I was looking up some statistics about gun shot deaths and injuries the other day when I made the acquaintance of John R. Lott, Jr., an economics professor at the University of Maryland, a Fox News contributor, and the author of More Guns, Less Crime, now in its third edition, and The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You’ve Heard About Gun Control is Wrong. Lott uses sophistic(ated) regression analysis and some startling statistical assumptions–that guns are used in self defense or to ward off criminals some 2.3 million times a year–to buttress his case that right to carry laws reduce crime, more specifically, that for every additional 1% of citizens that carry guns, a state’s murder rate decreases by 3.3%.The National Review calls Lott “the go-to expert on foolish rushes to restrict guns after a shooting.” True to form, Lott had a think piece in the New York Times this week that began with the hope that last “Saturday’s horrible attack in Tucson encourages more citizens to carry concealed handguns.” You’ve got to give him credit for having the courage of his convictions. Though the NRA is a huge fan of his work and cites it frequently, Lott has come in for criticism from other quarters. The Skeptical Inquirer ran a fairly accessible critique by Rutger’s Ted Goertzel some years back.
Anyway, while I was reading Lott, my mind wandered back to a science fiction novel I read when I was a kid, A.E. Van Vogt’s The Weapon Shops of Isher, published in 1951. Its story unfolds in a futuristic totalitarian galactic empire that's held in check by shops that provide its citizens with defensive weapons; their slogan is "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free." The weapons they sell have uncanny qualities–they can only be used defensively, and they can only be fired by their owners. Hence, no accidental shootings by children, no stolen guns used in crimes, no mass shootings like the one in Arizona. With weapons like those, John Lott might actually have a point.
Van Vogt and L. Ron Hubbard were both frequent contributors to Amazing Stories; Van Vogt was involved with Scientology in its early days. In 2005, the Libertarian Futurist Society bestowed a "Hall of Fame" Prometheus Award on The Weapon Shops of Isher.