During a May 1 appearance on MSNBC's Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, discredited gun "researcher" John Lott continued his whirlwind media tour in defense of the "Kill At Will" law (called "Stand Your Ground" by its proponents) that has been linked to the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. In his appearance, Lott reiterated many of the misleading claims he pushed in his April 25 op-ed for the New York Daily News defending the controversial law.
Lott began his appearance by suggesting that prior to the widespread codification of "Kill At Will," victims of serious crimes had a duty to retreat from an attacker at his or her own peril. He told Todd, "You have to understand where the laws were before. Before people had to retreat as far as possible before they could go and act in self-defense." Just because Lott repeats this falsehood over and over does not make it true. States that did require duty to retreat largely did so only under the narrow circumstance where the victim could do so safely. What Lott is attempting to do is to set his defense of "Stand Your Ground" upon the premise that these laws were enacted to fix an existing problem. His argument, however, is not credible because it seriously mischaracterizes basic legal principles of self-defense.
Discredited gun "researcher" John Lott has done it again. In an April 25th op-ed for the New York Daily News, Lott strongly defended the "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law that is at the center of the shooting death of 17-year-old Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Lott provides a number of distortions about "Stand Your Ground" in voicing support for the law.
Lott opens his piece by stating, "Call them what you will: 'Stand Your Ground' or 'Castle Doctrine' laws." In doing so, he is grouping together two laws that are in fact radically different - this faulty conflation is at the center of his entire argument. For example, Lott later claims that "In states adopting Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws from 1977 to 2005, murder rates fell by 9% and overall violent crime by 11%." But "Stand Your Ground" largely was not implemented until after 2005, making his point meaningless.
For some reason The New York Times decided to give a trend piece on concealed carry clothing for the "fashion aware gun owner" prime placement on the front page of today's paper. Shockingly, the Times decided that the piece was not complete without commentary from economist and gun researcher John Lott:
After a campaign by gun rights advocates, 37 states now have ''shall issue'' statutes that require them to provide concealed-carry permits if an applicant meets legal requirements, like not being a felon. (A handful of other states allow the concealed carrying of handguns without a permit). By contrast, in 1984 only 8 states had such statutes, and 15 did not allow handgun carrying at all, said John Lott, a researcher of gun culture who has held teaching or research posts at a number of universities, including the University of Chicago. ...
A majority of states have long allowed the open carrying of handguns, said Mr. Lott, who also provided the data on gun permits. But the reality, said Mr. Lott and other gun experts, is that people do not want to show others that they are carrying a weapon or invite sharp questioning from the police.
It's curious that the Times went to Lott for comment, given that the paper has previously noted that studies of his work "have found serious flaws in his data and methodology."
Lott first gained fame in the 1990s for his claim that the passage of laws allowing for the concealed carry of handguns causes levels of violent crime to drop -- a claim that hassince been debunked. Lott has since been convincingly alleged to have fabricated data to claim that 98 percent of defensive gun uses don't involve the firing of a weapon, cited data that doesn't exist to claim that the end of the assault weapons ban reduced murders, altered blog posts after the fact to eliminate false claims for which he had been criticized, and invented facts that don't appear in a study he cited, among other instances of fabricated, misrepresented, and sloppy research.
Notably, as the Times noted in 2006, Lott "acknowledged in 2003 using the online pseudonym 'Mary Rosh' for more than three years to attack his critics and praise his own work."
Was there really no one else the Times could have found to provide data on how many states allowed concealed carry permits in the 1980s? And does the Times truly think that describing Lott as a "researcher of gun culture" is sufficient?
Long discredited gun researcher John Lott recently took to FoxNews.com to push for weakened restrictions on carrying concealed guns. Not surprisingly Lott again uses distorted anecdotes to support the gun lobby favored National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act. In fact, the same examples Lott cites to suggest gun laws are unreasonably punitive and inflexible actually show that even in states where gun charges can lead to stiff penalties, prosecutors have used discretion to avoid excessive punishments.
The legislation in question would force any state that issues its residents permits to carry concealed guns to accept the concealed-carry permits of all the other states -- no matter how weak the standards for getting a permit in those states. Several law enforcement associations have spoken out against the National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act suggesting it would "endanger" police officers and "compromise public safety."
Lott focuses on two prominent cases where travelers to New York were arrested on gun charges. In both cases the individuals had concealed carry permits from their home states that were not valid in New York, and were voluntarily seeking to check their guns with authorities. Standards to carry concealed guns vary among states and states like New York with stronger restrictions sometimes don't accept permits from other states with less stringent restrictions. Lott's inaccurate description of these cases largely serves to falsely create the appearance that without concealed carry reciprocity, New York guns laws result in long jail terms for accidental offenders without consideration of possible mitigating factors.
Just a few days before Christmas, Meredith Graves made a mistake that could end her medical career and send her to prison for at least 3 ½ years. The 39-year-old fourth-year medical student was carrying a permitted concealed handgun when she saw the sign at the 9/11 Memorial saying "No guns allowed." She did the responsible thing and asked a security guard where she could check her weapon. Unfortunately, while her Tennessee concealed carry license is recognized in 40 states, New York isn't one of them. Meredith was arrested.
Just a week earlier, Californian Mark Meckler told LaGuardia Airport officials that he had licensed handgun in a locked safe in checked baggage. At virtually any other airport in the country, checking a gun locked in a box wouldn't be a problem. Meckler was arrested and charged with second-degree possession of an illegal weapons. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the local District Attorneys don't seem interested in showing mercy. They take a zero tolerance approach towards these mistakes.
However, four days before Lott's opinion piece was published, Meckler reached a plea agreement allowing him to pay a $250 fine for disorderly conduct with the gun charge conditionally dropped if Meckler stays out of trouble for a year.
A spokesman for the New York Port Authority police also challenged the suggestion that Meckler's violation was exclusively related to bringing the gun to the airport saying, "It's not a case that Mr. Meckler was in transit. He was in New York for several days having that weapon illegally. The bottom line is he violated the law."
The details of Graves' case doesn't support Lott's depiction of New York prosecutors taking a zero tolerance approach to honest mistakes either.
While her case hasn't been resolved yet, six days before Lott's piece was published The New York Post reported that Manhattan prosecutors were trying to work out a plea deal with Graves that according to sources cited by the paper could include no jail time. New York prosecutors also showed discretion in the case of a Maryland man accused of illegal gun possession, working out a deal in exchange for a misdemeanor plea involving no jail time earlier this month.
These cases show that when concealed carry permit holders from other states violate New York's laws unintentionally, there are already mechanisms in place to shield them from serious punitive action, without the passage of dramatic new national legislation.
Yesterday long discredited gun researcher John Lott took to FoxNews.com to push the National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act, which the House of Representatives is voting on this afternoon. The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act would force states that issue residents permits to carry concealed guns to accept permits from any other state regardless of how weak the standards used by that state.
Lott's main argument was the idea that forcing states to recognize permits to carry concealed guns from other states was just like states recognizing out of state driver licenses. Generally the idea that permits to carry concealed guns are like driver licenses is absurd. Licensing, insurance, training, enforcement and registration requirements are vastly different for driver licenses and permits to carry concealed guns.
Beyond that broader concern, issues with Lott's comparison include the fact that his description of Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey's recent congressional testimony completely misrepresents the facts behind Ramsey's objections to the National Right-Carry Reciprocity Act.
In testimony before the House in September, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey raised two concerns.
First, he gave an example where a Pennsylvania resident with a misdemeanor conviction had been obtained a concealed handgun permit in Florida. However, his example overlooks that because the conviction was quite old, the person could have obtained a Pennsylvania license if he had so chosen.
Commissioner Ramsey also raised a hypothetical case: "How is the Brookfield officer supposed to verify that the Utah permit is real and up-to-date?" The answer is: the same way as for a driver's license -- via computer.
This is an amazingly inaccurate description of the case Ramsey cited. Ramsey cited the case of Marqus Hill, who is currently under indictment for murder after shooting a car burglar 13 times. Lott's assertion that Hill could have gotten a Pennsylvania permit is expressly contradicted by the facts. As reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer Hill lost his Pennsylvania permit and an appeal to have his permit restored:
When police stripped Marqus Hill of his permit to carry a gun in Philadelphia after a 2005 confrontation with officers, Hill didn't let that stop him: He just applied for a firearms license from Florida.
Though police said Hill had lost a 2008 appeal to win back his Philadelphia permit and reacted by assaulting a police officer in court, Florida mailed him a gun license last year.
Also Hill pled guilty to disorderly conduct related to his outburst at the hearing in 2008, whereas Lott suggests his only conviction was "quite old."
While Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast, an op-ed at FoxNews.com advocated for eliminating the National Weather Service, a government agency that provides weather data and forecasts for public and private use. In the piece, the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Iain Murray and David Bier laughably complain that the National Weather Service "hijacks local radio and television stations" to "force" potentially lifesaving weather warnings on the public, and claim the NWS "may actually be dangerous."
To support this claim, CEI suggests the NWS did a poor job predicting Hurricane Katrina. In fact, two days before the hurricane hit New Orleans, the NWS reportedly predicted the hurricane's strength with "unusual" accuracy, and the director of NWS's National Hurricane Center personally warned the Mayor of New Orleans and the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana. Republican Senator Jim DeMint praised the NWS for their early and accurate forecast, saying it "saved countless lives along the Gulf Coast."
From the May 20 edition of Fox Business' Freedom Watch:
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The saga of John Lott continues. After falsely accusing Media Matters of misquoting him, John Lott is now falsely accusing us of doctoring screen shots of his blog posts.
Lott also criticized Obama for a request made by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) citing an out-of-date article, saying that the Obama administration has "also imposed much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns." [Emphasis added]
In fact, the Obama administration has not imposed the regulation in question. The proposed regulation by the ATF has been repeatedly delayed by the Obama administration, which most recently rejected the ATF's request to enact the proposal as an emergency regulation.
In fact, my quote is "They have also tried imposing much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns." Besides, even if the point had been honestly misread, if someone has tried to check the link, the point would have been clear. Nice try Media Matters. [Emphasis added]
Last week, we reported that John Lott, a former University of Chicago visiting assistant professor and conservative media pundit, wrongly accused Media Matters of misquoting him. In fact, after we accurately quoted a post Lott had written, Lott's post mysteriously changed, making it appear we had misquoted him, when we had not.
The switch was picked up by Paul Krugman at The New York Times, who wrote:
So, it appears that Lott retroactively tried to put his original statement down the memory hole, then accused a critic of wronging him by quoting what he originally said. Now, that's scholarship!
Brad DeLong, a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, also impugned Lott's apparent dishonesty.
But Lott's shoddy scholarship last week wasn't just limited to this incident. He also pushed a new version of his factually challenged claim that the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) -- which is used to determine if someone is legally allowed to purchase a gun -- is highly inaccurate, writing:
Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the law were "false positives" - law-abiding citizens incorrectly identified as banned individuals.
Take the numbers for 2008, the latest year with data available. The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns being referred to prosecutors. Of those 147 cases, prosecutors thought the evidence was strong enough to prosecute only 105, and they won convictions in just 43. But few of these 43 cases involved career criminals or those who posed real threats. The typical case was someone who had a misdemeanor conviction for an offense he didn't realize prevented him from buying a gun.
John Lott, a gun policy researcher that freqeuntly appears on conservative media outlets, has taken to his website to respond to a recent post of mine pointing out two misleading claims he made about the Obama Administration. Lott now accuses me of misquoting what he wrote in a March 18 Big Government post. In fact, I quoted Lott accurately, but someone subsequently altered his Big Government post, making it appear that I was wrong.
On March 22, I wrote [emphasis added]:
Lott also criticized Obama for a request made by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) citing an out-of-date article, saying that the Obama administration has "also imposed much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns."
In fact, the Obama administration has not imposed the regulation in question. The proposed regulation by the ATF has been repeatedly delayed by the Obama administration, which most recently rejected the ATF's request to enact the proposal as an emergency regulation. The administration will decide on approval in April, if no further delays occur. If enacted the proposal would require gun shops along the Mexican border to report multiple sales of certain classes of rifles, such as AK-47s or AR-15s, made within a five-day period.
Lott responds [emphasis in original]:
In fact, my quote is "They have also tried imposing much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns." Besides, even if the point had been honestly misread, if someone has tried to check the link, the point would have been clear. Nice try Media Matters.
Sure enough, Lott's March 18 Big Government piece now reads, "They have also tried imposing much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns." That's what it says today, anyway. But that's not what it said when the article was published. Here's a screen shot showing how the article appeared on March 22 when I wrote the criticism:
John Lott responded to a post here at Media Matters that debunked his assertions that, "Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows," and that "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns."
It is apparent from his history that John Lott does not understand the basic concepts of science,statistics or ethics, so it is not surprising that his latest post offers as "proof" only a reassertion of the debunked claims.
First is his attempt to reassert that background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns:
LOTT: "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns." These guys at Media Matters are pretty dense because they seem to believe that these initial denials are stops that involve criminals when in fact they are almost all false positives. Over 99.9 percent of those purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the law were later determined to be misidentified. Take the numbers for 2008 (http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/231052.pdf), the latest year for which data are available. The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns.
In our original piece we used FBI data that shows that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has in fact stopped 800,000 sales since 1998-- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals.
Lott asserts that we must be pretty dense to think that these 800,000 instances "involve criminals." He states that "[o]ver 99.9 percent of those purchases initially flagged as being illegal" were later determined to be misidentified.
Lott is either willfully or ignorantly misunderstanding the background check system. The federal background check system prohibits certain buyers, such as convicted felons, anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence, and other categories. The NICS system is set up to prohibit certain buyers from obtaining weapons, during the course of the background check sometimes the NICS system identifies persons who are then prosecuted.
M. Kristen Rand, Legislative Director for the Violence Policy Center explains further:
RAND: The act of trying to buy a gun when you are in a prohibited category is not a crime per se. The bottom line is that when Lott says "The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns," he is not accurately describing the category.
The 78,906 represents the universe of denials evaluated for referral for potential prosecution. Of those, 5,573 were referred to ATF field divisions for further review. Ultimately, the field offices referred 147 cases to prosecutors. This has absolutely nothing to do with whether the NICS accurately identified the 1 percent of people denied for being in a prohibited category, e.g. the system identifies that a buyer has a felony record and the transfer is denied. That person is a "banned individuals trying to purchase guns," as Lott describes it. The fact that that person is not later singled out for prosecution is irrelevant to the fact that he is in fact a prohibited purchaser.
Bottom line is that the NICS system and the background check system in place before NICS prevented1.9 million attempted gun purchases by prohibited persons, convicted felons, domestic violence offenders and other prohibited groups. So yes, in fact background checks do keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
At first glance, it might seem problematic that this Newsmax piece about gun regulations makes flat assertions about gun sales without referencing any data or citing any sources. But when you consider that the author of the post, John Lott, has been caught using fraudulent data, lying about it, and using a fake internet persona to tout his bogus work, the lack of specificity may actually be a positive: At least Lott didn't fake a study to support his assertions. Unfortunately, that appears to be the result of laziness rather than a newfound commitment to the truth.
Lott asserts "Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows." He offers no data or expert opinion to support this contention. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, on the other hand, has concluded:
The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... Firearms that were illegally diverted at or through gun shows were recovered in subsequent crimes, including homicide and robbery, in more than a third of the gun show investigations.
So, on the one hand, we have the unsupported assertion of a person who has previously been caught using fraudulent data about guns ... and on the other, we have a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.
Next, Lott asserts: "Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns." Again, Lott just expects readers to trust him. Now, just because Lott has previously used bogus data and lied about it doesn't mean he isn't telling the truth this time. Still, it's probably a good idea to check in with the FBI on this one. According to the FBI, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has denied more than 800,000 sales -- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals. Another 100,000 were either fugitives from justice or the subjects of restraining orders for domestic violence. So, John Lott, who has been caught using bogus data, says background checks don't stop criminals from getting guns. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that has happened 600,000 times. Who to believe?
More Lott: "With all the delays found in background checks, this imposes a real cost on law-abiding citizens who need guns quickly for protection and a one, two or three day delay can take the prevent a sale from even taking place at a gun show." Again, Lott offers no data or citations. Contrary to his suggestion that background checks routinely involve onerous delays, the FBI says that more than 90 percent of NICS background checks are completed immediately -- while the seller is still on the phone. That's why they're called "Instant criminal background checks."
UPDATE 3/31/2011: from the author of the report titled, "Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2008: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearms Applicants Denied by a NICS check in 2008.", which Lott cites to justify the NICS inaccuracy claim.
You [Media Matters] asked me if it was accurate for an article to state that "Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the [Brady] law were 'false positives' - law-abiding citizens incorrectly identified as banned individuals." That statement cannot be supported by statistics on Brady Act background checks that have been collected since 1999.
A person whose firearm transfer application is denied by a background check pursuant to the Brady Act may appeal the denial. Statistics on appeals of denials have been collected since 1999 in a series of publications entitled Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, and are summarized in Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008. During that ten year period, nearly 1.5 million firearm transfer applications were denied and nearly 237,000 of those denials were appealed. Over 86,000 appeals resulted in a reversal of the denial, which would calculate to about 6% of the 1.5 million denials. Some of the reversals may have occurred because a person was mistakenly identified as being prohibited; however, no data is available on the reasons for reversals. The URL for Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008 is http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/231187.pdf.
John Lott has penned a FoxNews.com op-ed criticizing as "a mess" a recent University of Maryland study which found that Fox News viewers were more likely to be misinformed than those who did not watch the network. However, the op-ed makes its case by misinforming readers on the economic stimulus, health care reform, and climate science.
Numerous media outlets seized on a dubious January London Sunday Times report which claimed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 statement on Amazon rain forests was "unsubstantiated" and without scientific basis in order to attack the IPCC's credibility and global warming science in general. However, The Sunday Times has now retracted that claim, noting, "In fact, the IPCC's Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence." Will these media outlets follow suit?
Following President Obama's January 21 proposal to limit the size and risk-taking behaviors of banks, right-wing media figures have cited the recent dip in the stock market to criticize Obama's plan. However, economic and financial experts have said that a decline in financial stocks is not an indication that regulation is ill-advised and that stock market fluctuations do not necessarily represent the broader health of the economy.