Fox Hosts Official From Extremist-Linked Pro-Gun Group To Distort Link Between “Carry Laws” And Crime

Fox & Friends hosted John Velleco, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America (GOA), to argue in favor of concealed weapons laws by dubiously claiming that “crime goes down” when “a state tries to relax concealed carry laws.” But according to PolitiFact, crime data shows no “straight-line correlation between states with 'right to carry' laws and crime rates”; moreover, GOA's executive director has been tied to militia groups, white supremacists, and has a history of extremist rhetoric.

Velleco Claims “Crime Goes Down” When “A State Tries To Relax Concealed Carry Laws”

Velleco: Concealed Weapon Carry Laws Makes “Crime [Go] Down.” On the June 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Velleco claimed: “Every time a state tries to relax concealed carry laws, we hear the Chicken Littles of the world saying that blood is going to flow in the streets, and it just doesn't happen. In fact, crime doesn't go up, crime goes down, because criminals don't know who is carrying a firearm to defend themselves.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/20/11]

In Fact, Experts Argue There Is No Link Between Right-To-Carry Laws And Decrease In Crime

PolitiFact Called Claim That Right-To-Carry Laws Reduce Violent Crime “False.” In a February 16 post, PolitiFact evaluated the claim that “violent crime in jurisdictions that recognize the Right to Carry is lower than in areas that prevent it.” PolitiFact determined that the claim was “false.” From PolitiFact:

We found the the [sic] states without “right to carry” were spread out across the list, not bunched together at the top. The District of Columbia, which has strict gun control laws, ranked highest for violent crime. The other states ranked as follows: Delaware, No. 5; Maryland, No. 10; Illinois, No. 13; California, No. 17; Massachusetts, No. 18; New York, No. 24; New Jersey, No. 30; Hawaii, No. 36; Wisconsin, No. 39, and Rhode Island, No. 42.

We also couldn't help noticing that some states with laws that favor gun ownership placed at different points along the list. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence rates state gun laws, so we looked at the 14 states that had the weakest gun laws. Here, we also saw a wide variation in where the states ranked in terms of violent crime: Alaska, No. 6; Louisiana, No. 7; New Mexico, No. 8; Arkansas, No. 11; Oklahoma, No. 12; Missouri, No. 15; Arizona, No. 21; West Virginia, No. 32; Kentucky, No. 38; Montana, No. 41; Idaho, No. 44; Utah, No. 47; North Dakota, No. 48, and South Dakota, No. 49.

So using the 2009 data, we don't see any evidence that state gun laws correlate with violent crime rates one way or the other, at least not “across the board” as LaPierre suggested in his speech.


We do not find that current crime statistics support this point. Some academics have said trends over time show that “right to carry” laws lower crime rates, but that argument is contested. There's certainly not straight-line correlation between states with “right to carry” laws and crime rates. LaPierre made it sound like the data clearly supported his view. They don't. We rate his statement False. [PolitiFact, 2/16/11]

John Donohue: Empirical Evidence Refutes Claim That Right-To-Carry Laws Would Reduce Crime. In a New York Times post, Stanford Law professor John Donohue wrote: "[W]hile some early studies by John Lott and others suggested that state policies providing greater freedom to carry guns would reduce crime, empirical evidence refutes this view. Wise gun policy and individual consumer choice to carry weapons involves weighing competing probabilities." [New York Times, 1/11/11]

Donohue's 2002 Study Concludes: “No Longer Can Any Plausible Case Be Made On Statistical Grounds That Shall-Issue Laws Are Likely To Reduce Crime For All Or Even Most States.” In a 2002 study titled, “Shooting Down the More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis,” Donohue and Yale Law professor Ian Ayres concluded, “No longer can any plausible case be made on statistical grounds that shall-issue laws are likely to reduce crime for all or even most states.” Further, Donohue and Ayres stated:

While we do not want to overstate the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn from the extremely variable results emerging from the statistical analysis, if anything, there is stronger evidence for the conclusion that these laws increase crime than there is for the conclusion that they decrease it. [Donohue and Ayres, “Shooting Down the More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis,” 10/02]

NRC Committee: “Not Possible To Determine ... Causal Link Between The Passage Of Right-To-Carry Laws And Crime Rates.” In 2004, a National Research Council (NRC) committee released a report on right-to-carry laws and their effects on crime. The committee concluded that “it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates.” From the committee's conclusion:

The literature on right-to-carry laws summarized in this chapter has obtained conflicting estimates of their effects on crime. Estimation results have proven to be very sensitive to the precise specification used and time period examined. The initial model specification, when extended to new data, does not show evidence that passage of right-to-carry laws reduces crime. The estimated effects are highly sensitive to seemingly minor changes in the model specification and control variables. No link between right-to-carry laws and changes in crime is apparent in the raw data, even in the initial sample; it is only once numerous covariates are included that the negative results in the early data emerge. While the trend models show a reduction in the crime growth rate following the adoption of right-to-carry laws, these trend reductions occur long after law adoption, casting serious doubt on the proposition that the trend models estimated in the literature reflect effects of the law change. Finally, some of the point estimates are imprecise. Thus, the committee concludes that with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates. [Firearms and Violence, Committee on Law and Justice, National Research Council, 2004]

2010 Study Concurs With NRC Committee's Conclusion But Added That Panel Data Suggests “RTC Laws Likely Increase The Rate Of Aggravated Assault.” In a June 2010 study re-examining the NRC committee's analysis on the effects that right-to-carry laws on crime rates, Donohue and professors Abhay Aneja and Alex Zhang stated that “we agree with the [NRC] committee's cautious final judgment on the effects of RTC laws,” but that "[i]f one had to make judgments based on panel data models of the type used in the NRC report, one would have to conclude that RTC laws likely increase the rate of aggravated assault." From the conclusion:

Finally, despite our belief that the NRC's analysis was imperfect in certain ways, we agree with the committee's cautious final judgment on the effects of RTC laws: “with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates. Our results here further underscore the sensitivity of guns-crime estimates to modeling decisions.If one had to make judgments based on panel data models of the type used in the NRC report, one would have to conclude that RTC laws likely increase the rate of aggravated assault. Further research will be needed to see if this conclusion survives as more data and better methodologies are employed to estimate the impact of RTC laws on crime. [”The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws and the NRC Report: Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy," 6/29/10]

Study Finds “Weak Evidence That RTC Laws Increase Or Decrease The Number Of Public Mass Shootings.” A November 2002 study by criminologists Grant Duwe, Tomislav Kovandzic, and Carlisle Moody analyzing 25 right-to-carry laws found “virtually no suport for the hypothesis that the laws increase or reduce the number of mass public shootings.” [“The Impact of Right-To-Carry Concealed Firearm Laws on Mass Public Shootings,” 11/02]

Criminologist Citing 2002 Study: "[T]he Effects Of RTC Laws Are Negligible, Neither Encouraging Nor Discouraging Mass Murder." In a January 12 post on The Boston Globe's Crime & Punishment blog, James Alan Fox, professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University, cited the 2002 study by Duwe, Kovandzic, and Moody and wrote:

[T]he effectiveness of concealed-carry laws in deterring mass murder is an empirical question, one that has been examined thoroughly by criminologists Grant Duwe, Tomislav Kovandzic, and Carlisle Moody. Using fairly sophisticated analytic techniques, they assessed the extent to which enactment of various RTC laws in 25 states across the country were associated with any change in the incidence of public mass shootings in the years from 1977 through 1999. Based on their estimates, the effects of RTC laws are negligible, neither encouraging nor discouraging mass murder. [Boston Globe's Crime & Punishment blog, 1/12/11]

Daniel Webster: “Permissive Right-To-Carry Laws Could Make It Harder For Police ... To Deter Gun Violence.” In a New York Times post, Daniel Webster, co-director at the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote:

[L]aws prohibiting gun-carrying are an important tool for police to use to suppress the practice in so-called hot spots for shootings. Police units focused on deterring illegal gun-carrying have been the most consistently effective approach to reducing gun violence. Permissive right-to-carry laws could make it harder for police to use this law to deter gun violence. [The New York Times, 1/11/11]

Webster: “Permissive Right-To-Carry Laws” May Actually Increase Crime. In his New York Times post, Webster also wrote:

When mass shootings occur, many think that, if only one of the citizens at the site had access to a firearm, they could have taken the gunman out and saved lives. That's an odd argument to make in a state where probably more people carry guns than in any other state.

While you can find an example to prove this point, it begs the question of whether it's sound public policy to allow anyone who is not prohibited by our weak gun laws to carry firearms anywhere they choose. It is not clear that permissive right-to-carry laws haven't increased violence. There have been numerous studies of these laws, many of which have substantial flaws. The best study was done by Ian Ayres and John Donohue, law professors at Yale and Stanford, respectively, and disaggregates the effects for each state and type of crime.

The estimates from their best models show right-to-carry laws associated with increases in 7 of 9 crimes studied, with the largest effect (+9 percent) being the crime many researchers would have hypothesized would increase -- aggravated assaults. [The New York Times, 1/11/11]

GOA's Executive Director Was Allegedly Tied To “Professional Racists,” Militias

GOA's Executive Director Was Reportedly Fired From Buchanan's '96 Campaign For Ties To “Professional Racists.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), GOA's executive director, Larry Pratt, “hit the headlines in a big way when his associations with [white supremacist minister Pete] Peters and other professional racists were revealed, convincing arch-conservative Pat Buchanan to eject him as a national co-chair of Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign.” [SPLC, Summer 2001]

Pratt Was A Contributing Editor To Anti-Semitic Group's Periodical. The SPLC further reported that "[t]he same year, it emerged that Pratt was a contributing editor to a periodical of the anti-Semitic United Sovereigns of America, and that his GOA had donated money to a white supremacist attorney's group." [SPLC, Summer 2001]

Pratt Reportedly “Advocated” For “Militias In The United States.” From the SPLC:

In 1990, Pratt wrote a book, Armed People Victorious, based on his study of “citizen defense patrols” used in Guatemala and the Philippines against Communist rebels -- patrols that came to be known as death squads for their murderous brutality.

Picturing these groups in rosy terms, Pratt advocated similar militias in the United States -- an idea that finally caught on when he was invited for a meeting of 160 extremists, including many famous white supremacists, in 1992.

It was at that meeting, hosted in Colorado by white supremacist minister Pete Peters, that the contours of the militia movement were laid out. [SPLC, Summer 2001]

GOA's Pratt: “All The Gun Laws That Are On The Books Are Bad Laws ”

Pratt: “All The Gun Laws That Are On The Books Are Bad Laws.” From an interview with John Birch Society president John McManus:

McMANUS: Are there any bad laws currently on the books that you're worrying about?

PRATT: Well, all the gun laws that are on the books are bad laws. [The John Birch Society, Self Defense with GOA Larry Pratt, uploaded 5/7/08]

Pratt: Laws Prohibiting Gun Ownership By The Dangerously Mentally Ill Are “Dictatorial,” Like “Nazi Germany.” On the September 24, 2009, edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show, Pratt told host Ed Schultz that legislation denying firearms to the dangerously mentally ill was “a dictatorial power” which “they use[d] ... in Nazi Germany.” From MSNBC's The Ed Show:

SCHULTZ: I do believe psychiatrists and psychologists should have the power to deny -- you know, you shouldn't own a firearm. I mean, I do believe that.

PRATT: You know, that's a dictatorial power --

SCHULTZ: No, it's not.

PRATT: They used that in Nazi Germany. They used that in [the] Soviet Union. They use it in Cuba. That doesn't have any place in America. [MSNBC, The Ed Show, 9/24/09 via Political Correction]

Velleco Suggested That Gun Owners Should Be Able To Carry Guns At Presidential Events. From the August 19, 2009, edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): Suppose the president has a town hall meeting with 10,000 people at some high school gym or college field house. Should everybody in the place be allowed to have a gun? Everybody in the place that the president's speaking.

VELLECO: If it's legal to carry guns in that location, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: So, it's fine with you?

VELLECO: Fine with -- yeah. [MSNBC's Hardball, 8/19/09 via Crooks and Liars]

GOA Has Opposed Background Checks And Even The Act Of Showing Identification. At the April 19, 2010, Open Carry March, Pratt told the audience that people "[s]houldn't have to have any ID to buy a gun anywhere. That's something we're going to be taking care of." [Open Carry March, 4/19/10 via Political Correction]