Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Live Blogging Gun Control Debate At Marquette Law School

Esenberg introduces both participants.

Lott speaks first:

Notes that DC brief in case (District of Columbia v. Heller) makes mostly policy arguments, not Constitutional arguments.

Does Bill of Rights confer on individuals a right to own guns? Lott says yes. When one looks at the language of Second and Fourth Amendments, it was clear that it protects individuals.

Lexington and Concord were about British trying to take guns.

Can DC argue that a gun ban protects public safety? Lott says no. Murders have increased since the DC gun ban was put in place. Murder rates were falling before the ban, and began to rise after it. Same with all violent crime.

Compare DC to Virginia and Maryland: DC was falling relative to those states (and counties in those states adjacent to DC) before the ban, and began to rise afterward.

Look at other cities, like Chicago. After gun ban, Chicago regularly had the highest murder rate among the 10 largest cities.

DC (in brief to Supreme Court) is pointing to other countries, urging the Court to follow the policy of foreign countries. But if we look at, for example, Britain, their crime rate has radically increased since they instituted a gun ban.

Even going back to 1900, crime in Britain has had nothing to do with gun ownership.

Lott mentions other nations.

Problem: if you try to take guns away from criminals, in fact the criminals won’t obey the law. You can get more crime if you actually disarm law-abiding citizens.

DC will let people own rifles and shotguns, but they must be locked up and disassembled. But that prevents people from actually using them for self-protection. Studies show that “safe storage” laws increase both murder and rape.

Is passive behavior better when faced with assault? Lott says that, particularly for those who are physically weak, having a gun makes you safer.

What about the notion that guns laying around will be used when somebody get mad.

Lott points out that murderers are not average citizens, they have long histories of personal problems, and they are particularly likely to be black. So it doesn’t help a lot to keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens.

What about children? Lott says look at mortality data on CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website. Very few handgun deaths among children. And most of the killers are adult males with long criminal histories shooting (sometimes accidentally) children, not children somehow getting possession of a gun.


Says the Second Amendment doesn’t matter!

Mentions Miller decision, which says that individuals don’t have the right to own guns.

Says it took the Court of Appeals 58 pages to “get around” this.

Admits there is an “individual liberty interest” in the ownership of guns. Our history and tradition have created this. State constitutions enshrine this right.

DC seems to believe that the “collective right” issue (the traditional liberal argument that only the collective, and not individual people have the right) is going to disappear and the Court is likely to uphold an individual right.

Says the “key issue” is the policy issues. Wants to frame it as a “public health” issue.

If we address the issue as a crime issue, we go astray. Points out there are two suicides for every murder in Wisconsin.

Points to large geographic disparities. Murder/suicides outside Milwaukee metro area. Often the person is committing suicide, and taking other people with them.

Admits that Lott is right about the small number of child accidental shootings. But when there was a very small number of aspirin poisonings, we went to child-proof caps. So we should “modify the product” (guns) to make it safer for kids.

Wants a national system of public safety oversight on guns.

Wants to avoid Second Amendment issue. Makes arcane analogy to a streetlight being out.

Wants “better information” that might provide basis for outlawing or requiring the licensing of guns.

Esenberg Asks the first questions:

Politicians living in high crime areas, they tend to be stridently opposed to things like concealed carry.

Lott responds: people in those areas would be biggest beneficiaries. But people get their information from the media. Guns are used much more often to defend against crime than used to commit crime. But consider media bias: if a gun is brandished in defense it doesn’t make the news, but if somebody is shot, that gets reported.

Esenberg addresses Withers:

If you accept the notion that the nation would be safer with no guns in circulation, there are 200 million guns out there. Is it possible to get all of them? And what about concealed carry and crime rates? Even if Lott is wrong about deterrence, nobody has produced a serious study showing that concealed carry increased crime.


Admits that concealed carry does not increase crime!

Repeats we need better information.

Isn’t a big fan of trigger guards, since they can cause a misfire and kill somebody.

Claims that certain design flaws can be eliminated. Seems to want a combination lock on guns.

Says “get realistic about what causes deaths in Milwaukee:” fighting and alcohol.

Question for Withers from Audience:

What about suicides? Won’t people find a way to kill themselves?

Withers responds that guns are simply more effective, and a lot of people will fail when guns are lacking. They may then change their minds.

Question for Lott:

What about black market? Lott says there is robust evidence, including nations that have a lot better chance of actually enforcing a ban, that outlawing guns simply creates a huge black market.

Lott admits that increase in crime in Britain is not just from banning guns, but the rise of the drug trade. But drug dealers are not going to obey gun laws. So the black market booms.

What about licensing guns? That doesn’t help. Guns are almost never left at the crime scene, and when they are, they are almost never registered. So virtually no crimes are solved this way.


Agrees that cross-national comparisons don’t help.

Lott challenges Withers to name a jurisdiction that has reduced gun violence with a gun ban. Wiithers admits he doesn’t know of one!


Quite an excellent debate with (in our view) Lott coming off ahead. To a degree, this is because Withers was very scrupulous about not overstating his case, and thus conceded much to Lott.

Withers deserves a lot of credit for being willing to debate Lott when a lot of people (including a very large number of Marquette professors) declined to do so. Still, Withers was a good advocate, and bona fide expert in public health issues, and he presented a thoroughly reasonable persona.

One glitch: the crowd vastly exceeded expectations. The Federalist Society supplied lasagna, which ran out. It was standing room only.

Which, combined with the high intellectual of the debate, makes this a signal success.

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Blogger Dad29 said...

Finally!! I made the connection.

Dick Withers used to be the EVP of Planned Parenthood/Wisconsin, then joined w/Steve Hargarten in an attempt to create a "public-health-guns-problem" at Froedtert/MCW.

8:45 PM  

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