Thomas Sowell

Most people who are in favor of gun control laws support such laws because they believe that these laws will reduce the number of firearms deaths. Such people are not the problem. Their minds can be changed when they learn that the facts are very different from what they have imagined or have been led to believe.

The problem is with very different kinds of people, often in leadership positions, whose support for gun control laws is strong enough to override any facts. When John Lott's empirical study of the effects of gun control laws found that gun ownership tended on net balance to reduce crime in general and murder in particular, he offered to give a copy of that study to a member of a gun control advocacy group, but she refused to look at it.

Later, when the study was published as a book under the title "More Guns, Less Crime," that same advocate was contacted by ABC News for her comments and she described the study as "flawed." When Lott then phoned her to ask how she could say that it was flawed, when she had never read it, she simply hung up on him.

Clearly, the facts were not crucial to this gun control advocate -- or to many other zealots. Nor can the lineup of people for and against gun control laws be explained by facts that are equally available to people in all parts of the ideological spectrum, for the liberal-left crusades for more restrictive gun control laws and conservatives generally resist.

While John Lott's study is perhaps the best known one showing that widespread gun ownership has led to less crime, other studies with similar findings include "Pointblank" by Gary Kleck and the more recent book "Guns and Violence" by Joyce Lee Malcolm.

What about studies on the other side? Two that have been widely cited are an article in the New England Journal of Medicine back in 1993 and a book published in 2000 titled "Arming America" on the history of gun ownership in this country.

The medical journal article claimed that guns in the home increase the risk of violence and death. This was based on comparing people who were killed in their homes with a sample of similar people in the general population. Those who were killed at home owned guns more often than the others.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate