Who Is John Lott and Why is He Claiming That More Guns Mean Less Crime?

John R. Lott Jr. is an avid proponent of Chicago School theories on law and economics. Lott shares a common heritage with Judge Robert Bork and other prominent members of the Chicago School—the espousal of extreme points of view on the issues of crime, health and safety, and the environment. The following is a sampling of John Lott’s views culled from his writings.


In the wake of the March 1998 schoolyard ambush of children by children in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Lott voiced his strong support for arming teachers and other school personnel against gun-toting juveniles. Lott argues, “Allowing teachers and other law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns in schools would not only make it easier to stop shootings in progress, it could also help deter shootings from ever occurring.”

“The Real Lesson of the School Shootings,” The Wall Street Journal, March 27, 1998.


An abstract of one of Lott’s studies details his findings that “increases in the percent of minority police officers increase crime rates” and that “racial and gender changes in the composition of police forces resulted in at least 2,000 more murders” in cities he studied.

“Does a Helping Hand Put Others At Risk? Affirmative Action, Police Departments, and Crime,” Abstract listing by Social Science Research Network Electronic Library, July 25, 1997.


Lott argues that wealthy criminals should be able to purchase legal representation that will allow them to escape conviction despite their guilt. Lott writes, “Preventing wealthy people from influencing the opinion of the court in their favor will lead to expected punishments that are too large for the wealthy….” Furthermore, Lott argues that “allowing wealthy people to do what on first glance may seem like ‘subverting’ the legal system can be efficient.” Lott contends that a certain amount of crime is actually good for society. In Lott’s view, the benefit of a crime to a criminal can outweigh the harm that a crime inflicts on society. Such crimes, according to Lott, should not be prevented. Or, as Lott puts it, “[A] nation’s wealth [is maximized] if a crime is not deterred when the benefit to the criminal of a particular crime is greater than the total social cost of that crime.”

“Should the Wealthy Be Able to Buy Justice?” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 95, no. 6, December 1987: 163-175.


Lott refers to Federal Aviation Administration inspectors as “busybody bureaucrats looking over [the] shoulders” of the airline industry. He also scolds Ralph Nader—whom he labels a “proregulation fearmonger”—for wanting the flying public to travel in “bomb-resistant planes.”

“The Regulatory Quest for Safety at Any Cost” [A Book Review of Collision Course: The Truth About Airline Safety by Ralph Nader], Regulation, Vol. 17, No. 1, Winter 1994: 80-81.


Lott labels global warming, ozone depletion, and the need for wetlands preservation “environmental myths.” He dismisses any idea that the toxic chemical dioxin might represent a hazard to human health, despite the fact that the substance is rated as a “probable human carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency. Lott states that “the worst thing people can expect from dioxin is a bad rash.” He goes on to deride the federal Superfund program to clean up toxic waste dumps as “infamous and amazingly costly.” Lott further urges Americans to “stop worrying so much about the environment,” characterizing health and safety concerns about pesticides as “scare stories.”

“Regulatory Common Sense vs. Environmental Nonsense,” [A Book Review of Environmental Overkill: Whatever Happened to Common Sense? by Dixy Lee Ray with Lou Guzzo and Science Under Siege: Balancing Technology and the Environment by Michael Fumento], Regulation, Vol. 16, no. 1, Fall 1993: 80-82.


Lott says that any government regulation of indoor air quality—even smoking—is unwarranted. According to Lott, “The question of allowing smoking in a restaurant is no different than the question whether the restaurant provides music or other amenities.” He also opposes regulation of smoking on airplanes with the rationale, “To force airlines to ban smoking on all flights thus makes smokers worse off by a greater amount than it benefits non-smokers.”

“Regulating Indoor Air Quality: The Economist’s View,” coauthored with Robert G. Hansen, The EPA Journal, Vol. 19, no. 4 (October-December, 1993): 30-31.

In conclusion, Lott believes that teachers should go to school armed, that putting minority police officers on the beat causes murder rates to increase, that some crime is good for society, that FAA safety inspectors are “busybody bureaucrats,” that dioxin and ozone depletion present no appreciable risk to humans or the environment, and that there should be no regulation of smoking in restaurants or on airplanes. Lott has a long and well-documented track record of zealously advocating an extreme anti-consumer, anti-public safety ideology. His view that arming the populace with concealed handguns will reduce crime is just one more extreme view to be added to the list.