John Lott

Tags ››› John Lott
  • Trump Echoes Conservative Media’s False “Gun-Free Zone” Talking Point

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump echoed conservative media’s tendency to blame mass shootings on so-called “gun-free zones,” saying of the June 12 attack at gay nightclub Pulse that left 49 dead, “if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.” In fact, the gunman engaged in a firefight with three police officers during the massacre at the the Orlando, Florida, nightclub. 

  • Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott Calls It "Inflammatory" To Point Out San Bernardino Was The 355th Mass Shooting This Year In The U.S.

    CNN's Carol Costello: "Oh, John, Let's Be Serious, There Are Too Many Mass Shootings In This Country"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott called CNN host Carol Costello's citation of the fact that there have been 355 mass shootings in the United States in 2015 "inflammatory," causing an incredulous Costello tell Lott to "be serious" about the problem of mass shootings.

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics, who found serious flaws in his research.

    On the December 3 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Costello asked Lott how Democrats and Republicans can "come up with a plan together" to stop mass shootings, noting that according to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have been 355 shootings in the United States this year where four or more people were shot. Lott characterized Costello's citation of the figure as "inflammatory," causing a visibly exasperated Costello to tell Lott to "be serious" because "there are too many mass shootings in this country":

    CAROL COSTELLO (HOST): That's how this incident is being reported overseas. The BBC calling it "just another day of gun violence in the United States." And according to at least one unofficial tally, the numbers support that claim. ShootingTracker.com -- which defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people, including the gunman, are killed or injured by gunfire -- says San Bernardino was 355th. The 355th mass shooting this year alone. It was also, according to ShootingTracker's definition, the second worst mass shooting in the United States. The first took place early Wednesday morning in Savannah, Georgia, where a gunman killed one and wounded three others. So, let's talk about guns in America. John Lott is the founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of More Guns, Less Crimes. Good morning, John.

    JOHN LOTT: Good morning.

    COSTELLO: John, you know gun rights advocates and those in favor of more gun laws, they always talk at cross purposes. They can't seem to get on the same page. And I guess I don't feel like having an argument with you this morning. I kind of just want to find out how we can stop these shootings together. How can both sides come up with a plan together?

    LOTT: Well, sure. I mean, if you have proposals you want to talk about, I'm happy to do so. I suppose, part of it, though, is inflammatory claims, such as the two that you just went through from the BBC, as well as the tracking numbers there. I mean, first of all, these occur at about the same rate in Europe --

    COSTELLO: Oh, John, let's be serious. There are too many mass shootings in this country. John, let's be clear. There are too many shootings in this country.

    LOTT: Well, I'm just saying --

    COSTELLO: We've seen several in the past couple of weeks.

    LOTT: We should be accurate.

    COSTELLO: So let's just concentrate on that. There's a lot of gun violence in this country. We can all agree on that.

    LOTT: But the point was, I was just saying in order -- there's a reason why you started with those two things. I'm just saying, just to be accurate, Europe has about the same rate of mass public shootings as we have here in the United States. France, this year, has had 508 people killed or wounded in mass public shootings. In the entire Obama presidency, there has been a total of 424. And this tracking number that you just had, the vast majority of those are gang fights, which are bad. Gang fights over drug turf are bad things. But it's, I think, misleading.

    COSTELLO: John, let's just concentrate on the matter at hand: gun violence in the United States and how we can stop it. And how we can prevent these mass shootings, how we can prevent mentally imbalanced people from getting a hold of guns. How can we do that? How can we all get on the same page?

    LOTT: Right. Well, I think you're going to have a hard time stopping terrorists or others from getting a hold of weapons. I mean, if you really believe someone is a danger to others, you should lock them up. But simply going and telling them they're not going to be able to legally buy a gun when these individuals, such as the ones in San Bernardino, I wouldn't be surprised if they were planning this a year or more in advance. It's very common for these types of mass public shootings to be planned at least six months, and sometimes even a couple years in advance. And if somebody's planning that long in advance, they're going to make the pipe bombs. They're gonna go and get a hold of the other the weapons that are there and this is very difficult to stop them. The question is, what's your backup plan? What do you do when you can't stop these individuals from making these types of weapons? And I hope we're beginning to get to the place where we allow individuals to go and defend themselves. California, it's extremely difficult for anybody to go and get a concealed carry permit, to be able to go and defend themselves against these types of attacks. The type of attack that occurred at Planned Parenthood on Friday or this or at the Oregon school or all places where --

    COSTELLO: But let's be honest about one thing, John. Two of the weapons that these suspects used were purchased legally. In fact, all the guns, as far as we know, were purchased legally. So even though there are tight gun controls in the state of California, it's still easy to buy a high-powered weapon in the United States. And that's because there are so many guns out there. Over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, 185,000 firearms were purchased. That's a record for the holiday season. Lots and lots of people have guns in this country. Yet these mass shootings keep happening. So, how can more guns be the answer?

    LOTT: Well, the question is where people are allowed to have guns. If you ban guns from certain areas, people like these killers don't -- aren't stopped by the bans. The people who obey the laws are law abiding good citizens, who are no longer able to defend themselves, who are essentially sitting ducks. You make it safer for the attackers to go and commit these crimes because they don't have to worry about law-abiding citizens being able to stop them.

    COSTELLO: Alright. I have to leave it there, John.

  • Fox's Stossel Attempts To Rehab Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott With False Characterization Of National Research Council Study

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Fox Business host John Stossel defended discredited research conducted by John Lott that found more guns equal less crime by falsely claiming Lott's finding had been "replicated" by the National Research Council (NRC).

    In fact, when NRC examined Lott's work in 2004, it found there was "no credible evidence" for Lott's conclusions.

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research.

    In his December 2 syndicated column, Stossel wrote that the accusation that Lott's research has been "discredited" is a "smear." Stossel noted that "Media Matters for America called Lott 'discredited' at least 40 times."

    In defending Lott's research, Stossel wrote, "Lott's 'More Guns, Less Crime' study has been replicated often, including by the National Research Council and even by some critics."

    That never happened. One of the "major conclusions" of a 2004 study issued by the NRC was that "despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime." The study exhaustively examined Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" theory in reaching this conclusion. (NRC's report also did not "replicate" research, instead it submitted existing research to examination by experts.)

    Lott was unhappy with NRC's analysis of his work, and issued a response claiming that the committee members "favored gun control" and suggested that "the National Academy is so completely unable to separate politics from its analyses that it simply can't accept the results for what they are."

    In turn, the NRC's executive officer published a letter claiming Lott's response to NRC "contained significant errors" while disputing Lott's claims about the supposedly biased backgrounds of committee members and defending the objectivity of NRC's work.

    Critics have replicated Lott's work, but not in the way that Stossel describes. One 2003 analysis of Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" thesis found that correcting significant coding errors in Lott's work completely undermined his conclusions. In fact, after correcting these errors the data suggested that if anything more permissive concealed carry laws increase crime.

    Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" theory has been repeatedly discredited. David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, offered numerous critiques of Lott's data set in his 2003 book Public Guns Public Health, including descriptions of bizarre scenarios that demonstrated the volatility of Lott's data (emphasis added):

    Many of the results for the other control variables do not make sense. For example, the results show both that increasing the rate of unemployment and reducing income will significantly reduce the rate of violent crime. The results indicate that reducing the number of middle-aged and elderly black women (who are rarely either perpetrators or victims of murder) will substantially reduce homicide rates. Indeed, according to the results, a decrease of 1 percentage point in the percentage of the population that is black, female, and aged forty to forty-nine is associated with a 59 percent decrease in homicide (and a 74 percent increase in rape). [Hemenway, Private Guns Public Health, pg. 244]

    According to the most recent credible research, permissive concealed carry laws actually increase violent crime, particularly aggravated assault.

    In his piece, Stossel stretched in other places to defend Lott. In one instance he described calling attention to an incident Lott was involved in a "smear" despite acknowledging that the claim about Lott is "actually true":

    Barrett continued her smear: Lott "actually impersonated a student ... to say what a great professor he is."

    That's actually true. On the Internet, Lott once posed as a student to praise his own course. Dumb, yes. Deceitful, too. But it doesn't "discredit" all his research.

  • Prominent Gun Advocate John Lott Was Twice Interviewed By Anti-Semitic Newspaper

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott was twice interviewed about mass shootings by the anti-Semitic publication American Free Press (AFP). In one instance, Lott was interviewed by Victor Thorn, the author of The Holocaust Hoax Exposed: Debunking The 20th Century's Greatest Fabrication. In the other instance, Lott was interviewed by Keith Johnson, who has called President Obama "the house nigger for the Jews."

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research. (Reputable research indicates that permissive concealed carry laws do not reduce crime and may actually increase the occurrence of aggravated assault.)

    Lott was interviewed by Thorn in August 2012, just days after a gunman killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others during a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. In his interview, Lott pushed the debunked conservative media talking point that places where guns are not allowed attract mass violence:

    During a July 25 interview with this writer [Victor Thorn], Lott expanded on this notion.

    "Guns were banned from the movie theater where that shooting took place," said Lott. "So, law-abiding citizens obeyed, but the criminal didn't. Obviously, these gun-free zones make it easier for lawbreakers to engage in this type of violent behavior, producing the opposite effect of what we want to see happen."

    Thorn has repeatedly promoted the conspiracy theory that the Aurora shooting was an event staged by the government. In an article published at AFP two weeks before his interview with Lott, Thorn suggested that a "federal operation" was behind the shooting, arguing that, "The high-profile mass murder in Aurora, Colorado doesn't add up." Thorn continued, suggesting that James Holmes, who was sentenced to life in prison for carrying out the attack in August 2015, was a "patsy" or alternately had been brainwashed by the government into carrying out the attack.

    Thorn has continued to promote conspiracy theories about the Aurora mass shooting. In an April 2015 article, Thorn interviewed an anonymous engineer who theorized that multiple gunmen carried out the attack based on "anomalies" in law enforcement's account of the shooting.

    Similar to his Aurora conspiracy theory, he has also suggested that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was staged by the government.

    Beyond his mass shooting conspiracy theories, Thorn is a prominent anti-Semite who has been accused by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of "promoting anti-government and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories." A summary of his book, The Holocaust Hoax Exposed: Debunking The 20th Century's Greatest Fabrication, states that it purportedly exposes "the mythology surrounding 'concentration camps,' the truth about Zyklon B, Anne Frank's fable, how the absurd 'six million' figure has become a laughingstock, and the betrayal by maniacal Zionists of their own Jewish people that led to their deaths." AFP lavished praise on the book writing, "Once again, with THE HOLOCAUST HOAX EXPOSED: DEBUNKING THE 20TH CENTURY'S BIGGEST LIE, our expectations have been met -- even exceeded. In 25 concise chapters he demolishes once and for all the Zionist-Jewish Holocaust fable."

    In another release, Thorn argued that Israel was responsible for the 9-11 terrorist attacks in his book MADE IN ISRAEL: 9-11 And The Jewish Plot Against America.

    AFP is a well-known anti-Semitic organization that has drawn condemnation from ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). SPLC describes AFP as an "anti-Semitic weekly" that "was founded by Holocaust denier Willis Carto." ADL called Carto "one of the most influential American anti-Semitic propagandists" and "the mastermind of the hate network."

    Lott was interviewed by another AFP writer, Keith Johnson, in January 2014 to argue that mass shooters are influenced to carry out their attacks by a copycat effect.

    During the September 4, 2012 broadcast of his anti-Semitic radio show, Johnson said, "Yeah, I did deliberately call Barack Obama -- the word nigger would apply, or house nigger -- and the reason I say that, folks, is because that's not how I consider him, well wait a minute, it all depends on the context, but what I am trying to say is that's how he is viewed and if I was to see Obama, I would tell him, 'You're the house nigger for the Jews.'"

    In July 2012, Thorn appeared on Johnson's radio show where they both promoted Holocaust denial conspiracy theories.

  • In New Series Examining Gun Violence, CBS Evening News Gives A Platform To Discredited Misinformers

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A new CBS Evening News' series that examines gun violence in America has featured prominent conservative misinformers on the issue, including a guest who once suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government. While "Voices Against Violence" has also featured advocates for stronger gun laws, CBS has given airtime to Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt -- whose group has donated money to a white supremacist group -- and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, who has raised the idea of justifiable armed revolution against the government and is well-known for his inflammatory commentary, such as that Hillary Clinton "is willing to prostitute herself to secure the black vote."

  • CNN Allows Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott To Push 5 Myths About Guns In 7-Minute Interview

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott made numerous false claims about guns -- covering "gun-free zones," gun suicides, and whether loose gun laws deter crime -- during an appearance on CNN focused on the mass shooting at an Oregon community college.

    During the October 2 broadcast of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, host Carol Costello said, "I don't really want to have a debate this morning, I actually want to have a conversation, so I've invited John Lott." Lott, whose infamous research linking permissive gun laws to lower crime rates has been thoroughly discredited, then proceeded to use the segment as an opportunity to push numerous falsehoods about the October 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC) where a gunman killed nine people and wounded seven others.

    Lott Falsely Claims Guns Were "Banned" At Umpqua Community College, Is Contradicted By Actual Facts Of The Shooting

    Of the Oregon shooting, Lott claimed, "The one thing in common" with this and other recent mass shootings "is to notice that yesterday, just like in all these other cases, they occur where guns are banned, where citizens are aren't able to go and defend themselves."

    Lott's claim that guns were "banned" at UCC is not accurate. While the school's policy prohibits guns inside of its buildings, Oregon law allows people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on the grounds of public colleges and universities. In fact, a student who also happened to be a U.S. military veteran was carrying a gun on campus at the time of the shooting and described on MSNBC why he and other veterans he was with decided not to intervene, explaining, "Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't have known who we were, if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were bad guys."

    Lott's broader claim that mass shootings typically happen where guns are not allowed is also false. Of 134 mass shootings documented by Everytown for Gun Safety between January 2009 and July 2015, only 13 percent occurred where guns could not be carried:

    Claims about "gun-free zones" are predictable talking points for Lott and other gun advocates following mass shootings, but the alleged connection is a red herring because there is no evidence that people with concealed guns stop mass shootings.

    Lott's False Claim That Mass Killers Pick Targets Based On Whether Guns Are Allowed Is Contradicted By Analysis Of 70 Public Mass Shootings

    At another point in the CNN interview, Lott said, "I don't know how many explicit statements these killers have to make about how they chose targets where they knew people weren't able to go and defending themselves," citing the comments of other mass shooters and the diary of the gunman responsible for the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.

    The claim that mass shooters pick their targets based on whether guns are allowed is false. Mother Jones' Mark Follman dismantled that theory in an article debunking Lott's claims about the Aurora gunman's diary: "As I reported in an investigation into nearly 70 mass shootings in the United States over three decades, there has never been any known evidence of gun laws influencing a mass shooter's strategic thinking."

    Instead, Follman found "the vast majority of the perpetrators have indicated other specific motivations for striking their targets, such as employment grievances or their connection to a school."

    Lott's False Claim That Suicidal Individuals Will Find Ways To Commit Suicide Even If A Gun Isn't Available Is Contradicted By 90 Studies

    Lott used his appearance to push several other gun-related falsehoods. On suicides-by-gun, which claim nearly 20,000 American lives per year, Lott said, "To go and think that some type of gun control regulations that are being talked about are going to stop somebody from committing suicide, when there are so many other ways for people to commit suicide."

    Again, this is not true. Gun suicides are typically successful, resulting in death 85 percent of the time, while other methods of attempting suicide result in death just 9 percent of the time. According to a review of 90 studies on the long-term outcomes of individuals who survived a suicide attempt, 89 to 95 percent did not become future victims of suicide.

    Lott's False Claim That Murder Rates Always Rise In Places Where Guns Are Banned Is Contradicted By The Very Examples He Cites

    Another false claim Lott pushed on CNN was about gun bans and murder rates. Lott said, "Here's a simple fact, every place in the world that's banned guns, not just Washington D.C. and Chicago when we had our bans, but every place that has banned guns has seen murder rates go up." Like Lott's claim about mass shootings and so-called "gun-free zones," this claim is a red herring, namely because gun bans like the one that existed in Washington D.C. and Chicago are unconstitutional in the United States and are irrelevant to serious policy discussions on gun laws.

    Lott's citation of Washington D.C. is highly misleading, as well. The District of Columbia banned ownership of handguns from 1976 until 2008. While the murder rate in D.C. was slightly lower in 1976 compared to 2008, that doesn't tell the whole story. Significantly, in each of the five years preceding D.C.'s handgun ban, the murder rate was higher compared to where the murder rate stood in 2008 after more than 30 years of banning handgun ownership.

    And Lott's citation of Chicago is totally false: the murder rate in 1982, the year the city's gun ban went into effect was significantly higher compared to 2010, when the ban ended.

    Lott's False Claim Most Academic Studies Support His Claims Is Contradicted By Survey Of Academics

    Offering another sweeping falsehood, Lott also claimed, "Most of the academic work out there finds that increases in concealed handgun permits, increases in gun ownership, generally is associated with reduced crime."

    Lott's claim that more guns equal less crime is actually the minority view, and his thesis has been debunked time and time again. Reputable research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center that looked at numerous studies concluded that where there are more guns, there is a higher risk of homicide.

    According to a survey of the authors of "1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology" 62 percent of experts disagreed that permissive concealed carry laws reduce crime, compared to just 9 percent who agreed:

  • Gun Advocate John Lott Blames "Passive Behavior" By Mugging Victim For Attack That Left Him Paralyzed

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Prominent gun advocate John Lott blamed a robbery victim who was shot in the back for his injuries, claiming the man displayed "passive behavior" because he fled his attacker.

    According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christopher Sanna was shot after being robbed while walking to his car following a St. Louis Cardinals game, and is likely to be paralyzed. Army veteran Sanna was wounded when he and his girlfriend fled two robbers after complying with their demands:

    Christopher Sanna had parked at the Old Cathedral parking lot and was waking to his car. According to police, two men in a dark-colored sedan drove up to them. The driver got out with a gun and demanded their property. The woman gave the gunman her purse, and the couple turned to run away. The gunman fired several shots in their direction, hitting Sanna in the back.

    "They turned to run away, but they didn't make it very far," Candis Sanna said. "As soon as they gave them the stuff, they were going to try to run away but he shot them. They were within arm's reach.

    Sanna's mother told the Post-Dispatch that her son is always "very aware of his surroundings," but that the robbery "happened so fast."

    In a blog post headlined, "Passive behavior probably leaves robbery victim paralyzed," Lott criticized Sanna on his website and on Twitter:

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research. (Reputable research indicates that permissive concealed carry laws do not reduce crime and may actually increase the occurrence of aggravated assault.)

    Lott's claim follows a growing trend among gun rights activists to blame victims of violent crimes for not properly defending themselves. Most notably, several commentators blamed the victims of the June massacre at an historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina for their own deaths.

    Besides the offensive nature of Lott's claim -- that crime victims are responsible for getting hurt -- research on what typically happens during a violent crime debunks Lott's thesis that behaving "passive[ly]" makes a crime victim more vulnerable to harm.

    According to a recent study in The Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4.1 percent of crime victims were injured after brandishing a firearm compared to 2.4 percent of victims who ran away or hid.

  • CBS Evening News Allows Discredited Researcher John Lott To Falsely Connect Gun Laws To Higher Murder Rates

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    CBS Evening News allowed discredited gun researcher John Lott to attack the view that gun violence is a public health issue with the unsupported claim that murder rates have increased everywhere guns have been banned.

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research.

    During an August 27 segment on CBS Evening News that discussed the shocking killing of two Virginia journalists, Lott said he did not believe gun violence was a public health issue and claimed, "Every country in the world, or place in the world, [that] has banned guns has seen an increase in murder rates, it's not just Washington, D.C. and Chicago."

    Lott's claim is unsupported by the data. It's also a red herring; in the United States, sweeping gun bans were found to be unconstitutional in the 2008 Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, effectively making the proposition of banning all guns irrelevant in serious policy debates over gun laws, which are focused most strongly on strengthening the background check system for firearm sales.

    Lott's claim about higher murder rates where gun sales are all but banned falls apart after examining one of the cities he cites, Washington D.C.

    Lott is technically correct that the D.C. murder rate in 1976 -- the year a ban on private ownership or possession of handguns in nearly all circumstances went into effect -- was 26.8 people per 100,000 residents, and was 31.4 in 2008, the last year the ban was in place. But those two data points don't tell the whole story. For example, the murder rate in the last full year in which D.C. did not have a gun ban, 1975, was 32.8  -- higher than the murder rate when the ban ended

    In fact, D.C.'s murder rate during the last year of the gun ban was lower than the murder rates in each of the five years before it was implemented (31.4 vs. 32.8, 38.3, 35.9, 32.8, and 37.1).

    Homicide trends in D.C. also cast doubt on Lott's suggestion of a causal connection between the District's handgun ban and number of murders. Murders in D.C. peaked in 1991 -- a crack epidemic was raging at the time -- at 80.6 per 100,000 residents. During the last 17 years D.C.'s gun ban was in effect, the rate fell by more than half, suggesting that factors other than the ban were driving the murder rate.

    Data from Australia also casts doubt on Lott's premise that more restrictions on firearms equal more murders. Following a series of mass shootings that culminated with the 1996 Fort Arthur massacre of 35 people, Australia enacted extremely restrictive gun laws that placed strong limits on firearm ownership -- especially for handguns and semi-automatic rifles -- and confiscated 650,000 privately owned guns

    After Australia implemented these laws, according The Washington Post, an academic study found that "the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides."

    In a more general sense, an examination of research on guns and homicide by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found "case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide."

    Although Lott is well-known to reporters and news producers, he should not be considered a credible source for information about gun violence. In addition to his flawed research, Lott has been embroiled in a number of ethics controversies, including his admission that he used the pseudonym "Mary Rosh" to defend his works from critics and praise his own research in online discussions. He has also faced allegations that he fabricated the results of a study on defensive gun use and has been caught attempting to surreptitiously revise his data after critics discovered errors.

  • Gun Advocate John Lott Was The Real Author Of A Viral FoxNews.com Op-Ed Written From Perspective Of A Female Stalking Victim

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Taylor Woolrich, who made national headlines in 2014 over her efforts to carry a gun on her college campus after being stalked, revealed that John Lott, a discredited gun researcher, was the actual author of an op-ed published at FoxNews.com under her name that portrayed her as an unconditional supporter of campus carry laws and was picked up by dozens of media outlets.

    Woolich was interviewed for an August 13 Buzzfeed article that recounted how she was stalked for years by an older man - beginning when she was a teenager and continuing after she went to college 3,000 miles away - and how her story went viral after it became enmeshed with the gun lobby's efforts to allow students to carry firearms on college campuses.

    In her interview with Buzzfeed, Woolich criticized Lott, alleging that he pressured her into allowing him to submit an op-ed he wrote -- "Dear Dartmouth, I am one of your students, I am being stalked, please let me carry a gun to protect myself" -- to FoxNews.com under her name.

    Lott, a columnist for FoxNews.com, is one of the country's best-known pro-gun advocates and a frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence; his research linking permissive laws regarding the carrying of guns in public to lower crime rates has been debunked. He has also faced accusations of data manipulation and fabrication in order to advance a pro-gun agenda.

    Woolrich told Buzzfeed that her primary objective in telling her story publicly last year was to raise awareness about stalking, but that Lott's "first priority was his cause" of pro-gun advocacy, explaining, "He saw me as a really great asset" in that endeavor. She added that in the brief time she spent with Lott, "I was trying to be brave and just speak up. I didn't realize I was being turned into an NRA puppet."

    Woolrich met Lott after agreeing to speak on a panel at an August 2014 conference held by Students for Concealed Carry, a group that advocates for colleges and universities to allow students to carry guns on campus, a practice that has been traditionally prohibited. According to Buzzfeed, Lott, who runs pro-gun group Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), helped fund the conference.

    After learning Woolrich's story, Lott convinced her to co-author an op-ed with him for FoxNews.com about her experience, and Woolrich says she sent him details of what she had been through. Lott submitted a double-bylined piece to Fox News that included Woolrich's story, as well as his own well-worn talking points in favor of allowing concealed carry on campus. The network rejected it.

    Woolrich told Buzzfeed that the same day she spoke at the conference, she gave an interview to a reporter from the BBC, and when Lott learned about it, he became "extremely, inappropriately pushy" and "controlling."

    By then, the media had caught wind of Woolrich's compelling story, and Fox News had changed its mind about running a piece. But it didn't want the original, co-authored op-ed -- only one written by Woolrich, with her thoughts, not Lott's. Woolrich told Buzzfeed that when Lott told her this, she responded that she didn't have time to write a new piece and he pressed her to let him write it for her. She said struggled with the decision before agreeing, thinking, "I don't know if I should just say yes and not piss him off." In return, she says, he used her as "an asset" for his agenda:

    The piece incorporated elements of her talk at the conference, but otherwise it was the essentially the same article written by Lott, which is still online at the Daily Caller. "It's his op-ed," she says. "Word for word, except the chunks that match what's said in my speech." The references to Lott's disputed research? Not hers. The link to the Amazon sales page for his book? Not hers. The headline? "Dear Dartmouth, I am one of your students, I am being stalked, please let me carry a gun to protect myself."

    "I think his first priority was his cause," she says. "He saw me as a really great asset."

    It is unclear to what extent Fox News knew that the op-ed, which concludes with the line, "If schools and society can't guarantee my safety and the safety of victims like me, it's time we have the chance to defend ourselves so we can stop living in fear," was written by a male pro-gun advocate.

    Although the piece carries an editor's note saying only that Lott "contributed to this article," according to emails viewed by Buzzfeed, Lott admitted to a Fox News editor, "It was actually easier for me to write this in the first person for her than the way I had originally written it." In a statement to Buzzfeed, Fox News Executive Vice President and Executive Editor John Moody said FoxNews.com "published what was characterized to us as a first person account of Ms. Woolrich's experiences."

    Lott promoted the op-ed in a post on the website of his Crime Prevention Research Center under the headline, "Taylor Woolrich's op-ed at Fox News describes what it is like to be stalked, lots of other media coverage."

    Accompanying the post, Lott wrote, "Taylor Woolrich has a very powerful op-ed at Fox News that starts this way," before offering an excerpt. The post noted that Woolrich's story was gaining national media coverage, listing dozens of outlets that had covered the story including Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, and BBC.

    Woolrich told Buzzfeed that she "wanted to talk to the media, if it could mean something positive. But I wanted to talk to the media about stalking." Her interaction with Lott, she said, left her feeling like "an NRA puppet":

    "It's not like John Lott held a gun to my head and told me to talk to the media," Woolrich says. "I wanted to talk to the media, if it could mean something positive. But I wanted to talk to the media about stalking." In response to the flurry of interview requests, she changed her number and did not return Lott's or Riley's messages.

    [...]

    "I thought I was doing something good, and I thought it would be good for other girls," Woolrich says. "I was trying to be brave and just speak up. I didn't realize I was being turned into an NRA puppet."

    Fox News' response to Buzzfeed on the op-ed controversy marks the second time in recent months that the conservative network has been forced to respond to something Lott has said or done. In June, Lott claimed in a CPRC fundraising letter that Fox News had "agreed to start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders." (According to a survey of mass public shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones, this is not a phenomena that actually happens.) Fox News denied Lott's claim in a statement to The Washington Post's Erik Wemple.

    This is also not the first time Lott has written from the perspective of a woman. In 2003, Lott was caught defending and promoting his own work online while writing under the name "Mary Rosh," who described herself as a former student of Lott's -- "the best professor I ever had" -- and wrote about how she needed a gun in case she had to defend herself from a larger male attacker.

    According a 2003 Post exposé on Lott's use of the "Rosh" pseudonym, "In postings on Web sites in this country and abroad, Rosh has tirelessly defended Lott against his harshest critics. He is a meticulous researcher, she's repeatedly told those who say otherwise. He's not driven by the ideology of the left or the right. Rosh has even summoned memories of the classes she took from Lott a decade ago to illustrate Lott's probity and academic gifts."

    After Lott was revealed to be "Rosh" by a blogger at the libertarian CATO Institute, conservative commentator Michelle Malkin wrote that the episode showed Lott's "extensive willingness to deceive to protect and promote his work."

    CPRC published a post on its website, disputing Woolrich's characterization of her experience working with Lott and calling the BuzzFeed article a "hit piece."

  • Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott Botches S.C. Law To Blame Charleston Church Shooting On "Gun-Free Zone"

    UPDATE: Lott Surreptitiously Modifies His Original Article To Hide Error

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott falsely claimed that guns are "banned" in South Carolina churches to blame the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on "gun-free zones."

    On the evening of July 17, a gunman opened fire during a bible study meeting at the church, killing nine people.

    Lott, who invented the debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis and is a frequent source of conservative misinformation on gun violence, quickly blamed "gun-free zones" for the shooting. On the website of his group, Crime Prevention Research Center, Lott wrote, "Not surprising that yet another mass public shooting has taken place where guns were banned. Yet, again, the ban only ensured that the victims were vulnerable." Lott titled his article, "Another Shooting in a Gun-free Zone: Nine Dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina."

    Lott then offered a "synopsis" of South Carolina law - taken from an article on CriminalDefenseLawyer.com - that suggested guns cannot be carried in churches and some other locations.

    Lott's synopsis linked to S.C. Code Ann.§ 23-31-215, which says that individuals with concealed carry licenses can bring guns into churches with the permission of a church official. Here is what the actual law says:

    M) A permit issued pursuant to this section does not authorize a permit holder to carry a concealable weapon into a:

    [...]

    (8) church or other established religious sanctuary unless express permission is given by the appropriate church official or governing body;

    In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Lott similarly mischaracterized South Carolina law, writing, "the massacre took place in a gun-free zone, a place where the general public was banned from having guns." Lott also speculated that gun policies formed the shooter's motive, writing, "Churches, like the one in Charleston, preach peace, but the killer there probably chose that target because he knew the victims were defenseless."

    The term "gun-free zone" is typically defined by conservatives and gun violence prevention groups alike as areas where civilians are prohibited from carrying concealed guns under any circumstance. 

  • WSJ's Jason Riley Distorts FBI Report On Guns To Claim Obama Used It For Political Gain

    FBI Report Was About Active Shooter Situations, Not Mass Shootings

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley falsely claimed that the FBI misrepresented data on mass shootings to "help drive Democratic turnout" during the 2014 midterm elections. In fact, the report only contained data on "active shooter" situations, not mass shootings, and made that clear in the introduction, which stated, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings."

    In a June 9 editorial headlined, "Obama's Gun-Control Misfire," Riley wrote, "Last September the Obama administration produced an FBI report that said mass shooting attacks and deaths were up sharply -- by an average annual rate of about 16% between 2000 and 2013."

    But the 2014 FBI report, which focuses on 160 incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013, literally says it is not about "mass shootings," but rather a different phenomenon known as an "active shooter" situation. From the report's introduction (emphasis added):

    This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings, but rather a study of a specific type of shooting situation law enforcement and the public may face. Incidents identified in this study do not encompass all gun-related situations; therefore caution should be taken when using this information without placing it in context. Specifically, shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence--pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public--were not included in this study. In addition, other gun-related shootings were not included when those incidents appeared generally not to have put others in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a school building or a person who chose to publicly commit suicide in a parking lot). The study does not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore is limited in its scope. Nonetheless, it was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to both law enforcement and citizens as they seek to stop these threats and save lives during active shooter incidents.

    The FBI defined an active shooter situation as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area," and found that such incidents occurred with increasing frequency over a 13-year period starting in 2000.

    In his opinion piece, Riley used his inaccurate reading of the report to claim that the Obama administration hoped to use the report to help Democrats win in the 2014 midterm elections and to advance its own gun safety agenda:

    The White House could not possibly have been more pleased with the media reaction to these findings, which were prominently featured by the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, the Washington Post and other major outlets. The FBI report landed six weeks before the midterm elections, and the administration was hoping that the gun-control issue would help drive Democratic turnout.

    [...]

    Following the high-profile mass shootings in 2012 at a cinema in Aurora, Colo., and an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the White House pushed hard for more gun-control legislation. Congress, which at the time included a Democratic-controlled Senate, refused to act. This surprised no one, including an administration well aware that additional gun controls wouldn't pass muster with enough members of the president's own party, let alone Republicans.

    But the administration also knew that the issue could potentially excite Democratic base voters in a year when the party was worried about turnout. Hence President Obama's vow in his 2014 State of the Union address "to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook."

    To attack the report's credibility, Riley cited criticism of it from discredited gun researcher John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center. Lott has a history of manipulating statistics and making false claims about guns to advance his pro-gun agenda, and he is the author of the well-known but thoroughly debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis. Lott, who is not considered a credible source for information about mass shootings, recently claimed Fox News is partnering with him to "start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders." (According to an analysis of 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones, no such cases exist.)

    Riley's false accusations are the latest in a series of outlandish and baseless criticisms of the Obama administration and gun laws. In a 2014 appearance on Fox News, he said "The administration already has enough race baiters, starting with the president continuing to Eric Holder, his attorney general." In 2013, he said controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense laws "[benefit], disproportionately, poor blacks," even though research has shown that killings defended with such laws are much more likely to be found justified when a white person killed a black person, rather than the reverse.

  • Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott Claims Partnership With Fox News On Mass Shootings, Ferguson Report

    UPDATE: Fox News Denies Lott's Mass Shooting Research Claim

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott told his supporters that Fox News has agreed to pursue stories related to the Department of Justice's report on the Ferguson, MO police department and investigate reports of mass shootings supposedly stopped by people carrying legally concealed weapons.

    In a June 9 letter posted on Facebook by National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, Lott revealed that he is "working with Fox News to obtain a copy of the data used by the Obama Department of Justice in evaluating the Ferguson police department" and that Fox News "has agreed to start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders."

    The letter was addressed to supporters of Lott's Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). Nugent is a high-profile supporter of CPRC who has made inflammatory statements in his appeals for donations to the group.

    In his letter, Lott suggests that he will act as a go-between Fox News and CPRC supporters with information about mass shootings that were supposedly stopped or prevented by someone legally carrying a concealed weapon (emphasis added):

    The second accomplishment is something that you all can help with. Fox News has agreed to start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders (a partial list of cases is available here). If you ever see a defensive gun use story, especially one that might involve a permit holder stopping a mass killing, please email me the link to the news story as soon as possible.

    Lott described the agreement with Fox News on mass shooting reports to his supporters by writing that "we won't get explicit credit," but that the venture "is still important."