|Report of John Lott/Brian Mackie dabate at
U of M.
|Submitted on: November 8, 2001
|This is a report of a so-called debate
between Dr. John Lott, author of More Guns Less Crime, and Mr. Brian Mackie,
Washtenaw County prosecutor. It took place in Room 220 of Hutchins Hall at the UM Law
school. The meeting was organized by Mike Moreland, a UM law student, and moderated by
Professor Sherman Clark of the UM Law School.
The room, which seats probably 200 people, was overflowing, with all walls lined with
people. We had many MCRGO stalwarts in attendance. I spoke with a woman who said she was
Ann Arbor chair of the MMM; I asked her how many active members she had and she either
didnt hear me or elected not to respond. I spoke with Dr. Lott prior to the meeting
and thanked him for his significant part in bringing CCW reform to Michigan. And, with
John Ellisons help, we handed out about 150 or so MCRGO trifolds and another 50 or
so of the CCW trifold. I could tell from the response that some strongly
anti-firearms-rights people were there, but I didnt run across very many.
The format was to be a presentation by each participant, then a brief rebuttal time, then
questions from the floor. [This is hardly a debate.]
Dr. Lott was invited to go first. He discussed the importance of weighing the good that
comes from firearms against the bad. He said that firearms are used defensively about two
million times per year, five times the number of times that guns are used in crimes. He
discussed the media reporting of the school shooting in Pearl, Mississippi, where the
assistant principal ran to his car, got his handgun, and stopped the shooter some 8
minutes before the police arrived. [The shooter had something like 28 rounds left at the
time the principal stopped him.] In the month following this shooting, where several
students were killed, there were 697 news stories about it in the media. Of these, only 19
stories mentioned the assistant principal at all, 13 mentioned that he had stopped the
shooting, and only 10 mentioned that he had used a gun. Dr. Lott said that some 40 percent
of public school shootings are stopped by citizens with guns, but you would never know it
from media reports.
Dr. Lott discussed several myths that actually endanger the public:
ï¿½ Behave passively. Some resistance is dangerous, such as a woman using her
fists or trying to run away. Some resistance is safer, and by far the safest action is to
use a firearm for self defense. Use of a firearm is 2.5 times safer than being passive in
the face of criminal attack.
ï¿½ Most murders are by friends or acquaintances. These data suggest that this
means friends and relatives. Dr. Lott said that most of these killings are by gang members
who know the members of the other gang. He described the definition of acquaintance
as used in this study: If a cab driver picks up a person who knifes him a minute later
from inside the car, that person is an acquaintance. If the killer knifes him
through his window without getting in the cab, he is a stranger.
ï¿½ A gun in the home poses a higher risk to the homeowner than to a criminal.
The biggest flaw in this argument is that it counts only dead criminals but ignores the
thousand successful thwarting of criminals for every criminal killed; it doesnt even
count criminals who are wounded but not killed. Another flaw in these data is that if a
homeowner is wounded and it turns out that he owns a gun, it is assumed that his own gun
injured him; in fact, under careful scrutiny it turns out that only 19 percent of these
guns owned by homeowners led to their own injuries.
In closing, Dr. Lott said that gun-control laws such as waiting periods lead to increase
in crime. The Brady law has never been demonstrated to lead to a decrease in crime and
several studies have shown that it leads to increase in crime. Blacks in high-crime areas
benefit the most from CCW laws. Licensing and registration have not led to improvement in
solving crimes; he cited Hawaii data. In general, the most vulnerable people are harmed
the most by restrictive firearms laws: women, old people, and the infirm.
Mr. Mackie started by talking about firearms injuries to children. He said that the death
of even one child is important to him, and that it saddens him when he hears of a
3-year-old being shot by a gun that was carelessly left unguarded in a home. He said there
are 322,806 people in Washtenaw County.
Mr. Mackie then attacked Dr. Lott by reading some quotes from an op-ed piece that Dr. Lott
had written regarding the increase in crime in the District of Columbia following the
lowering of their standards for police officers. Mr. Mackie said that this provided some
idea of Dr. Lotts views on affirmative action.
Mr. Mackie read from statistics taken from the Handgun Control website, where in Texas and
Florida, by carefully selecting the periods for which you wish to make a comparison, it
can be shown that during certain periods following passage of shall-issue laws, crime
increased. He said that in Texas 23 CCW licensees have been arrested for murder.
Mr. Mackie said he disagrees with Dr. Lotts statistics about rape, but he cited no
numbers or other information. He described his experience as prosecutor where people who
had felony records had applied for CCWs. He closed, and I quote, with Some people in
Washtenaw County have been denied [a CCW] under the new law who would have gotten their
CCW under the old law. Your reporter had some trouble following his train of thought
Dr. Lott noted that of those 23 CCW licensees in Texas arrested for murder, 90 percent
were either released later as self-defense shootings or were acquitted. He said that CCW
licensees in Texas are convicted of crime at a rate that is 1/16th the rate for all Texas
He cited data for Florida from Oct. 1987 to mid-2001: 653,000 CCWs issued, 124 convictions
of licensees, and of these 90 percent are for carrying in restricted areas. There were no
convictions for murder by a CCW licensee in Florida.
Mr. Mackie said that he is in charge of minority hiring of police in Washtenaw County and
that this does not lead to increase in crime. He told some anecdotal stories about CCW
licensees in Texas who were convicted of murder. [These must have been the 10 percent, the
two or three who were convicted, but he didnt say.] He said again that one child is
Mr. Mackie discussed some people who were denied CCWs in Washtenaw County. He said that
gun boards are simply tools of the Legislature so that they can blame the gun boards for
bad things done by CCW licensees; that is why he resigned from the gun board. He played an
audio tape which few could understand which he said was an irate phone call by a CCW
applicant to his NRA instructor; he said he wanted us to hear the tone of voice
of the speaker.
The moderator then asked Dr. Lott to comment on the often-quoted statement about low crime
rates in countries that have fewer guns than the U.S. Dr. Lott responded that if you look
at all countries, not just a select few, you will find that the U.S. has a relatively low
crime rate. He cited Switzerland, with 20 percent gun ownership, and Israel, with even
higher gun ownership, as examples of countries with high gun ownership and very low crime
rates. Israels crime rate is 40 percent less than Japans. In the U.S., the
biggest increase in gun ownership has led to the lowest crime rate. For this, he cited a
paper by Jeff Myran (sp?) on the Boston University Department of Economics website.
I forget the question that the moderator asked Mr. Mackie, but he responded by saying that
he was supposed to be in Lansing today at 1:00 p.m. to testify before the Senate Judiciary
Committee on the pistol transportation bill. [This bill, HB 5026, the Vear
Transportation Bill, was heard at 9:00 a.m. today by the Senate Committee on Hunting,
Fishing, and Forestry, which reported it out with a unanimous vote.] He said that most of
the prosecutors, sheriffs, and police chiefs in Michigan are uneasy about the
Dr. Lott closed by noting that 76 percent of street officers in the United States are in
favor of shall issue laws.
There was no time left for questions from the floor.