (Idaho) placed a hold on the sale because of a long ago felony arrest (but no indictment or conviction) in Arizona. There was no way to correct the Arizona record but my explanation seemed to satisfy the woman I talked to in Boise. I waited a few days, went back to the gun shop and had my rifle in plenty of time for hunting season. It didn't cost anything.

    I don't think background checks by themselves will end the epidemic of armed violence and murder. They will help. Other things that can help would be laws limiting open and concealed carry, and a more active stance toward confiscating firearms owned by felons and abusers.

    I'm not convinced I need a firearm to protect myself. Didn't need one in inner-city Philadelphia in the late '70s/early '80s and certainly don't need one now. I've known more than a few people who had good reason to fear for their safety; many of them had handguns which they were very quiet about. They didn't wave them around in everybody's face as seems to be the fashion of today's gun owners.

  51. Well, I must admit I’m impressed. Occasionally, when responding to an op-ed here on gun violence, I’ll check out the NRA website to gather statistics – you can find essays like this one there, as well as official position papers from the Association. But to read this in the New York Times? Kinda ground-breaking.

    However, it’s late on a Monday night for a piece that will appear in Tuesday’s printed edition, the piece hasn’t been up long, so the deluge of online comments hasn’t hit yet. It will. And those comments won’t be positive or even remotely balanced.

    Mr. Lott’s op-ed proceeds from a set of premises not only not shared by the weight of readers here, but that are actively and emotionally rejected. The most obvious one is that people have the right of self-defense with weapons that a predator is likely to use – a right that trumps a supposed right to walk our streets with a reasonable expectation that a drunk or overly excitable citizen won’t start spraying the landscape with bullets at any provocation, and tragically catch innocents, ending dreams and lives, when he doesn’t just dramatically and permanently maim them.

    Another premise to Mr. Lott’s reasoning and conclusions is that more “poor people” packing concealed weapons could lessen the likelihood of gun violence. I’d buy the premise a lot more readily for the exurban parts of Kansas than I would for E. 110th St. and Manhattan Ave. in NYC; and the commenters here wouldn’t buy it for any venue.

  52. You folks might consider re-reading the comment.

  53. Oh, for heaven's sake, Richard, it was a joke. So let's change it to "If you happen to be throwing a fit over the premise that someone out there is sexier than Scarlett Johansson." Does that improve my response to your "moderate" comment? My point is that you are far more likely to be the victim of a concealed weapon than to be saved by one.

  54. stu:

    The comment made it plain that I agree, if it's NYC or some other densely-packed venue; or in a bar, a school, an airport, or a political event. If it's in a church in Texas, I'm not so sure -- Kelly was shot twice by an armed bystander.

  55. Let me get this argument straight. Lott says Americans should have even easier access to guns to defend themselves against Americans who already have ridiculously easy access to guns.
    He also has argued that more guns mean less crime. Does crime now exclude murder? Even though the American homicide rate has trended down of late, the U.S. has, by far, the highest gun-homicide rate in the First World (also the highest execution rate and the highest number of incarcerations, but those are related topics for another day).
    Lott also used a technique favoured by George Will: The use of outlier cases to argue that a restrictions are, in the end, harmful. Anecdotal projection at best.
    Lott's arguments are Exhibit A in the case against the gun lobby's looniness. The Second Amendment has been used far too long as a shaky and emotional substitute for rational thought.

  56. It is irrational to believe that the 2ed Amendment doesn't exist or mean what it clearly states. Any argument put forth, either emotional or not, does not negate that obvious truth. When you refer to the gun lobby's "looniness" you are in fact making an emotional substitute for rational thought. You are doing exactly what you accuse others of doing.

  57. John Lott - the NRA's favourite criminologist most of whose research on gun violence has either been debunked by more impartial and reputable researchers or whose conclusions are impossible to confirm (one example: his conclusion that stand your ground laws resulted in lower rates of murder - in fact, the rates had gone down in those states but they had gone down in most states including most if not all with no stand-your ground laws).

    It's fairly typical of the man that he would identify the inconvenience of a gun owner being misidentified and therefore delayed getting his clearance as the key problem with background checks, and not the fact that we don't catch enough prospective perpetrators of gun violence. Even his basic premise is wrong. The more guns there are in a state the more gun violence prevails. That much is quite clear from the data. Occupants of a home with a gun are more likely to end up dead than a home without a firearm. And let's not even get into international comparisons.

    So excuse me if I take anything Mr Lott has to say with a gigantic pinch of salt.

  58. There are any number of inconveniences and fees asked of people who live amongst one another. We pay fees to visit parks, annual fees for auto registration, we have to wait in security lines at airports, depending on the state we live in we pay an annual fee for a fishing license among many other such things. To fly a plane, drive a car, get married, be a physician, do hair and more, you rightly need to pass qualifications. For gun ownership one qualification that seems simple and reasonable is to make sure you are legally able to own a lethal weapon. Aside from being effective (even suicide, for example, drops when there are background checks), it is just due diligence. Not 100% perfect, but necessary.

    Living in a community means balancing individual “rights” with the common good. It’s every citizen’s role to contribute to the well being of the community; gun owners are not exempt. Moreover, as the cost to taxpayers of gun violence is quite expensive, it’s not too much to ask gun users to do their part financially.

  59. "One answer is to have more civilians carry permitted concealed handguns." That may make sense in rural Wyoming; but in NYC and Chicago? Seriously? In my experience, real police never agree with this simplistic thinking. As reported on 60 Minutes yesterday (2-11-18), a bill has already passed the house and reached the senate, in which residents of legal-concealed-carry states (even people without any gun safety training) could bring a concealed firearm anywhere else in America. The NYC police chief and local District Attorney stated that this bill would be a disaster - a recipe for chaos.

    It's hard enough for trained police to make the right decisions under stressful conditions, let alone untrained civilians. Around 15 years ago, one block from my house, on a crowded commercial street in Albany, a police officer fired his gun at a moving car that was threatening him. He did so despite the presence of numerous civilians in a popular shopping district at 5:00 PM on New Year's Eve. An innocent man standing on the corner was shot through the head and died instantly - and unnecessarily. That's what can happen with a trained officer; now imagine adding unlimited numbers of untrained civilians to the mix.

  60. It doesn't make sense in Wyoming either.

  61. I grew up in a rural area where people had guns but didn't worship them. They didn't imagine themselves vigilante heroes and conceal-carry a pistol for "protection." Those who did were considered to be sort of odd ball types. 50 years of propaganda by the political NRA and its influence have made the country gun happy. Now that Trump is in office, the gun lobby isn't happy because a Democrat isn't in the White House poised to "take your guns." Remington Arms is a gun maker that is considering filing for bankruptcy. They should wait until 2020 when there will be a Democrat running for President. Then the NRA propaganda will begin and have the gun nuts rushing to the stores to buy more guns before Mr. or Ms. Democratic candidate can take everyone's guns away.
    If there's any thing in the world that I hate more than the NRA, I don't know what it is.

  62. Sorry your reasoning is flawed. Not every state requires training to get a concealed carry permit. A few weeks on the firing range does not qualify as training, they should be trained to assess a stressful situation and de-escalate the situation without firing a shot, you know sort of like police or military training. What you and Mr. Lott are not saying is that the "criminal" is not going to stand there like a target for the "law abiding gun user" to assess the situation and then take aim, they shoot back. If everyone has a gun, who decides who the bad guy is?

  63. Well the point could also be made that our system of background checks seems to work perfectly--after a shooting. Mr. John R. "The Gun Crowd's Guru" Lott Jr. has been criticized over the course of his career for shoddy research and and biased conclusions. I question not only his research and positions but his mental health and am appalled that the NY Times would give him space for this specious column.

  64. I thought the same but have found the rebuttals in the comments to his mostly specious and anecdotal arguments to be enlightening.

  65. The NYT gives him space LEST YOU FORGET!
    And you and I and everyone else does forget unless the dead are ours! L&B&L


  66. All I had to do to know that it was not worth reading this opinion piece was to see that it was authored by John Lott, Jr., whose "research" has been debunked over and over from the first time it appeared. If it were really true that "more guns [result in] less crime" (as promised by his first book, in 1977), then the US would be virtually free of crime, instead of plagued by it.

    Like you, I am appalled that the Times gave him this space.

  67. Why don't we just hand out guns to everyone who wants one, kids included, and never mind insisting that they pay for them? Would that please the NRA? Heavens, no! That organization makes money off of gun SALES! So no to background checks and no to the generous concept of making guns freely available to all comers. People like Mr. Lott have no real concern for the safety of their fellow citizens. They happily misinterpret the Second Amendment to justify our doing nothing to curtail slaughter and, when all else fails, argue against even the most minimal of legal restrictions. Apparently, it wasn't for them to have their stand-bearers lie Steve Scalise nearly gunned down by a manac in D.C. Perhaps it needs to happen closer to home- i.e., within their own families- to convince them that this sort of extremism is simply grotesque.

  68. Make that "Apparently, it wasn't ENOUGH for them to have their standard-bearers LIKE Steve Scalise..."

  69. I know I shouldn't expect anything less from a bunch of New Yorkers, but the level of hysterical hyperbole on display in the comments section of this page is disconcerting. You've not addressed any of the legitimate points made in this article, you've not refuted any assertions or citations made. Your response is pure, emotional slant, devoid of any facts, logic or reason.

    Is this what passes for enlightened debate in Brooklyn?

  70. You lost me at "false positives that stop law-abiding people from getting weapons that they might need to protect themselves and their families." There is no such need.

  71. Mr. Lott, the perennial gun promoter, fails to mention that the ATF's Firearms Transaction Record - Form 4473, includes a place for the buyer to put in their social security number, which would certainly increase accuracy of the check.
    It's box #8 on page one, and as it notes "Optional, but will help prevent misidentification"

    And here's more about the PoliceOne survey he made much of - which was not a scientific poll, just 15,000 of the 400,000 site members who decided to participate.

    This man keeps trying to make it easier to buy guns, but note that in his entire article, there's no mention of the need to ensure that gun owners receive training, especially if allowed to simply buy and carry without a permit, as some states are unfortunately adopting. He also doesn't suggest how making buying easier will reduce the 20,000+ gun suicides each year.

    But the Times had an article about the "benefits" of increasing gun ownership without inconveniencing the new owners of deadly devices:
    In Missouri, Fewer Gun Restrictions and More Gun Killings

  72. "Pushing background checks on private transfers as proposed during the hearing disarms many law-abiding poor people."

    There it is again. "Law abiding" Every NRA zombie uses the term to appoint himself a prince among us, a walking paragon of honor and love. He's concerned about "poor people" too!

    The Las Vegas killer was "law abiding" until he wasn't. He accumulated a legal arsenal, then slaughtered innocents.The "price of freedom" right?

    Mr. Lott, spare us the rhetoric. I notice the word "PRIVATE" too. And the word "PUSHING." You are fooling no one.

  73. Law-abiding folks in our country are supposed to be able to own guns, and it's not surprising that there are occasional mistakes that make a mess of things for some people, but are we really saying that the reason we have so much gun violence is that it's too hard for good guys to get guns or carry them everywhere? Please. Some unlucky folks miss their flights and get totally inconvenienced because their names resemble those of people on the terrorist watch list. We shouldn't simply give up our security measures because they are occasionally flawed. We should continually work to reduce their flaws and improve their accuracy. The great majority of people who want to buy guns have no trouble do so. If we made the background checks flawless, it would be much fairer for the fraction of people who are turned away in error, but that would not make us significantly safer since the fraction is so tiny. What would make safer would be more reliably denying guns to people like the mass killer you mention. From a public safety point of view, I'd worry much more about people like that getting guns than about well-meaning people not getting them. Let's work on getting universal background checks in place, and of course, on making the system as reliable as possible.

  74. Also need to expand background checks to gun shows. No reason not to.

    I have no problem with gun ownership. Any law abiding, upstanding decent citizen should have no problem being subject to an extensive background check prior to owning a gun.

  75. Guns are weapons designed to kill. Americans are far too cavalier about the danger of guns. The rest of the world seems to get along much better than we do when it comes to gun deaths.
    The United States is a fine country with many assets and a basic concept of human equality. However, other countries perform much better in certain aspects of daily life. Our insistence that we are the "greatest" forces us to continue poor policies because we don't seem to be able to see the value of the ideas of others.
    This is just a country. God did not create it, God did not pick it as His favorite country. False pride is a destroyer.

  76. What country do we live in that people need to buy guns to protect themselves and family? Are these people living on the far reaches of an unsettled prairie? I for one do not care if some people are inconvenienced when buying yet another gun. If the person's situation is so dire that he or she must arm themselves as fast as possible perhaps they need to speak with law enforcement. Otherwise whatever inconvenience being safe than sorry in regards to the public cause is tolerable.

    It obviously hasn't been too much of a hindrance to those who feel compelled to arm themselves and hoard an arsenal. There are more guns than people in this country. We have mass shootings on a weekly basis. We tolerate our schools being shot up. We are not moved to action when 20 little first graders are riddled with bullets in what was certainly the most horrifying final moments of their lives. Kids who were anticipating the holidays, vacations, toys. Families destroyed. So too bad gun buyer, if you feel you are in such imminent danger then perhaps this country is to dangerous for you sompackmip and leave. Because your insane lust for firearms, armor piercing bullets, military assault weapons making this country the bloodiest on Earth.

  77. Focusing on the inconveniences caused by an imperfect background check system is like studying gut bacteria when the patient is dying of cancer.

    Our society is awash in guns. We are overwhelmed by gun violence. Compare the U.S. to any other developed society and these statements hold. We need to examine our national attitude on guns, and we need to do so without the interference of people like Mr. Lott and Mr. LaPierrere who are paid by the gun industry. Should all guns be banned? No. But we can live with much more sensible regulations that will limit the availability of Human Assault Weapons and high-capacity magazines.

  78. The gun lobby's arguments against any attempt, no matter how modest, to stop gun violence that is allowed by the novel opinions on gun rights of the Scalia era essentially boil down to this: the Second Amendment won't allow us to do anything of substance about gun violence. Anything that really would reverse the plague of gun killings is unconstitutional.

    We should believe the gun lobby. Rather than waste money and political activism enacting weak, at best, band aids like slightly-less trivial background checks, or meaningless assault weapons bans, we should put our efforts into what really needs to be done:

    Repeal the Second Amendment.

    Let the states make their own gun laws. Let the citizens of New York City and Los Angeles govern themselves instead of forcing upon the the alien superstition of unrestricted access to guns for practically anyone.

    The Second Amendment is just badly written. It has clauses floating around that don't affirm or deny anything. It rambles off topic about militias and things, sounding like, well, a Trump speech. The first step in creating a coherent policy on armed citizens is freeing us from the incoherent word salad that is the Second Amendment.

    Thanks, gun lobby. You're right about background checks and trigger locks and assault weapons bans. You're right. We should believe you, and focus on what really needs to be done.

  79. That would lead to a revolution and liberal democrats would lose, bigly

  80. Well said!

  81. I am a Democrat a gun owner and a firm believer that something needs to be done about guns. There should be background checks for all gun sales, at the least. But this repeal the second amendment rallying cry is the reason that the NRA has so much power; liberals continue to provoke a reactionary response from gun people. You are convincing them that you really want the government to take their guns. You are confirming a real fear. There will be no progress until we agree to leave the second amendment alone.

  82. Unfortunately, we have too many people with too many guns, who are easily angered, and that amounts to 30,000 dead each year from firearms. Yes, many are from suicides, but people care if their loved ones kill themselves believe it or not. In Switzerland, guns are regulated strictly, but everyone that wants to hunt is able. Here, the majority of people don't care about the gun violence until it happens to them, their family, their city, school, or workplace. Sad country we have become.

  83. Yes, all cops are poor marksmen. Unlike yourself, who would hit the bullseye every time under stress. (See "imaginary hero" comments by previous poster.)

  84. Anecdote vs fact... Perhaps your local Vermont town police, but not on the whole.

  85. NYC has one of the worst firearms training programs of any police department. That said, I must also note that stress shooting situations (any time someone is firing back at you or is holding a gun as if they might at any moment), especially with moving targets, bring accuracy way down. Strangely enough they're very cognizant of crossfire when they unload on the streets of manhattan.

  86. I think that everyone of every age should be required to carry at least two guns -

  87. So many gun owners think that they may be a hero. It is a fantasy well depicted in the film "Christmas Story" in which a little boy imagines himself chasing off bad guys with his BB gum while his parents cower under the kitchen table.

    If guns made us safer, the US would be one of the safest places in the world, instead it is one of the deadliest.

  88. Most gun owners have no desire to be "a hero". Most just want to protect their loved ones.

  89. I am Venezuelan. When I was little, everyone had a gun. As a result, the police wasn't all that responsive when called. One of the reasons was fear of getting shot.

    During those years, society more or less functioned. But when it fell apart, gun violence became a daily part of life. There is no Venezuelan I know that has not been robbed at gunpoint or known someone or several someones to die by guns. I, myself, have lost two cousins.

    We do have a crisis in this country, but it is not mass violence. It is instead, the war the NRA is waging on the citizens of the US. That we, the citizens, are complicit in our own demise is no excuse. After all, we regulate drugs and alcohol and driving. That is the role of government---to protect us from our darkest impulses.

    One thing I wish was more common knowledge: most gun deaths in the US are suicides---and a disproportionate number of gun murders are by someone the victim knows/domestic violence. Why wouldn't it be? Alcohol+ bad day+ impulsivity= tragedy. It really is that simple.

    IF the US government wanted to wage war on its citizens, our piddly rifles would do nothing for us. Look no further than the NRA or the Russia attack on our democracy for proof of the sophistication of the weapons that can be used against us. Plus, if that all fails, our government has creative and powerful weaponry that ranges from being tasered, or gassed, all the way to F16s. The 2nd Amendment is outdated.

  90. Interesting proposals, but I have yet to hear somebody say, unequivocally, that the first amendment trumps the second, and that the profusion of guns, contrary to this argument, increases the number of killings in this country disproportionately. Too many guns for our own good. Too much technology for the daily disputes of highly charged emotional human beings who, in the heat of an argument, may shoot first...and ask questions later (and likely too late to get an answer).

  91. So, we should do away with background checks, which as you suggest, should bring prizes down. What kind of rationale is that? Safety cannot be compromised over cost. That argument is phony.

  92. You're right that background checks are not enough. We need to require licenses and insurance of gun owners, or perhaps rewrite the 2nd amendment so it doesn't conflict with the 1st (carrying guns to a rally infringes on others' rights to peacefully assemble or freely express themselves).

    By no stretch of the imagination is there a problem with fewer people getting their hands on deadly weapons.

  93. The author makes a few value judgements and dubious logical assertions that put his clear bias on display. Yes, the background check system as currently instituted has flaws, but that is partially the fault of the gun lobby who have written the regulations governing the system.

    Of course there will be false positives, but delaying some legal gun purchases is a small price to pay for checks that keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, domestic abusers and the mentally ill. So a few unlucky citizens have to wait a bit to clear their name, is that so egregious that the whole system should be shelved? Certainly not. Furthermore the background check laws are rife with loopholes such as the gun show exemption, which in effect makes the checks powerless to fulfill their intent.

    No, no single regulation will solve the huge gun problem we are faced with, but mandatory background checks would stop some shootings from happening. If that comes at the cost of higher prices and temporary delays in purchasing so be it. This epidemic will take a number of approaches to come under control.

    I find it asinine that to drive a motor vehicle you must be licensed and insured, yet to own firearms the hurdles are much lower and insurance isn't even in the picture.

    His assertion that more guns is the answer is illogical at best and disingenuous. Global statistics and basic common sense prove that more guns equals more gun violence. A UPenn/Philadelphia study proved that empirically.

  94. Mr. Lott is nothing if not controversial: .

    I would agree with others who state that no minds will be changed here. And I would agree that background checks alone are not enough--just not with solutions preferred by Mr. Lott.

    Several states are working on ways to control some of the violence in this country, one already awash in guns: .

    If one wishes to learn about ways to combat gun violence, there are better places than this op-ed. If you are looking for ways to keep as many guns in the hands of any many people as possible, then listen to Mr. Lott.

  95. Mr Lott is worse than "controversial".
    He has been discredited and disgraced multiple times.
    He has no credibility at all.

  96. Whenever this issue arises I always wonder if the results of the background check are made available to law enforcement in general.
    Would the next cop to flag me down have access to my history of wife beating and, well, other naughty things?

  97. I should hope so.

  98. That raises another question.
    Does denial of gun permit mean the results of the background check are forever buried?...or do they live in law enforcement databases?

  99. The sad part about all of this is the "we need guns at all costs" mentality and the "alleged" constitutional right to own them, has made many Americans actually a "slave" to this mentality. Just look at what happens every time there is a mass killing, gun sales go off the chart. How does one deal with this type of thinking?

    In many Americans mind, they honestly feel that buying more guns will make them feel safer when in reality, all it does is make them more fearful and paranoid while waiting for the next mass killing which they can't do anything about anyway.

  100. Background checks are over rated. They only are a small inhibitor of gun violence. The reason the liberal anti-gunners want universal background checks is that such a system would require universal registration of all gun sales and the liberals will not admit the well known fact that registration precedes confiscation.
    A very large number of gun deaths could be prevented with further education and training, but no. The liberals don't want people trained to use guns, even safely, because they think it encourages gun ownership. In an idealized situation the government would support gun safety training by private entities, associations, manufacturers, etc. Yet Obama made it a deliberate point to demonize the largest gun safety organization in the country early in his administration and the animosity built up on both sides. Once upon a time the NRA supported "sensible" gun regulation, like 'Project Exile', which proved to be very successful, but not anymore. Any attempt at discussion is immediately disrupted by insults, usually by liberals, accusing the NRA of being murderers of children, etc.

  101. Sure the NRA wants a line when people go to buy guns that says, "Murderers over here." Then when all those rushing to stand in that line get to the counter, they tell them, "Sorry you can't buy a gun." Come on. There are so many ways for ANYBODY to get a gun in this country, thanks to the machinations of the NRA, that thousands of murderers, thieves, sexual assaulters, domestic violence perpetrators, and criminals have NO problem getting any kind they want. Can't get it here? Go right over there and get it. The only right that the NRA really supports is its right to big profits for the arms industry without the slightest regard for public safety.

  102. The "gluteus maximus" seems fitting; the reference to Aristotle is an insult.
    The most risible and true anecdote related to these freedom loving gun possessing anarchists is their respose to their reaction to the military training operation in Texas which they took to be a prelude to the creation of government concentration camps. In the face of this perceived threats their leaders counseled all of these private patriots to hide their guns so that they would not be appropriated. "The British are coming; the British are coming--Quick hide your guns"

  103. Everybody is law abiding until they take their gun and kill someone.
    Thank you, nra.

  104. Background checks are not sufficient and, as any law, not effective is not properly enforced. But that is a poor argument for not having them. In addition, what needs to happen is universal gun registration and a data base accessible to all law enforcement. Fear of abuse by law enforcement is a legitimate concern, but that is always the case in any police activity, whether it is traffic violations or unjustified arrest. The only reason many people feel they must have guns for self-defense is that criminals have guns, but clearly no one needs an assault rifle for self-defense, thus there is no rational for owning one. The fact that any one initiative will not instantly solve the gun problem in the US should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing. Just like with climate change, the fist indispensable step is to acknowledge that there is a serious problem. The next is to look for solutions and implement those that may help reduce the risks.

  105. more laws more background checks will not solve the problem we know this is fact. New York City and Chicago have some of the toughest gun laws in the country and oh yes then there’s Baltimore. Gun laws are feckless. Until the family unit with a loving and caring mother and father who demand respect good education work ethic and manners gun crimes will not decrease.

    Gun violence is not a function of laws or background checks it is a function of hate that stems from the deterioration of a family unit

  106. What do the massacres in Las Vegas and the church in Texas have to do with your argument about the deterioration of the family unit?

    Yours are just another in the long list of bogus excuses offered by far too many people in a country in a perennial state of fear and paranoia exacerbated by the NRA and gun lobby who look upon the regular needless deaths of people as just collateral damage.

  107. The wannabe hero fantasy neglects to mention that the "bad guy" with the gun gets the element of surprise and the first shots.

    And, no, we don't want dozens of tourists from easy carry states to pull out guns and start shooting when a car backfires in Times Square. It's enough we have to deal with deaths from gun running from states where it is easy to buy dozens of guns with minimal screening

    Your "inconvenience" at filling out more paperwork pales in comparison to the life-long "inconvenience" of a family losing someone to a jilted lover, an angry classmate or other hate-filled murderers. You fail to note the difference in murder rate between the US and other developed countries.

    Do you remember Bailey Holt? Of course you don't. Just one more victim of tens of thousands of the NRA/Russian funds overwhelming the good citizens of the US with guns.

  108. I just googled John Lott, Jr., and learned that he is a zealot with regard to many topics, especially guns. Numerous of his theses in this editorial can be readily debunked by data. Why did the Times give this undeserving man a platform to vent his biases and unhinged love of guns?

  109. So we should suppress his first amendment rights? The reason I love the NYT is because they let everyone be part of the conversation.

  110. I could not agree more.

    ......unless it was to provide the whip smart readers of the NYT the opportunity to rebut.

    Still, if you are giving undeserving people like this a voice, I suggest something new to the NYT. Invite some of your friendly NYT regular commentators to write a column. I, myself, can think of a few and I think my missives would provide more benefit than this drivel/propaganda.

  111. Lott's case to the fix the background system is a sensible suggestion in the right direction. Underlying the problem is a much bigger one that is ubiquitous right now and desperately needs to be solved for many benefits. Namely, a secure national identification system that is distinct from Social Security Number and which is self-controlled. Estonia is light years ahead of the US in solving this. Seriously, Estonia.

  112. "Seriously, Estonia". I have no connection to Estonia, but clearly this is so transparent a symptom of the "America #1" syndrome that will ultimately cause the USA to slide into oblivion.

  113. JeffB

    Yes, Estonia:

    "Estonia on Friday blocked the certificates of 760,000 national ID cards in response to a cryptographic vulnerability that researchers have discovered is even more dangerous than originally reported.

    Citizens with cards issued between between Oct. 16, 2014 and Oct. 25, 2017 must now renew them at an Estonia Police and Border Guard Board service point before they can be used for secure electronic services such as "i-voting," e-banking, and using e-prescriptions."

    The most interesting thing here is that Estonia, along with the rest of the civilized world, both controls weapons ownership, and provides healthcare, including e-prescriptions, to everybody.

    Your 'show us your papers' tripe is just foolish.

  114. ... Except that a national ID system is anathema to the principles upon which this nation was founded, and is one of the very few things that might actually push the rural parts of the country into open rebellion.

    But other than that, yeah, good idea.

  115. People pay for background checks or other fees in applications for drivers licenses, car registration, marriage licenses, jobs , housing and even volunteer work. Why should gun ownership be exempt? In fact it would be great if guns had an annual registration fee like cars do. Maybe those fees could help pay for all the emergency medical care that is the result of gun violence.

  116. The belief that having everyone carrying a gun makes us all safer is nuts and not supported by the evidence.
    We can obtain perspective from the Diallo case in NYC.
    Diallo , an UNARMED person, was shot 41 times by 4 highly trained cops. Half the shots missed Diallo. Cops mistook shots from other cops for shots fired by Diallo.
    If trained cops can make a mistake like this think what untrained vigilante gun nuts might do.

    Consider the Va. Tech case. Suppose thirty students had been armed. Each pulls out his gun and starts blasting away. Scaling from the Diallo case, each student fires ten shots for a total of three hundred shots. Half [150] shots miss. Whom do these errant shots hit. Students mistake shots from other students for shots from the criminal. Students shoot at each other. A real bloodbath.

    In White Plains, NY off duty out of uniform police officer Ridley drew his gun to try to stop a crime in process. Police arriving on the scene thought Ridley with his gun was the criminal and shot him dead. Again if trained police can make mistakes like this think what trigger happy gun nut vigilantes might do

  117. Okay, so, considering that the carrying of concealed firearms has become fairly common in most states in the Union over the past twenty or so years, can you please point me to instances where this sort of "bloodbath" has occurred in any of them?

    I can recall one incident in Augusta Maine about a year ago where two drug dealers (yes, actual drug dealers) from out of state began shooting at each other in a WalMart parking lot, and two regular citizens, who didn't know each other, drew their weapons and disarmed and held the perpetrators for police without firing a shot themselves. Yes, it took both guts and good judgement, but you sell all Americans short when you presume that these qualities are uncommon amongst the general public. This sort of thing is actually not uncommon.

  118. Let’s test the hypothesis that arming citizens makes us safer and reduces violent crime.
    The experience in national parks is instructive.
    When guns were banned in national parks the crime rate in parks was much much lower than in the nation as a whole.
    FBI statistics show that America's national parks are far safer than the rest of the country. For 2006 overall, there were 469 violent crimes per 100,000 people in the U.S. The violent crime rate in national parks was 1.65 per 100,000.

    According to the gun nuts crime should have been higher in the parks because the criminal would believe [because of the ban] that his victim would be unarmed.
    But the rate was LOWER.

    Another gun nut theory bites the dust.

  119. An extremely weak argument. In fact, the data you present lead to the opposite conclusion. 469 violent crimes per 100,000. At best, those 100,000 are spending far less than .1% of their time in National Parks. Yet there are 1.65 per VISITOR.

    Calculate (using your data) violent crime rate according to TIME spent (not according to people), and you get 469 per 99.9% and 1.65 per .1%.

    So I we all spent all of our time in a National Park the rate would be 1.65 X 1000 or 1650. Compare that to 469.

    Conclusion? Stay home where there are more guns. The likelihood of being a victim of a violent crime is a lot less than if you go to a National Park.

  120. Do background checks really prevent anyone who really wants one from getting a gun? It is my understanding that there are many loopholes in
    gun purchase restrictions as well as thriving re-sale opportunities practically everywhere. Our country is awash in guns and while background checks may hinder legitimate sales sometimes, they certainly aren't going to prevent a determined buyer. What might make a dent would be strict insurance and liability requirements for every gun, so that owners were responsible for the use of and later transfer of ownership. Money threats are more effective than appeals to common sense or public welfare.

  121. Perhaps the world where Mr. Lott lives the fees for background checks exist. However, where we live in flyover country, there is no fee for a background check and when I sell a firearm to a private party, we go down to the local sporting goods store together and they will do it for free. I agree the background check system needs repair, so why are Republicans not funding it in Congress? Add to that, a number of red states have indicated opposition to updating and maintenance of the data that feeds the background check system. One would think it would easily pass with bipartisan support. Further, where is the data to support his suppositions? 2010 is a long time ago and he provides no data on the total number of checks. In all, a weak argument.

  122. I don't believe you. I've never once anywhere in America heard of an FFL willing to do a background check for free (unless the FFL holder is a friend of the party, of course).

  123. Not a problem. Our local business who is an FFL will do it for free.

  124. I would add the same store does it for free at our banquets and gun raffles for various civic groups. It is commonplace out here in flyover country.

  125. Would Mr. Lott and the NRA and the pro gun lobby agree to the following procedures agreed to by organizers of large gun shows in NYS

    “They [ operators of major gun shows in NYS] agreed to procedures that would track all guns brought into the show by private sellers. Each weapon is tagged so that operators could track sales and background checks. Private sellers have to account for every gun they bring into the show. If they sell a weapon they have to produce paperwork to prove that the buyer passed a background check and the buyer has to show proof that he passed a check before leaving the show with his purchase."

    See “Enough” by Kelley and Giffords page 188

    "An investigation of gun shows in three states found that 63% of private sellers sold guns to purchasers who had told the sellers that they [the purchasers] probably couldn't pass a background check."

    Winkler “Gunfight” page 74

  126. The answer to our national cultural gun sickness is very simple.

    It's implementation is very, very difficult because all Americans suffer from the sickness, yes, not just the NRA and gun owners but all Americans from the rural areas of Alabama, to our inner cities, from Hollywood to Main St.

    Just like with any other vice, dangerous object the answer is legality, responsibility, regulation and non promotion of the vice/object.

    It has worked miracles with cigs., and drunk driving and has been an utter failure with guns.

    America, are we ready, both left and right?

  127. All this noise, from both sides of the issue, will never solve this problem. I'd suggest we focus on responsibility. Law abiding citizens have the right to own weapons. With that right comes a responsibility that the weapon will do no harm to other law abiding citizens. Yes, gun owners will have to register those weapons. Those that wish to own a weapon will have to pass a back round check. Further, armed civilians trying to stop a crime will, in most cases, do more harm than good. John Wayne was a Hollywood actor and in the movies the good guy always wins... this is not Hollywood folks.

    So, sure, own a weapon if you want... it is your right. However, it then becomes your responsibility.

  128. While I support the right of an individual to own a gun I believe our societal objective should be to reduce the number in circulation; not the opposite. I blame the horrible number of mass shootings and other gun violence squarely on those who fetishize guns sending a message to people that they it’s a good thing to own multiple weapons and pose for the family holiday pic holding them. This leads to fast and easy access to multiple powerful weapons when an individual has a mental breakdown with the predictable results we seem to have have become numb to.
    Laws aside the message should be - guns may be necessary but are a dangerous evil that should be locked away and most of all not an object of desire.

  129. Very rarely are guns necessary except for hunters and hunters who make ill use of guns by hunting illegally should have their gun ownership prevented. I agree that owning guns appropriately should only be legal for individuals who have adequate protection of the guns.

  130. Except that states with strict gun control laws have fewer incidents of gun violence per capita than states with lax gun control laws. Law works.
    The average American needs a gun like a fish needs a bicycle. In fact, having a firearm in the home greatly increases the likelihood that someone in the home will suffer a gunshot wound.
    We need stronger laws. Civilians purchasing thousands of rounds of ammunition should call for a review and an inspection. Likewise someone accumulating firearms.
    We've tried doing virtually nothing and it hasn't worked. Let's register guns and gun owners; mandate training; do annual background checks; create law enforcement divisions whose sole responsibility is seizing the firearms of people adjudicated unfit to own/possess a firearm.
    Leaving a loaded firearm accessible to children and teenagers should mandate forfeiture of all firearms, a stiff fine and a mandatory jail sentence.
    There is much more that can be done. Let's do those things.

  131. Mr. Lott begins his argument with a flawed premise, namely that guns protect us from criminals. I will grant him his minor premise that the background check system has flaws, but he must not swiftly pass over the deaths by guns of domestic partners, suicide by gun and child deaths from guns left loaded and unsecured.

    Let us first agree there may be a problem with guns or not but there is most certainly a problem with reliable information about guns. We need to lift the proscription on research about guns and society, end gag laws preventing doctors from talking about guns and automate the antiquated firearms database now comprised of warehouses of paper records at the BATF. Then let's return and ask the questions for which we can then get answers.

  132. When all is said and done I read the core of Mr. Lott's argument to be the inefficiency of the current background check system is that it precludes more legal buyers than it should. It is regrettable that we must err on the side of caution and folks with same names and "close enough" birthdays come up as false positives. As a strong gun rights advocate I still support our current system until it can be improved. I would rather see 10,000 false positive denials than one Devin Kelly "good to go."

  133. The flaw in this argument about background checks is that people think that carrying a gun will be protection. Carrying a gun is not protection.

  134. Then why do our police carry guns?

  135. Here's my humble opinion. With the large volume of guns on our streets, I am all for anything we can do to prevent an injury or save a life from gun violence. So, if a background check slows down or prevents a murder or an accidental shooting, for me, it's game on. Let us do every little and big thing to prevent gun violence. The cost is too high.

  136. Stricter gun laws would clearly prevent some [not all but many] massacres and substantially reduce deaths in others.
    In Tucson the shooter emptied a 31 capacity clip /magazine. When he paused to reload he was tackled and stopped. If his clip /magazine had held fewer bullet he would have fired fewer bullets [and therefore killed /injured fewer] before being stopped.
    In Columbine the two killers were underage. They asked a girl friend who was above age to get guns for them. But when she went to a licensed gun dealer and learned she had to undergo a background check and fill out a form [and leave a paper trail] she balked. She then went to a gun show where she bought guns at a private sale where no background check [and no paper trail] was required. She gave the guns to the killers.
    Thus we see in these two instances how universal background checks and limiting clip /magazine capacity are effective.

    From 1994 to 2009 NICS blocks about 2 MILLION permit applications and gun sales.
    Suppose one part in 100 thousand of those denied would have committed a mass murder. That is 20 such massacres prevented.
    Suppose 1% of those denied would have committed a murder. That is 20,000 murders prevented.

  137. I might go for more conceal carry permit if these carriers are also allowed into sensitive areas like the Capitol building, court houses etc., which to me is a sign that the law enforcement actually welcome more civilians carrying weapons.

    I understand that on Air Force One only the secret service agents are allowed to carry weapons. Why is that?

    If names and birth dates are not enough to accurately identify people, why not include also the last four digits of social security number? What is the chance that people with similar names have same birth dates and same addresses?

    Whatever arguments there are for more guns, the empirical facts from other countries with stricter gun control clearly show that over all less guns does make a difference.

    In this country, we do have a rights to bear guns. Do we not also have the rights to life?

  138. In a country where every aspect of our life has been put into some big data science system, the Federal Governments and the ATF in particular are prevented from creating a national database to track sales or use of guns, whether the gun was used in a crime or for home defense.
    That is just madness.

  139. If you claim to know about crime in Philadelphia you would know that most if not all of the guns used on the streets of Philadelphia are bought as straw purchases from the rural counties around the cities.

    The problem is not background checks, the problem is the technology available to make those check effective is NOT BEING USED!

    This country that has been transformed by technology change specifically prevents police, prosecutors, or judges from using basic technology that is applied to every other part of our lives. The argument that our liberties hinge on the purity of one type of COMMERCIAL PRODUCT sold to a small but very vocal part of society is ridiculous.

    If we applied the same logic we have on guns to anything else else, we would be banned from using DNA databases, Megan's law, criminal background checks, credit histories, etc.

    Background checks have failed because the government is forced into "wilful ignorance" by a special interest lobby group with only 5 Million odd angry members. That is the perfect application of the phrase "Sic semper tyrannis"

  140. One of the biggest hypocrisies in our entire system. There's no reason for it aside from paranoia by the NRA legions. And I say that as a gun owner who keeps handguns for home defense (secured in gun safes but easily gotten).

  141. No gun owner will consent to registration. In every case of registration confiscation has followed as well as increased smuggling of firearms from outside the country.

  142. There is an emptiness in American consumer culture that breeds despair and violence. The brutality of our State and Federal governments is a significant component. The so called "Land of the Free" has an incarceration rate that makes the Soviet gulag system look small by comparison. The U.S. is the least generous of the OECD nations (our peer group) in providing basic services and safety net programs to its citizens. Both gun violence and our enduring appetite for drugs to numb the pain of our existence are symptoms of this growing cancer at the very heart of our nation's ethos.

  143. I would rather have an extra step when there is this alleged confusion then someone who has mental health issues or used violence before from getting a gun legally. It is not as if people have to rush down to protect themselves that very day--we do still have police forces so far...

  144. Thank you for the link to the survey at the policeone website, it is interesting that the actual text you selectively quote is “91 percent support the concealed carry of firearms by civilians who have not been convicted of a felony and/or have not been deemed psychologically incapable”: it begs the question that background checks are both practical and implemented. Even the survey creators, designing for this highly selective sample, recognized that such checks were essential.

  145. We know what the answer to gun violence is: To clarify that there is no right to civilian gun ownership, that the 2nd amendment does not say that each and every civilian has the right to own a gun, but that it speaks of "the people" as a whole, not individuals. As long as the 2nd amendment is mis-interpreted, children, women and men will lose the most supreme right of all each and every day, which is the right to life, liberty, and safety. Anyone who propagates lies like this contributor about "the answer to gun violence" doesn't truly recognize the right to life of the citizens of this country. The research is crystal clear: The more guns in a household, a community, a state, a country, the more deaths from guns. The US currently does not recognize that its citizens have a right to life. They have the right to be blown away by a gun. End of story.

  146. Background checks may not be perfect in stopping gun violence but it is a step in the right direction. We also need some common sense laws as to gun security in the home and better information sharing among law enforcement.
    If Mr. Lott wants a perfect world then he better leave this planet because it will never be perfect.

  147. Flaws in the background check system are not the reason to throw out the baby with the bath water. The biggest problem with background checks is that those responsible aren’t diligent enough entering relevant information into the system, not that too many people are denied gun purchases by mistake. More guns lead to more gun violence. Period. The U.S. has by far the most guns of any country, and we dwarf other countries’ gun violence statistics. States with the most lax gun laws have more gun violence than states with more restrictive gun laws.

  148. Many errors with gun reporting and crime would be helped, if not eliminated, if the government would allow the agency that tracks guns to use computers and for the creation of a public database for gun deaths. The public has had to start building our own database but the process is long, expensive, and incomplete. There is no reason why we track car accidents with higher accuracy than gun deaths. No reason to require cars to be registered annually and guns only once. The test for driver’s licenses is harder in many places than the test for a gun license based on the number of people who fail the former on their first try. It makes no sense to heavily regulate a tool that can accidentally cause death (car) while barely touching the tool whose main purpose is to kill.

  149. So heart breaking that some unfortunate gun buyer was inconvenienced by a minor problem in the background check system. I imagine the Newtown parents
    would be just appalled at the unfairness of it.

  150. In the semantic surrealism of words being related to AS IF they were actually whatever they were constructed to describe- which they can't ever be as a group of connected graphic letters-neither false positives and negatives are relevant to minimizing gun-related deaths.The reality which we all live in, and with, but often choose not to consider, is one of ongoing uncertainty.Random, unexplainable outcomes. Unpredictability. Lack of total control notwithstanding our efforts; types, levels, and qualities. Background checks, just like any type of assessment process, are flawed. Are these policies good enough to achieve levels of consensualized goals that the diverse population living in the USA, who has not yet been shot, wounded, and killed, can live with, as all of US enable, daily, a physical, psychological, spiritual, social, economic, violating WE-THEY culture? Which shamelessly targets a selected, constructed, "the other." Without regard to a secular Second Amendment "preyed"and related to as if it were one of the original Ten Commandments. What about considering background checks for being "at risk" for toxic complacency? For infectious willful blindness? Deafness? Silence, when expressed outrage would be a sign of health? "Protective" not knowing and instrumental ignorance about what is that should not be?As well as about the ongoing absence of what is critical for levels and qualities of equitably shared, and experienced, well-being for individuals and systems?

  151. Background checks are not the answer to gun violence. I believe that people pushing for them are simply trying to do “something” about gun violence. Reducing the number of guns in our society is the answer, but since that suggestion is unpopular stricter background checks is pushed instead. But if background checks are they only possible answer I suggest:

    1. All gun owners must re-register their weapons over a 5-year period. After that, possession of an unregistered firearm should result in significant jail time.

    2. Gun registration should include a DNA sample as identity. Over time this will eliminate the false positive problem the author is talking about which is really a difficulty in identifying people in the modern world, not a gun registration specific problem.

    3. All criminals, people with mental health issues that make them a risk of violence, domestic abuse offenders should have their DNA registered with a clearing house.

    Of course, these three steps will not prevent all gun violence. Every criminal has a first offense. People with mental health problems have their first break. But this would eliminate a lot of gun violence. Gun owners might say that this imposes too high a burden, but right now, society at large is paying the burden. Why not ask the owners to pay for it?

  152. You just touched on a few things to limit illegal affects guns have on our society. Too high of a burden? Stop. Insurance, permit ,background check ,safety, hasn't stopped people from driving & freedom of movement. Nothing will stop violence by guns or cars,but we can make a difference. But currently we are at a great disadvantage when Federal law prevents the accumulation of data by the CDC, the Republican Congress wants us to die at the hands of people who have guns & not know why. So is there only one answer? Never has been ,but we need to start somewhere ,don't we? Or are you okay with the carnage?

  153. You're describing adherents to the rule of law. I as a criminal would just steal a gun, and nothing you mentioned would affect that.

  154. Add a realistic training requirement to your proposals and this pro-gun, pro-gun-control gun owner is with you. Have the training scale by intended use: home defense, holster and tactical training, AR use, etc.

    Tactical training costs about $200 for a full-day class, half the price of that awful Charter Arms revolver shown in the article.

    Guns are too cheap, too. But that's another issue.

  155. The point of private sale background checks is to harass, inconvenience, burden and expense law abiding people. If it wasn't, Democrats would agree to open the NICS database up to private sellers by web or phone and for free.

  156. Background checks might be "overrated," but they should be doable, and are supported by the public, and obviously work outside the US (Switzerland, for example).
    At this point, any change for the better seems to be impossible, and Lott, like everyone else parroting the NRA line, basically has no interest in either changing anything or offering any serious alternatives.
    "Fix it" isn't a policy, it's just another empty slogan.

  157. Gun ownership is often portrayed as the government wanting to “take our guns away”

    Could there be a compromise that allows gun-ownership for hunting and personal defence but limits the ability of one person to cause mass carnage.

    What if private ownership of firearms were limited to simple, slow-to-load, revolvers, bolt action rifles and break action shotguns. For personal protection a simple revolver (loaded slowly one at a time through a gate, no swing-out cylinders or speed-loaders) should be sufficient.
    Private citizens should not have access to weapons with military-level characteristics. I appreciate that there are constitutional implications but the constitution was drafted at a time when a single deranged individual did not have the capacity to cause carnage and multiple slaughter amongst their fellow citizens. I cannot believe the founders intended that a single individual should have the capacity to cause carnage amongst their fellow citizens.

    Coupled with a buy-back scheme for all the military grade hardware this might actually raise sales for manufacturers.

  158. The solutions to gun violence we know do not come from new and always feckless gun laws or other community based initiatives. Must come from loving caring tough love family unit with one mom and one dad teaching children work ethic manners Spirituality/Scripture The importance of a good high school education, and the willingness to learn.

    Without these core values , which by the way most liberals disdain, gun violence will never end.

  159. When you blanket all liberals with not caring about their families, education and work ethic you discredit any point that you are trying to advance. Instead you reveal yourself to a traitor to the very Scripture you purport to quote and obviously do not live.
    Jesus would not recognize you or what you stand for in any way shape or form. Go read The Book again and see if you can comprehend the kindness and understanding it contains

  160. I'm all for making it harder to buy guns, not easier. The bar for gun ownership should be very high, and if the system mistakenly denies ownership to a few people to keep guns from the wrong hands, so be it. Buying guns illegally is not the easy task that that pro-gun lobby makes it out to be, it's just one of the main arguments they use to negate gun control laws.

  161. Mr. Lott writes about citizens who buy guns to protect themselves and their families. Are there any statistics to show that citizens actually were successful in attempts to protect themselves with a gun?

  162. Oh boy ... you open a terrible can of worms with that question ... and Mr. Lott is a worm merchant.

    Yes, there are cases where people have used guns to "protect themselves and their families" successfully -- some of these even are clear and undeniable defense against awful crimes.

    But then there is an enormous morass of telephone survey data where people claim they used a gun in defense, and it's provably nonsense, but Lott and the NRA cite this stuff as though its real.

    If you restrict yourself to looking at cases where a report of an attempted crime and successful defense was filed -- they are few. And you might well ask "gee you just shot a guy trying to harm you and your family, and you didn't file a report? Really?"

    This leads to the bigger miasma of "showing a gun scared a criminal off." A lot if this is made up guff, some of it is in fact criminal gun-brandishing.

    The rate of successful real defense needs to be compared to all the "gun accidents," the hot-tempered shootings that the people who did them later regret (or perhaps don't), and then all the crime and intentional murder they facilitate.

    If you just look at the cost of gun violence, the death and the harm, there's no way that the successful defense rate can balance all of that.

  163. People carrying, and haven forbid, having to use, need to be held fully accountable for any collateral damage as a result.

  164. They are.

  165. Totally. The real issue here is that it takes some law abiding citizens a little extra time and potentially money to get through the background check system (they should try contesting a false positive on the No Fly List for a real challenge!) Waiting longer to get a gun sounds like an incredible hardship compared to being a shooting victim.

  166. More guns. The problem in this country is the vast number of guns, silly laws allowing pretty much everyone to carry guns pretty much anywhere, so that no one is safe from people with guns. Add to that, allowing ordinary citizens with no imaginable need for them to own semiautomatic weapons and armor piercing bullets. The founding fathers did not anticipate that the NRA and weapon manufacturers would solve the "problem" of declining sales by launching a campaign to make people feel unsafe, so that they feel the need to run out and buy more and more guns.

    I grew up in a hunting family. I can shoot a gun. But I don't need one.

  167. I'm not sure how the ability to get a gun translates to the ability to 'defend oneself' since people with guns are actually more likely to get shot.
    And I think laws should err on the side of NOT allowing people to get guns, since that results in less violence, while giving a gun to someone who shouldn't have one results in mass shootings. This was a very biased and flawed article - the logic didn't even make sense.

  168. John Lott makes a hypothesis that people are denied the ability to purchase a gun because of false positives on their background check. The gun industry should find the money to study the issue to prove the theory. Unfortunately this will probably not happen, because to often in the United States gun ownership is based on emotion and not fact. There are very few scientific studies done on gun violence since congress in 1994 threatened to reduce the budget of the CDC if they funded any study on guns. One fact in this debate should grab everyone’s attention approximately 100,000 people a year in the United States are killed or injured by a firearm. If any other consumer product were destroying lives at that level would we accept no action from our elected leaders?

  169. This is a "False Flag" article, with a title, suggesting another way (besides background checks) to reduce gun violence.
    Well in fact it is really about the authors opinion that MORE people should have instant access to guns, in their homes, or on their hips to "protect themselves".
    His premise, is that so called false positives (on the NICS check) stop law-abiding people from getting weapons that they might need to protect themselves and their families.

    We really need to look at his premise; that more guns in a home make the home safer. With children around, neighbors, or other family members entering the home, alcohol use in the home, (a suicidal teenager, dumped by her boyfriend?) this idea that having a firearm loaded; at hand 24/ 7 makes one "safer" simply is not true.
    Gun proponents say, "you can just tell children, never touch a firearm" found in a home doesn't work. Firearms in a home, or vehicle, also get stolen to later be used in a crime, making all of us less safe.
    Store your firearms in a safe, if you must have them in your home. A good alarm system too, to protect them from theft.

  170. Two things: My husband, with a different last name from mine, has been mistakenly sued for divorced, had "his truck" impounded, threatened for nonpayment of tuition, and on and on. His locker partner in high school had the same first and last names. His photo appeared on the RIP board of his high school reunion. In each case, the error was easily corrected. Mistaken identity is not uncommon and it is not a conspiracy to prevent people from buying guns "to protect themselves."

    Second: Guns do not make people safer. There is no conspiracy the "disarm law-abiding citizens" but the citizenry should recognize by now that disarmament is safer than standing behind a gun. There is overwhelming evidence that guns are only a threat, not a promise. The only thing that will end gun deaths is an end to the absurd American gun fetish. Background checks are a start...

  171. What becomes acceptable language is always where the battle needs to be fought. While Mr. Lott writes about the right to buy a firearm, THERE IS NO SUCH RIGHT. Mr. Lott, please show me in the Constitution of the United States or America where that right exists! Those who say it is in the second amendment need to go back to remedial English classes: the amendment protects the "right of THE PEOPLE", which is a plural noun, "to keep and bear arms". That the collective noun is used therefore clearly matches the first clause's mention of a militia, which must have multiple individuals in it to be a militia. The amendment protects the right of a "well-regulated militia" made up of "the people" to keep and bear arms, not an individual's right to do so. They repeatedly use the terms "person", "citizen" and other such individual terms in the document, proving they knew those words and could have used them in the second amendment if that was their intention. They did not. They were careful craftsmen in what they wrote throughout that document. We should honor that.

  172. We do not live in Tombstone.

    The author pushes the myth that common citizens need to defend themselves against unnamed and not-defined foes. Home breakins? Angry husbands? Liquor store robbery? He wrote:"Those law-abiding gun owners can help protect places where there are no police. "

    I am more afraid of a concealed-carry yahoo cowboy accidently shooting up innocent people than I am afraid of "those" criminals.

    We need to challenge these myths - crime has fallen in the USA yet gun ownership has increased. It should be harder to get a gun than to fly on a plane.

  173. Amen. And for what it’s worth, many of the old Wild West towns required people to surrender their guns while in town. There’s something to think about.

  174. If you want to make guns safer require iwners to buy minimum insurance policies like cars. The insurance lobby will take care of the rest.

  175. Gun violence is a public health problem. And like any "disease," good data is necessary to make reasonable decisions about the kinds of policies and regulations that might reduce death and injury.

    But the NRA — supported by its GOP enablers — passed a law prohibiting the NIH from studying gun violence as they do cancer and other killers.

    What are they afraid of? That their prescriptions for solutions would prove to be fallacious?

    If Mr. Lott is so sure his solutions would be effective, then he should be willing to support research and data to validate them. Until he does, his "solutions" are just opinion.

  176. Repeating the same lie over and over doesn't make it true. the CDC is not prohibited from researching anything. They're prohibiting from advocating for gun control.

  177. I'm less concerned about somebody wrongly being denied a gun than of someone who shouldn't have one actually getting it. If you're denied, you can always appeal and eventually get your firearm. But if you're a bad guy and you get your gun, things probably aren't going to go well.

    And Lott conveniently omits the many, many studies that show a relationship between tighter gun laws and lower gun deaths and injuries. Coincidence? I think not.

    Anyone who creates a fake persona, as John Lott did with his "Mary Rosh", to then go out and brag about himself, should not be taken seriously.

  178. Enjoying the meltdown of the left in the comments! Nice article John!

  179. I'm sorry, but Mr. Lott's article is nothing more than more NRA clap trap.

  180. What makes you think that people who object to insane gun policies are necessarily "the left"? There is no organized left in the United States. Or do you use that term simply to mean "anyone who disagrees with me?" A nice trick to avoid engaging with any of the actual, real, substantive issues that have been raised by the criticisms of Lott's position, above.
    There is clearly no constitutional individual right to firearms in the 2nd Amendment, properly read.
    Beyond that, Mr. Lott is a known perpetrator of fraud. He had to fabricate statistics showing that widespread gun ownership makes society safer - since, in fact, it does not.

    From the article:
    “A little over a decade ago, he was disgraced and his career was in tatters. Not only was Lott’s assertion that more guns leads to more safety formally repudiated by a National Research Council panel, but he had also been caught pushing studies with severe statistical errors on numerous occasions. An investigation uncovered that he had almost certainly fabricated an entire survey on defensive gun use. And a blogger revealed that Mary Rosh, an online commentator claiming to be a former student of Lott’s who would frequently post about how amazing he was, was in fact John Lott himself. He was all but excommunicated from academia.”

  181. So, let me get this straight. Background checks -- flawed as they can sometimes be -- can be used to screen prospective employees and prospective tenants, but not prospective gun owners?

    Yes, background checks can sometimes lead to false positives, but more often than not, positive match records are missed more often than false positives are. Why? Because in the world of of employment and tenant screening, companies producing the reports have to take reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy, which means that reporting a simple name-match record generally won't satisfy that standard. Companies also have to be accountable to the information they report, and consumers have a right to appeal information that appears on reports about them.

    Seems to be that this kind of system is perfectly reasonable when dealing with someone who wishes to buy a deadly weapon.

    Even better would be build a true nationwide record system with unique subject identifiers for use with prospective gun owners. This would solve the small false positive problem. Of course, this will happen right after pigs learn to fly.

  182. Outrageous. Borderline insane. To even suggest that the sale of a deadly weapon should not be accompanied with a background check (and a waiting period) is so indefensible that it does not require argument. We run background checks or teachers, even baby sitters. And the argument that gun registration is just a step to confiscation is equally pointless, as we register cars, license drivers, etc. More to the point, every gun buyer should actually be trained and licensed, as are drivers, so they can understand the breadth of their responsibility. This is not about the right to ownership, but the responsibilities the go with it.

  183. Can someone please tell me how many crimes were prevented or stopped by a private citizen with a gun. "Those law-abiding gun owners can help protect places where there are no police", truth or fantasy?

  184. Fantasy. Isn't there a commandment that says "Thou shall not kill."? Guns are basically for killing, not for protecting.

  185. Check out the NRAs website for reports of armed citizens using firearms in self defense. I double dare you!

  186. Truth, there are numerous sources for published incidents where private citizens protected themselves and their families before the police got there. I doubt that you'll take the time to find them as it doesn't fit your anti-gun narrative. How many crimes do the police prevent? Close to none, they necessarily react. Can you forecast when your home will be invaded? When seconds count the police will be there within minutes.

  187. Talk about deceptive advertising! This headline makes you think that the author is going to discuss some of the root causes of gun violence in our culture, and then, switcheroo! It turns out he is calling for more gun violence, not less -- more people having guns on the streets, not less. Since the author didn't talk about it, I will. How about caring more about the people that we see everyday when we walk down the street? Seeing everyone you meet or hear about as a person very much like yourself, so, not hating, but developing compassion, even if you might vehemently disagree with their point of view. Like I vehemently disagree with this author. I would really like to know: what is it that makes a man like this feel such a strong need to be armed? Why is it so important a cause when someone applying for a gun is inconvenienced and has to wait longer that usual, even much longer, before they can purchase it? Why is the gun such an important symbol for so many people in this country? I would honestly like to know that. Perhaps if we could truly understand each other, we whose viewpoints are so very divergent, some progress could finally be made in solving the real problem of violence in our culture.

  188. Mr Lott is so concerned about the rights of the poor people who are denied the ability, temporarily, to buy a gun thanks to a false positive on a background check. Oh the outrage! But he says not a word about the victims of gun violence, whether the shooter passed a background check or not. What about the hundreds of people in the Las Vegas shootings who needed upin the hospital, with severe injuries they’ll be dealing with for years, not to mention the 59 who were killed? What about the students in the latest school shootings and the trauma they suffered seeing their classmates killed, let alone the dead students, or the 20 first graders killed in Sandy Hook elementary school ot the unspeakable loss to their parents? Apparently these people don’t matter at all to Mr Lott or at least not as much as the inconvenience of not being able to buy a gun. Even if everyone at the Las Vegas shooting had had a gun, it wouldn’t Have saved anyone.

  189. If there is one lesson that America has taught the world, it is that more guns is NOT the answer. If more guns made us safer, America would be the safest country in the world. We are not. We lead the world in deaths by firearms for one simple reason - there are too many guns in America.

  190. The answer is quite simple- enforce the gun laws already on the books. Go to where the criminals are- block by block and house to house- and take guns away from convicted felons. It would certainly make my city - St Louis- much safer..

  191. Red America, the U.S. House Districts held by Republicans, is one of the safest countries in the world. Red Anerica has higher gun ownership rates than Blue America.

  192. Ed could not have gotten it more right. Credible research has shown that the more guns a society is willing to tolerate the more gun related deaths that society is willing to condone. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to connect those two dots. Unfortunately, the genie appears to have been let out of the bottle. Any country that can tolerate the wholesale slaughter of little children and not take immediate action to reduce and, eventually, eliminate firearms, has made its choice, and consequences be damned.

  193. As difficult as this is to hear, sometimes a government must pass laws for the general betterment of its population, even if a particular individual may feel like their rights have been trampled. Seat belts laws are a good example.

    Background check laws for gun purchases MUST be passed. Statistics show that a VAST majority of gun owners agree. If any individual applicant denied a permit feels that they were unduly targeted, let there be a robust appeals process.

  194. I'm okay with that provided that each unfairly denied person receives $1,000 a day from the federal government for the period he was denied.

  195. As a person who thinks "militia" is an important word in the Second Amendment and does not see why any guns other than hunting rifles should be commonly available to the general public I want to thank the NYT for publishing this op-ed. I learned why some in the handgun owning community have a reason to be dismissive of background checks although I wondered why Mr. Lott did not simply suggest the use of SSNs. I also sharpened up my ability to recognize the falacious assumption that guns, particularly handguns, are suitable protective devices for the average person.

  196. You really need to read the Heller decision- it is the law of the land.

  197. @carol goldstein Quite apart from the need for gun control, we really don't want to use SSNs for *anything* related to ID. There is hardly a database to be found that is secure, and SSN related identity theft is a nightmare (take it from someone who knows) leading to fraudulent tax returns and all manner of mischief.

  198. The is a line on the application to provide a SSN, but providing it is optional and most people don’t. Don’t know if providing it would help, but I suspect doing so would be considered a first skid down the slippery slope of gun control and registration.

  199. John Lott worries that false positives disenfranchise America's teeming, gun-toting masses....although the radical, regressive Republican Party he supports has no problem with epidemic false positives in the Republican Interstate Crosscheck System that systematically removes voters from the voter rolls in Republistan.

    So 1st Amendment suppression of voting rights based on false positives is fine, but the same false positives for 2nd Amendment gun freedom breaks his and the GOP's heart; that's just lovely.

    On a broader note, John Lott is a known academic, research and statistical fraudster who has no business with a propaganda bullhorn in the NYT.

    "A decade ago, Lott was disgraced and his career was in tatters. Not only was Lott’s assertion that more guns leads to more safety formally repudiated by a National Research Council panel, but he had also been caught pushing studies with severe statistical errors on numerous occasions. An investigation uncovered that he had almost certainly fabricated an entire survey on defensive gun use. And a blogger revealed that Mary Rosh, an online commentator claiming to be a former student of Lott’s who would frequently post about how amazing he was, was in fact John Lott himself. He was all but excommunicated from academia."

    Despite his ethical failings, Lott surfed the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook to once again become a gun propaganda artist.

    The NYT should formally apologize.

  200. Like CNN, rather than actually talk about facts and the truth, the NYT has succumbed to this ridiculous concept of indulging in a "fake neutrality". There is not two sides to an argument when one side is clearly nonsense and over and over again has proven to be as such. This column is just another example.

    It is interesting to note how the MSM attempts to indulge in these obvious failed arguments while at the same time " real progressives" (those without corporate benefactors)are rarely to be found in any of these op-eds.

  201. What works:
    Learners permit.
    Pass skills test.
    Registratin, title and insurance for each gun.

    Ticketed or lose license based on type and severity of violations.

    One might spot a pattern here: treat guns like cars.
    Infrastructure already exists, simply a category for guns at the department of motor vehicles.

  202. Gunsters don't believe in laws. They are above the law. Read the NRA literature and e-mails which it sends to members, which is quoted and repeated like parrots.

  203. Guns are not like cars. There is no constitutional right to own, and use, a car.

    Further, IF guns were like cars all gun violence would record alcohol or drug involvement, and the weather conditions. Then we would KNOW the true cause of social violence, rather than blaming the gun (or the car).

    Please stop running into the same dead end.

  204. OK, I needed a pre-rebuttal.

    "Treat guns like cars" means use the same model and infrastructure to track guns as is used to track cars, NOT cars are like guns.

    The other 2 nutty item in the replies:
    So there are those who drive illegally, so the laws do not work 100% of the time the solution: get rid of the laws, the RMV's, etc.
    The 2nd amendment gives you the right to own a musket if you belong to a well regulated militia.

  205. Mr. Lott has done a great deal of scholarly work on gun laws and crime:

    I am a liberal, life-long Democrat who has a CCW permit. My frustration is that there are states where I cannot legally carry my gun even though I have gone through a background check in my state (Washington).

    We travel, camp, and hike on public lands. We are often in areas without any law enforcement and where we couldn't even call 911. We had a situation where someone basically threatened us. I was able to get rid of him without needing to use the gun. And although we were in a state where the CCW was not valid, we still had a right to protect ourselves at our home (our camper), so I could have used it if needed. But when hiking we can't carry it. In some BLM areas a single officer covers multiple counties. There is no law enforcement that can protect us.

    We live in a rural area. We had a break-in to our home, at night, and fortunately the alarm scared off the would-be intruder. But it took our sheriff's deputy ONE HOUR to arrive to our home. If he hadn't been scared him off I would have needed the gun.

    When grandchildren are here, the risk/benefit ratio of a gun changes so the gun is disassembled, a trigger lock is installed, and it is hidden.

    The data show that Democrats and Republicans in rural areas have similar rates of gun ownership. This is why. Policies that might work for urban areas are not applicable to rural ones.

  206. Most of the first page of that website seemed to be attacks on Lott. Lott's research has been criticized, and it appears to me that at least some of the criticisms have merit.

    And some do not seem to be valid. For example, the proliferation of guns in our society in the past 25 years has corresponded to a decrease in the crime rate. That finding is a correlation, not proving causation of course. But many of the findings of research that "supports" gun control are also correlational in nature--not true experiments that can control extraneous variables.

    There is nothing in that website that contradicts the fact that my family has been threatened at times by bad people and that there was no law enforcement available to protect us. In response to another comment on this site, I provided another example of where my family was threatened and I had to take decisive action to prevent harm to us. We were behaving lawfully in all of these circumstances. Bad stuff sometimes happens regardless.

    Those instances not "beliefs."

    I see nothing that has been proposed that will reduce gun violence. "Eliminating guns?" You might as well pass a law mandating happiness.

    Over 50% of gun deaths are suicides. Those are basically ignored. Why not a huge drive to provide better for the mentally ill? We could make a dent in that number of gun deaths, but instead we argue about magazine size.

    I obey laws. I also took an oath to my wife. Which takes priority for you and your wife?

  207. "There is nothing in that website that contradicts the fact that my family has been threatened at times by bad people and that there was no law enforcement available to protect us."

    This is a standard NRA talking point emailed to its members, and repeated as gospel forever.

  208. Mr. Henry:

    Is the only argument you can muster against my points the fact that the NRA has said something similar? Are you denying the existence of those facts regarding my family?

    What do you make of them? Are they just inconvenient or are they false? Your argument seems to be that because they are also stated by an organization that you dislike that this means that those facts are not facts. That is not an argument.

    Your argument is basically that of a conservative--i.e., someone whose beliefs outweigh facts.

    Liberals and conservatives on this issue will never find a solution to gun violence because they are afraid of admitting "into evidence" facts that do not support their extreme positions.

    And so gun violence will continue. With each side blaming the other instead of both sides being able to utilize facts and data, all of it, into a coherent form that leads to solutions.

    So, keep your view. But realize that your view, and your unwillingness to examine facts that are inconsistent with your view, is what is responsible for the continuing gun violence.

  209. This article is a perfect example of the difference between making decisions in politics vs. all other realms. In the non-political world, one accepts there is no perfect solution and there is a trade-off involved in everything. Think about buying a car, where to live, who to marry, etc. There are benefits and limitations in all human endeavors. But Mr Lott makes the argument any issue at all with a background check system, regardless of the benefit, makes it an unacceptable option. To me, the ability to make arguments that would be summarily rejected in any other sphere is why people dislike the political process.

  210. Background Checks Are Not the Answer to Gun Violence

    So what is the answer to gun violence? Not only does he just criticizes while offering no solution to the problem gun violence which is caused by easy access to guns leading to increased violence. What exactly is the answer to gun violence, Mr. Lott, why is it you offer no solutions? Could it be because your solution to sell guns everywhere hasn't worked and leads to violence when if there were no guns that would instead lead to another argument that people forget in the morning.

  211. Please, if you're going to throw around statistics to prove your point, make them pertinent and on point. Also take the time to research both sides and include those stats, not genarizations.

  212. What does this "law-abiding" mean? Everyone always says afterwards, "I can't believe it could happen here." And, "He seemed so quiet and nice. Always had a biscuit for my dog." Where does "law-abiding" get you in trump-think art of the deal? Are the "law-abiding" the meek that Jesus talked about: what would Jesus conceal-carry? Law abiding people are in despair, and if alcohol is added to an obsession with firearms as security objects horrible things happen. Every single day.
    But who cares, huh? This guy knows his argument is specious, but he also knows that it "works."

  213. I honestly don’t see how law enforcement is supposed to tell good guys from bad guys during a mass casualty incident when civilians are pulling out and using their concealed carry weapons. That is recipe for disaster and more accusations against people just trying to do their jobs. If I were a LEO I would stand back and wait for the shooting to stop before going in.

  214. I’m seeing a lot of mileage out of the words ‘law abiding citizens’ in this article. As if to have followed the rules introduces no chance of criminal intent nor action. What of killers who have mostly kept their heads low until they make a move? What of citizens that only kill after they’ve purchased a gun to protect their family?
    I don’t want to see a system discriminate against lower-income citizens, but I don’t be see an answer, here, in decreased background checks and citizen militias.

  215. What the author fails to address, either intentionally or otherwise is what legitimate reason does Virginia have "selling" concealed handgun licenses to people who live in distant states where they could get the license from their home state.

    Virginia is running a racket peddling CHL's to people in other states that have no business obtaining a CHL in the first place from anywhere much less Virginia.

  216. " false positives that stop law-abiding people from getting weapons that they might need to protect themselves and their families." Why would American families "need" a gun to protect themselves when the data show that possession of a gun is more deadly than any imagined danger?

  217. So, Mr. John Lott Jr. you normalize gun ownership by disguising it as a must have accessory for law abiding citizenship and defense of home and family. You say we should streamline, correct, make more efficient, the system for background checks. As if everyone who buys a gun is going to be a paragon of responsible ownership. Just like everyone who owns a car in this country I suppose. Yet highway deaths continue.
    Remington arms is filing for bankruptcy. That is a good thing. They are the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15 used at Sandy Hook elementary school.
    Your theory on gun ownership in this country is as bankrupt as Remington Arms. And rightfully so.
    Your attempt to normalize gun ownership is hollow and disingenuous.

  218. Would Mr. Lott argue so passionately about voting ID laws with spurious requirements that disenfranchise large swathes of the population? Why are guns sacrosanct but not voting? He founded the Crime Prevention Research Center. And used a sock puppet online to defend his research. Take his arguments with a Diogenes sized grain of salt.

  219. Is it just me? The argument here is that there’s not enough guns in our society because of ‘false positives’ that prevent ‘nice people from protecting themselves with guns? Over 30,000 dead; cops patrolling in places awash with firearms and suffering the consequences; ‘nice people’ who develop mental disorders, join other ‘nice people’ in radical groups; some getting crazy drunk in fights and domestic disputes; errors in judgment and in misidentifications; finally, how many of those false positives resulted in death or injury resulting from inability to defend themselves with guns?

  220. So arm everyone with concealed guns, & deputize them all to keep the peace...
    Lets see your stats showing that if everyone packs heat, shootings go down.

    Firearms fanatics aren't as interested in defense or protection so much as they are addicted to guns.

    I challenge both pro & anti gun advocates to investigate the function of firearms as akin to an addictive substance, dopamine release, obsessiveness, power illusions, the whole thing. Addictions aren't rational, firearm fanaticism is a disease. Carrying guns everywhere, thinking about & habituating to all firearms all the time, everywhere, is a fanatical sickness that creates dependency.

    If you want to reduce actual shootings, focus on controlling the ammunition.

    Regarding costs, the cost of shootings for society is vast, but gun-manufacturers bear none of these costs. Force the firearm & ammo-manufacturing/dealer syndicate that profits from this carnage to microtag & database every bullet & casing they produce & track it from production through sale.

    Force the manufacturers to pay for the background checks.

  221. What utter, unsubstantiated nonsense, especially when Mr. Lott extrapolates the already suspect (and unproven) idea that there are tons of "vulnerable" people who are shooting gang members and protecting their turf from break-ins by random criminals to mass shootings. If police officers really are foolish enough to want everyone they encounter during a random traffic stop armed, that's also meaningless. I am sorry it takes some people a little longer to get a gun. This is the reality of modern life. Unfortunately, a gun at the ready to kill an intruder (a very rare occurrence) is also at the ready to be taken by a disturbed or angry teen to work, picked up by a curious child, or used in a suicide. All of these, of course, are much, much more common as the thousands of gun deaths in this country suggest much more forcefully that an unscientific, voluntary survey and a stray anecdote about someone who had a bad day dealing with bureaucracy (welcome to health insurance, college, work, banking, and all the ways in which we get confused with each other and have a few hours or days of annoyance sorting things out).

  222. A modest proposal.

    Let's have gun vending machines on every corner on every street in America. Everyone should have instant access to firearms as the need arises.

    Feel safer, now?

  223. The gun lobby is synonymous with the gun manufacturing lobby, which is succeeding in making its product as addictive as opiates are to others. Guns are now a fetish turned into an ideology of power. So guns are going nowhere. Gun advocates live in fear when they do not have a gun on them. They want this to be the permanent American condition. The single-round 2nd amendment has been rendered meaningless. In a shoot out where everyone has a gun, no one is protected.

  224. The author and my fellow commenters can go back and forth all day but, come on, let's face it, this debate ended long ago. The pro-gun people won. There are more guns than people in the U.S. Every mass murder now leads to legislation....IN FAVOR OF EASIER GUN ACCESS. Let's be done with it. Pass a law that the government provides every newborn, free of charge, 500 pistols, 500 rifles, 500 automatic weapons, and, oh, a half million rounds of ammunition. Require all citizens to shoot anyone who "looks suspicious". Mr. Lott will then write another article about how that's not enough, and the bought and paid for politicians will double those numbers.

  225. False positives in background checks are a problem but can eventually be rectified with better accounting and technology. But the article misses the more important issue--abuse of the 2nd amendment.

    Plenty of people pass background checks legally and by the types of assault weapons capable of murdering scores of innocents in a heartbeat. And some of them do just that. As to permitting more citizens to carry concealed handguns, that may help a little. But good luck when the bad guy has an assault weapon that thinks your concealed handgun is adorable.

    The problem will continue to be the second amendment, a poorly written (not a complete sentence) and outdated paragraph on its face. Yes its clear the intention is the right for citizens to own a gun, which is fine. But the kinds of weapons available for purchase, and the fact that the forefathers imposed no type of litmus test (i.e., sanity, criminal background, etc) left interpretation ripe for abuse. For this reason, money and power (NRA and the legislators and jurists they control) will continue to thwart commonsense laws for the greater good.

    For the same reason, a constitutional amendment will be necessary. Unfortunately that is the very high bar, given what that entails, that needs to be reached to install common sense. Maybe Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, and the like can make this part of their lofty healthcare goal.

  226. The answer to gun violence - indeed any violence - is Dispersal of the human species.

    The Earth would be carved up in 10 square mile pieces for each individual and there would be no interaction, save for drones from Amazon delivering books and clothing (and now that Amazon owns Whole Food) and food too.

    Without the friction of everyday life, there would be no reason for people to get angry with each other and to shoot each other.

    Until the Dispersal program is implemented, there will be violence. Not among all people (since some people can handle human interaction and differences of opinion quite well), but among some people.

    Until then, there will be gun violence - indeed knife violence, car violence, and hammer violence too.

    Some people will even shoot and kill others in order to get their name in the New York Times, as part of its coverage (since the New York Times does not have a policy of non-publication of shooter's names, thus glorifying their nefarious deeds).