With Somali terrorists threatening this past weekend to attack the Mall of America, the nation’s largest mall, the debate over allowing citizens to defend themselves has heated up again.

Police are the single most important factor for reducing crime, but even police commit crimes on very rare occasions.  Even more law-abiding than police, however, are permit holders.

Gun control advocates just can’t accept the fact that concealed handgun permit holders are incredibly law-abiding.  The New York Times’ recent attack on permit holders is typical.  It is filled with triple-counting of legitimate self-defense cases. Murders or suicides by permit holders are blamed on guns, even when no gun was involved.  In point of fact, permit holders are incredibly law-abiding.  Some new evidence puts things in perspective.

Police are the single most important factor for reducing crime, but even police commit crimes on very rare occasions.  Even more law-abiding than police, however, are permit holders.

Police are the single most important factor for reducing crime, but even police commit crimes on very rare occasions.  Even more law-abiding than police, however, are permit holders.

According to a study in Police Quarterly, the period from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2007 saw an average of 703 crimes by police per year. 113 of these involved firearms violations.  This is likely to be an underestimate since not all police crimes receive media coverage. The authors of the study may also have missed some media reports.

So how law-abiding are police?  With about 570,000 full-time police officers in the US at that time, that translates into about 124 crimes by police per hundred thousand officers.  For the US population as a whole over those years, the crime rate was 31 times higher -- 3,813 per hundred thousand people.

Perhaps police crimes are underreported due to leniency from fellow officers, but the gap between police and the general citizenry is so vast that this couldn’t account for more than a small fraction of the difference.

Concealed carry permit holders are even more law-abiding.  Between October 1, 1987 and January 31, 2015, Florida revoked 9,366 concealed handgun permits for misdemeanors or felonies. This is an annual rate of 12.5 per 100,000 permit holders -- a mere tenth of the rate at which officers commit misdemeanors and felonies. In Texas in 2012, the last year the data is available, 120 permit holders were convicted of misdemeanors or felonies – a rate of 20.5 per 100,000, still just a sixth of the rate for police.

Firearms violations among police occur at a rate of 6.9 per 100,000 officers. For permit holders in Florida, it is only 0.31 per 100,000. Most of these violations were for trivial offenses, such as forgetting to carry one’s permit.  The data are similar in other states.

Clearly, people who are going to commit crimes don’t bother going through the process of getting a concealed handgun permit.

At some point, maybe the New York Times and other gun control advocates will realize that making false claims about permit holders actually endangers public safety.

John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.