Push poll on concealed carry

Lott has a new post on blog where he writes:

Two-thirds of Police Chiefs think Right-to-carry Laws Reduce Crime

A new survey by the National Association of Chiefs of Police asks members: “Do you agree that a national concealed handgun permit would reduce rates of violent crime as recent studies in some states have already reflected?” 65.7 percent of members say “Yes”. There are other interesting questions in the survey. Two-thirds oppose one-gun-a-month rules. Over half think that the rules allowing pilots to carry concealed handguns are too restrictive.

It may be that two-thirds of Police Chiefs think right-to-carry laws reduce crime, but this poll does not tell us that. First, the survey was conducted by mailing 22,587 Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs. Mail-out surveys get low response rates (just 10.4% in this case) so the results are not representative of the opinions of police chiefs. A phone survey of size 1,000 would have had a similar cost to their mail-out survey and would have actually provided some meaningful results.

Second, the question seems to come from a push poll. Instead of finding out what the police chiefs think about concealed carry the question seems designed to convince them that “recent studies” show that concealed carry laws reduce violent crime. In fact, recent studies show that, if anything, concealed carry laws increase crime. If the question had been “Do you agree that a national concealed handgun permit would INCREASE rates of violent crime as recent studies in some states have already reflected?” I suspect you would have got a majority to agree with that instead.

So why would NACOP run a push poll question on concealed carry? This story on an earlier version of the poll gives us a clue:

The survey asked 23,113 chiefs and sheriffs around the country, “Do you agree that a national concealed handgun permit would reduce rates of violent crime as recent studies in some states already reflected?” According to the National Association of Chiefs of Police (NACOP), 62 percent of those surveyed said “yes.”

John Michael Snyder, NACOP vice president and director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said the response was striking, especially since this is the first time in the survey’s 14-year history that this particular question was asked.

Yes, Snyder is a political activist trying to get concealed carry laws passed. And note that while for an opinion poll it makes no sense to conduct a mail-out poll of size 20,000 instead of a phone poll of size 1,000, for a push poll it makes more sense since you get your message to more people.

Oddly enough, the year before the question was first asked, both Snyder and Lott were speakers at the morning sessions of the 2000 Gun Rights Policy Conference. Snyder said:

“If Gore wins, America loses. If Gore wins, the horrendous gun-grabbing legislative attacks spearheaded by the Clinton/Gore Administration will continue and increase.”

While Lott told the audience:

“About 98% of the time simply brandishing a gun is sufficient cause for the criminal to break off his attack. Less than 2% of the time the weapon is fired, and most of those are just warning shots.”


  1. #1 Eli Rabett
    June 17, 2004

    They also did not weigh the results by population. Should the top cop in say Mudgeville have the same weight in this poll as the one in Atlanta. Then start thinking about how guns are used and perceived in small towns vs. bigger towns. They did not have to push this poll very hard, now did they?

  2. #2 Carl Jarrett
    June 17, 2004

    I’m surprised you didn’t catch Lott’s Op-Ed on Canada’s gun registry. Lott writes: “Gun control has not worked in Canada. Since the new gun registration program started in 1998, the U.S. homicide rate has fallen, but the Canadian rate has increased.”

    If you look at StatsCan’s crime data, you’ll see that Lott is cherry picking again.


  3. #3 Tim Lambert
    June 17, 2004

    I hadn’t looked at the Canadian homicide figures yet, but that is indeed a beautiful bit of cherry picking. Thanks Carl, I’ll do a post on it.

  4. #4 Sarah
    June 17, 2004

    Tim, have you given up responding to Kevin Baker’s comments on guns and violence? He has posted some interesting material these last two weeks, but we haven’t heard from you.

  5. #5 raj
    June 17, 2004

    This is astounding. Lott has the audacity to publish reference to a poll that said that 2/3 of some population believe that something is the case? Query what evidence that population relied on in forming their belief. That statistic, absence evidence, is about as useful as suggesting that 3/4 of evangelical christians believe in the second coming.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.