The National Rifle Association made a botched attempt at statistics in order to defend economist and gun researcher John Lott, who famously put forward the debunked "more guns, less crime" thesis that undergirds the NRA's agenda.
In a 1997 paper Lott, along with David Mustard, purported to use econometrics to prove that the expansion of state laws allowing guns to be carried in public reduced crime rates in the United States. Since its publication, Lott's study has been endlessly cited by the NRA and other gun advocates even though the study's conclusions been repeatedly debunked by other academicians.
In an August 3 article for the conservative Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" page, the NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), defended Lott's work from recent criticism in The Washington Post.
Writing that "anti-gun activists ... worked themselves into a rage over Lott's research," and that Lott has been accused by critics of "using bad data," the NRA-ILA claimed that reductions in crime since the early 1990s coupled with increases in the number of states allowing guns to be carried in public proved Lott's case:
Reality check, however. For starters, in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, firearms were used in only 21.8 percent of aggravated assaults, according to the FBI. Furthermore, from the end of 1991, the year when violent crime hit an all-time high in the United States, through 2012, 24 states adopted [right to carry] laws (not counting Illinois, which adopted RTC in 2013). And according to the FBI, between 1991 and 2012, the nation's aggravated assault rate dropped 44 percent. The rates of 39 states and the District of Columbia decreased. And while the rates of 11 states increased, most of these states are ones with relatively low populations and aggravated assault numbers, thus small increases in the numbers of assaults can translate into seemingly large increases when the trend is measured on a percentage basis.
This defense of Lott purports to explain the entire decline in crime since the early 1990s as a result of gun carrying laws without offering any evidence to explain this unfounded claim. In fact, several plausible factors have been put forward to explain the crime drop including the end of the crack epidemic and reductions in the general public's exposure to lead. The General Social Survey indicates that the rate of household gun ownership has declined over time leading to speculation that recent increases in the number of guns sold are largely attributable to pre-existing gun owners buying more guns.
Gun researcher John Lott is dishonestly accusing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America of spreading "false information" over the gun violence prevention group's claim that the vast majority of female firearm homicides among high-income nations occur in the United States.
But the claim is true; a 2002 study (download) published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Women's Association found that among 25 high-income nations, the United States accounted for 84 percent of female firearm homicides but just 32 percent of the female population.
In a May 29 column for National Review Online, Lott offered false attacks to support his conclusion that "[t]he notion that gun violence disproportionately harms women does not hold up." According to Lott, "anti-gun group Moms Demand Action couldn't let the tragedy in Santa Barbara pass without interjecting more false information into the gun-control debate" by sharing the statistic "84% of female firearm homicides in 25 countries are in US."
Lott challenged the credibility of the statistic cited by Moms Demand Action, writing, "It is hard to see how Moms Demand Action could even make this comparison across all countries. Data from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) allows you to break down murders either by the sex of the victim or by whether firearms are used, but it doesn't allow users to identify both these categories simultaneously."
However, the study didn't use UNODC data, but instead used data gathered by the World Health Organization.
MSNBC military analyst and retired colonel Jack Jacobs pushed back against the conservative claim that all soldiers should be armed on U.S. military bases in a contentious head-to-head interview alongside pro-gun researcher John Lott.
Right-wing media have rushed to blame restrictions on the ability of soldiers to carry sidearms on military bases for the April 2 mass shooting at Fort Hood. But military veterans and base commanders, including Fort Hood's own commanding officer, have said that calls to expand access to firearms on bases are flawed.
Jacobs, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, added his voice to those critics during the April 4 edition of Jansing and Co.
"The situation that existed at Fort Hood the other day, in a circumstance in which everybody has weapons, could very easily result and probably would have resulted in an enormous mass fratricide, and you would have this all the time," said Jacobs. "Arming everybody in a civilian situation like at Fort Hood would result in a terrible, terrible tragedy, larger than this one."
Later in the segment, Lott repeatedly tried to interrupt Jacobs, with the MSNBC analyst responding, "Be quiet... please, don't be rude. Please, don't be rude... Be quiet."
Jacobs concluded: "No responsible commander would ever agree to arm all of his soldiers on post, that's all there is to it, and I know, I've commanded lots of troops in and out of combat."
Conservative media's recent smear that surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is controversial because he supports doctors discussing safe gun ownership with their patients is curious given frequent complaints from right-wing media -- albeit false -- that health care reform posed a threat to the inviolable doctor-patient relationship.
Gun researcher John Lott, an economist well known for his thoroughly discredited "More Guns, Less Crime" theory, is the latest member of right-wing media to offer baseless attacks on surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy. According to Lott, one of the "good reasons" to oppose Murthy is that he supports doctors advising parents to safely store firearms so they are inaccessible to children.
In recent weeks Murthy has come under attack from the National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media because, like the rest of the medical community, he believes gun violence is a public health concern. Murthy has said his concern about gun violence stems from his experiences as a doctor, but has also said that he would not "use the Surgeon General's office as a bully pulpit for gun control," and instead would make his top priority "obesity prevention."
Lott, pictured left of Jordan Davis' mother, Lucia McBath.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott attacked the presence of the mothers of deceased African-American teenagers Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis at a congressional hearing on Stand Your Ground, describing them as "props" used to make "the case that there was racial bias" in the controversial self-defense law.
On the October 30 edition of the National Rifle Association's news show Cam & Company, Lott said the two mothers "were there to go and try serve as props essentially for the case that there was racial bias in Stand Your Ground laws," before falsely claiming that the self-defense law had no relevance to either of their son's shooting deaths:
LOTT: Well I thought [the hearing] was somewhat surreal. Look, we had two very sympathetic witnesses that were there. Trayvon Martin's mom and another mother who had lost her son in a shooting, both of them were black, and they were there to go and try serve as props essentially for the case that there was racial bias in Stand Your Ground laws. As I say, it's very hard to say anything when you're having to deal with a mother who has lost her son, under any circumstances. I have five kids; I can't imagine what it would be like to deal with that situation.
The problem was, the reason why I was saying it was somewhat surreal is that neither of their cases really had anything to do with the debate over Stand Your Ground laws.
On October 29, Lott, along with Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton and Davis' mother Lucia McBath, testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Stand Your Ground that was held to examine a number of issues surrounding the law, including whether the law made it more likely for homicides of minorities to be ruled "justifiable."
Media coverage of the Senate hearing on the controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law should not ignore the role the law played in the acquittal of George Zimmerman, research indicating the negative consequences of the law, and that a hearing witness who favors Stand Your Ground has had his research widely discredited by academics.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott falsely claimed that "over 99 percent" of individuals who fail background checks to obtain a gun are law-abiding citizens, despite convincing evidence that the vast majority of denied individuals are prohibited by law from owning a gun.
On his October 26 appearance on CNN's New Day Saturday, Lott made untrue charges on background checks that are characteristic of his work. He often advocates for weaker gun laws by manipulating statistics about firearms and by touting his discredited research that purports to prove looser rules concerning the carrying of guns in public reduces crime.
Lott, a contributor to FoxNews.com, will testify before an October 29 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law while representing his new organization Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). Lott has previously mischaracterized "Stand Your Ground" in order to defend the law that played an important role in the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges that he unlawfully killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. CPRC's secretary is National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent who caused controversy by calling Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe," and used the Martin case to make disparaging remarks about the African-American community and endorse racial profiling.
Right-wing media continue to deny that President Obama's judicial nominees have faced unparalleled obstruction from congressional Republicans, and is mischaracterizing the legal philosophies of those nominees.
FoxNews.com contributor John Lott not only misled on the overwhelming hurdles President Obama's nominees have faced, he also rather bizarrely branded one nominee as "controversial," even though his legal opinions are based on well-established Supreme Court precedent.
From Lott's October 16 column:
The Senate Judiciary committee will vote on either Wednesday or Thursday whether to confirm Robert Wilkins, President Obama's nominee to the prestigious D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- the court often referred to after the Supreme Court as the "second highest court" in the country.
President Obama has spared little rhetoric in threatening Republicans should they dare defeat or delay Wilkins' nomination. When Wilkins was nominated in June, Obama accused Republicans of being "cynically" engaging in "unprecedented" obstruction of judicial nominations.
Democrats claim that any fair consideration would guarantee Wilkins' quick confirmation. After all, as they point out, Wilkins was quickly confirmed as a District Court judge in 2010 "without opposition."
But it might not be such smooth sailing, for after getting on the bench, Wilkins has made a number of controversial rulings -- recently striking down Texas' voter photo ID law and upholding aggregate campaign finance donation limits.
The president and other Democrats complain that Obama's nominees are suffering the most difficult confirmations ever. Many newspaper articles agree, such as in the New York Times, USA Today, and the Congressional Research Service.
But, these numbers are fundamentally flawed.
These studies don't look at what finally happens to nominees, only what happens at some arbitrary cut-off date, such as last fall or at the end of a president's first term.
In reality, many of the longest confirmation battles involve nominations made during a president's first term and not finished until some time during his second term.
A president's decision to make nominations late in a congressional cycle can also strongly influence the results.
Actually, President Obama has little to complain about.
But As Lott himself acknowledges, numerous analyses (including one by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service) have shown that President Obama's "rhetoric" is true -- his nominees have been blocked at unprecedented levels. Lott dismisses these studies by highly reputable sources because supposedly their "numbers are fundamentally flawed," a bold claim from a source whose research on gun violence has been repeatedly and seriously discredited.
Discredited gun advocate John Lott argued against a draft United Nations Arms Trade Treaty by invoking two debunked NRA conspiracy theories and claimed that it would lead to international regulation of gun ownership and national gun registries for lawful gun owners.
United Nations member states met this week to negotiate an international arms trade treaty with the stated objective of establishing "the highest possible common international standards for regulating" international trade in conventional arms and to "eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion." In a March 28 editorial on FoxNews.com, Lott claimed that the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) would "regulate individual gun ownership all across the world." He went on to say that the treaty would force countries to maintain "a national control list" so that they could regulate weapon brokering between states.
In fact, both the U.N. draft of the arms treaty and the Obama administration made clear that the agreement would not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens. The U.N. draft reaffirmed in its preamble " the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system." The U.S. Department of State added that the final treaty must not cross key "red lines" in order to receive U.S. support, which included that "the Second Amendment to the Constitution must be upheld" without infringements upon "sovereign control" of domestic gun laws:
Gun researcher John Lott's chapter on firearms in his new book titled, At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over The Edge?, is filled with inaccurate claims about guns and firearm policy. Lott makes a range of misleading or blatantly false statements, including that the worst school shootings in the world have not occurred in the United States and that concealed carry laws help prevent mass shootings.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards has taken on a media critic role to allege that news reports linking firearms to public safety concerns are inaccurate. The series of rebuttals offered by Edwards on his show Cam & Company, however, are rife with outright falsehoods and are debunked by peer reviewed research.
In five recent "Media Misinformation" segments, Edwards...
- ...cited the long-debunked research of criminologist Gary Kleck to claim that up to 2.5 million defensive gun uses occur each year while also pushing the false claim that loosening concealed gun carry laws reduces crime.
- ...falsely claimed that the United States ranks 28th among industrialized nations in terms of gun homicide rate when the U.S. actually ranks first in a more comparable study among high-income nations.
- ...used discredited research to attack an accurate claim by Mother Jones that guns in the home are more often used in criminal acts, accidents or suicides than for self-defense.
- ...made a flawed and anecdotal comparison to deny that increased gun availability is associated with increased firearm homicide.
- ...denied that a link exists between firearm access and suicide while suggesting that making firearms less accessible to a suicidal individual was not a plausible way to prevent a suicide attempt.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott claimed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) "dropped over 94 percent" of instances where an individual failed a criminal background check "after preliminary reviews" in order to discount accurate claims that the background check system has stopped over a million prohibited individuals from obtaining a firearm.
Lott's claim is a willful distortion of how the federal background check system works: once an individual is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) no gun sale occurs, regardless of whether the ATF takes further action.
On to [Senator Chuck] Schumer's second falsehood -- the claim that checks have stopped 1.7 million prohibited sales. In fact, these were only "initial denials," not people prevented from buying guns.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dropped over 94 percent of those "initial denials" after preliminary reviews. Further review cleared at least a fifth of the other 6 percent.
Lott would have his audience believe that because ATF does not take further action after most denials that the background check system did not actually stop "1.7 million prohibited sales." This claim is blatantly false as a denial means that the sale cannot be completed.
From the January 26 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Gun researcher and FoxNews.com columnist John Lott is ignoring the evidence in an attempt to undermine claims from supporters of strengthening gun laws that a large percentage of guns are purchased without the buyer undergoing a background check.
In a National Review Online article, Lott wrote that President Obama's recent claim that "as many as 40 percent of guns are purchased without a background check" is false, instead stating that "it closer to 10 percent." However, research shows that significant numbers of firearms are in fact sold without a background check - perhaps a figure greater than the 40 percent cited by Obama.
It is true that the 40 percent figure is based on a 1994 poll with a small survey sample, and that the authors of the study have said that they estimated that the actual figure for gun sales from private sellers ranges from 30 to 40 percent of all sales. But no data has been compiled that contradicts that figure, while several more recent data points support a figure in that range.
In finding that the "40 percent" statistic is "Mostly True," Politifact pointed out that neither the National Rifle Association nor the National Shooting Sports Foundation, groups that oppose expanding background checks to private sales, provided data contradicting that figure.
As Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler reported, part of the problem in obtaining up-to-date figures on the private sales of firearms is that National Rifle Association lobbyists have been successful in convincing Congress to block funding for such research. In his analysis of the 40 percent figure, Kessler quoted one of the authors of the 1994 study, Jens Ludwig, who stated, "While there is no perfect estimate in social science, we'd have a better estimate for this proportion had the federal government not decided to get out of the business of supporting research on guns and gun violence several years ago."
But the data that has been made available since the 1994 report lends credence to that estimate. For example, a 2012 analysis of how handguns are sold in Michigan, the Michigan State Police reported that 48 percent of all handguntransfers in the state are conducted through private sales where no background check is required. Criminals in particular tend to seek weapons from sources where they are not subject to background checks - only 11 percent of inmates incarcerated for gun crimes said that they got the weapon from a licensed gun dealer, according to a 2004 survey.
Data from the gun industry itself also suggests sales without a background check are commonplace. According to 2010 data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, only 45 percent of assault weapon owners reported buying their firearm from a retail location, including independent and chain retail stores. Approximately half of respondents reported buying their firearm from venues where a background check is not necessarily required, including over the Internet, from gun shows, or through a face-to-face sale.