There was a very nice turnout (over 100) for the Marquette Federalist Society's debate between John Lott and Richard Withers on gun control. John McAdams liveblogged the event.
I didn't do much but introduce the speakers and ask a few questions.
So I sat back and was surprised at how little conflict there was between Lott, who is the bete noire of the gun control movement, and Withers who, although he now works for the Milwaukee Common Council, was formerly co-director of the Medical College of Wisconsin's Firearm Injury Center. He has some street cred on that side of the issue and is a bright and personable guy.
What surprised me were his concessions on Lott's big issues. While Withers argued that it was possible that there might be some places and circumstances where a gun ban would be appropriate, he also agreed that he knew of no place on Earth where a ban had resulted in a reduction in gun crime. He also stated that my impression of the social science research, i.e., that it either shows no increase in gun crime as a result of concealed carry laws or, as Lott argues (and Withers would probably dispute) a reduction in gun crime following the adoption of such laws. (Withers explanation is that few people actually get concealed carry permits.)
Mostly, Withers did not want to talk about gun bans or concealed carry. He did not really want to talk about crime at all, but about "public health." His focus tended to be on "defects" in guns that could be fixed to make them safer like combination locks, etc.
Is this potential common ground or is it politics? Does it represent a recognition that gun bans are not possible so that the route for those who want to restrict gun ownership ought to be to make them as expensive as possible?
Withers recited some interesting stats about guns and suicides on dairy farms. Although he did not make it, some of his numbers could support an argument that we ought to ban handguns in rural areas where they are not likely to be needed for self defense and permit concealed carry in the inner city where they are. That's not likely to be common ground.