Need some backup material... Lott study


May 1, 2007, 10:54 AM
I'm on another forum where the anti's posted a flurry of links that debunk the Lott (more guns less crime) study.

Any reference material available to debunk the debunkers?

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May 1, 2007, 11:46 AM
Can you give us some examples of what are their sources for this supposed debunking? Lott uses some pretty credible, non-biased sources. If their sources for these debunkings are coming from highly-biased sources such as the Brady Campaign then you can't exactly take their argument seriously, and you should call them on their sources. I wouldn't attempt to argue my points using information obtained purely from pro-gun organizations like the NRA that are obviously biased, so neither should they.

Check out (, there's a lot of good statistics on there, and while the site itself is obviously pro-gun, the sources of the studies and statistics that it cites are for the most part non-biased.

May 1, 2007, 12:04 PM
Lott now has a less than stellar reputation due to some questionable actions on his part. I don't know if his stats or conclusions are in question, but his reputation is. I'd suggest you look up the work of Gary Kleck

May 1, 2007, 12:15 PM
Is The Bias Against Guns still worth a read?

May 1, 2007, 12:19 PM
Here are some of the debunking sites: (the review points out some flaws)

May 1, 2007, 07:41 PM

Carl N. Brown
May 9, 2007, 02:09 PM
Lott now has a less than stellar reputation due to some questionable actions on his part. I don't know if his stats or conclusions are in question, but his reputation is. I'd suggest you look up the work of Gary Kleck

Lott is an economist who has written on gun issues, among other subjects.
Kleck is a criminologist who has written primarily on gun issues.

Lott does not mind goring the sacred oxes of those with strong apriori
positions on gun issues. Kleck is more careful and nuanced in his approach.

Carl N. Brown
May 31, 2007, 06:10 PM
CONTRAST: John Lott and Gary Kleck

John Lott is an economist who has written on the gun issue,
among other subjects.

Gary Kleck is a criminologist who has focused on the gun issue.

In his op-ed columns and web postings, John Lott is seen as a
champion of right-conservative causes. Academia is generally
left-wing but tries to hide its biases under a neutral academic
cloak. John Lott is a prickly personality who has rubbed others
the wrong way, and has gleefully gored some sacred oxen.

In contrast to Lott, Gary Kleck has been more nuanced and careful
in his writings and public statements.

Lott has been accused of fraud for publishing findings based on
elaborate econometric calculations using huge multi-variable
data sets. His findings contradict fervently held a priori
assumptions about gun control that some of the true believers
refuse to test empirically. To them, Lott has to be wrong because
his published results are contrary to their long-cherished beliefs
that gun control must lower crime and self-defense right-to-carry
(R-T-C) must lead to rivers of blood from Wild West shootouts.

But gun politics is not the only issue touched by Lott's research:
you do not hear accusations against Lott of ethical misconduct or
fraud in the other subjects on which he has published. That is
very odd behavior if he were, as accused, a "blatant liar" or a
"charlatan." A pathological liar tends to lie on multiple subjects.


In 1986, R-T-C laws among the US states stood:
1 - unrestricted;
8 - shall-issue permit;
26 - discretionary permit; and
15 - no right-to-carry.

In 1996, R-T-C laws among the US states stood:
1 - unrestricted (VT);
30 - shall-issue permit (+22);
12 - discretionary permit (-14); and
7 - no right-to-carry (-8).

In 1997, John R. Lott, Jr. and David B. Mustard, published
"Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns,"
(26 J. LEGAL STUD. 1). Using county-level crime data for 1977-1992,
L-M tied significant drops in crime to passage of state "shall-issue"
handgun carry laws. The data set is huge, the mathematical model
is elaborate and weighted for demographic variables believed to
affect crime rates. The controversy was immediate and heated.
Unlike many economists, Lott made his dataset and coding
available to any who requested them, which actually helped fuel
the controversy.

While L-M 1997 is often cited to bolster the R-T-C argument,
the national trend toward R-T-C was already well under way long
before Lott published on the subject. From 1987, first Florida
then 21 other states went "shall-issue" R-T-C. Every time
a state proposed R-T-C, the anti-gunners predicted Wild West
shoot-outs with rivers of blood overflowing the gutters; but,
that_just_did_not_happen: the violent crime rate in R-T-C
states in 1996 was lower than it was in 1986.

Then in 1998, Lott published a book length version of L-M 1997.

Journal of Economic Literature, New Books, 1998


LOTT, JOHN R., JR. More guns, less crime: Understanding crime
and gun-control laws. Studies in Law and Economics. Chicago and
London: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Pp. x, 225. $$23.00.
ISBN 0-226-49363-6. JEL 98-1467

Critically reviews the existing evidence on gun control and crime
to determine whether gun ownership saves or costs lives and how
the various gun laws affect this outcome. Describes the arguments
for and against gun control and discusses how the claims should
be tested. Empirically examines the relationship between gun
laws, arrest and conviction rates, the socioeconomic and
demographic compositions of counties and states, and different
rates of violent crime and property crime. Evaluates the efficacy
of the Brady Law, concealed-handgun laws, waiting periods, and
background checks using nationwide county-level data. Explores
what determines arrest rates and the passage of concealed-handgun
laws. Lott is John M. Olin Visiting Law and Economics Fellow at
the University of Chicago. Bibliography; index.

Lott found that the only gun law that reduced crime was
"shall-issue" R-T-C. Lott found that the other gun laws
did not reduce crime.

Gary Mauser and Don B. Kates (2006)

In 2004 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its
evaluation from an review of 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43
government publications and some empirical research of its own.
It could not identify any gun control that had reduced violent
crime, suicide or gun accidents.{15}

The same conclusion was reached in a 2003 study by the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control's review of then-extant studies{16}
(The CDC is vehemently anti-gun and deemed its results to show
not that the more guns = more death mantra is erroneous but only
that the scores of studies it reviewed were inconclusively done.)

{15}Charles F. Wellford, John V. Pepper, and Carol V. Petrie
(eds.), Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review (National
Academy of Sciences, 2004). It is perhaps not amiss to note
that the review panel, which was set up during the Clinton
Administration, was almost entirely composed of scholars who,
to the extent their views were publicly known before their
appointments, favored gun control.

{16}"First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies
for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws" (CDC, 2003)

Lott (1998) thus presaged the findings of the CDC (2003)
and NAS (2004) that there are no statistically significant,
measurable benefits from the various gun control measures.

Lott claimed only "shall-issue" R-T-C laws have a measurable
benefit. NAS claimed that the benefit of R-T-C is statistically
"fragile" or "not robust" since the reduction in crime attributable
to R-T-C can be magnified or minimized by using different parts of
the dataset or changing the weight assigned to other variables
believed to affect the crime rate.


The problem with citing Lott is you tend to get distracted by
the controversies raised by his critics.


Lott was immediately attacked by anti-gunners over his fellowship
from the Olin Foundation. Since the Olin family at one time owned
the Winchester ammunition company, Handgun Control Inc. claimed
Lott's research was bought and controlled by the gun industry.
This claim brought a sharp rebuke from the Olin Foundation and U
of Chicago. In granting the fellowship, Olin Foundation did not
query Lott's area of study, and there is no connection between the
Olin Foundation and Winchester. The Ayres-Donohue critique of Lott's
hypothesis was John M. Olin Working Paper 248! The NAS considered
the Olin connection to be a bogus argument.


Lott's wife reserved an AOL email account in a screen name built
from the first two letters of their sons' first names: Ma Ry Ro Sh.
The entire Lott family has used the maryrosh email account
for various purposes (for example, video game or book reviews).

During the controversy over Lott's positions on gun control, Lott
began defending himself on line by posting under the MaRyRoSh
account as "Mary Rosh" who presented "herself" as a former student
of John Lott from Wharton College. The "Mary Rosh" masquerade was
exposed by Julian Sanchez. Lott admitted that in hindsight it was
a bad idea but failed to see any serious harm. This episode turned
many people against Lott and his critics claim it calls his overall
credibility into question.


Lott is supposed to have anonymously accused Steven Levitt (of the
NAS panel to review gun control) of being "rabidly anti-gun" then
to have quoted the publication that repeated the accusation to
confirm his assessment of Levitt's bias.

Recall the Kates and Mauser comment above:
"... the review panel ... was almost entirely composed of scholars
who, to the extent their views were publicly known before their
appointments, favored gun control."

Admittedly Kates and Mauser, while saying the panel was almost
entirely anti-gun, did not accuse them of rabies; but, the NAS panel
(including Levitt) could hardly be called rabidly pro-gun; which
actually makes their findings all the more remarkable: like Lott
they found no proof that anti-gun policies had a measurable benefit.
The NAS claimed that Lott's claim of measurable benefit from R-T-C
was "not robust," but also admitted the dire warnings of dramatic
bloodshed from R-T-C proved false. The NAS report chided some critics
of Lott for arguing from a priori assumptions rather than from
empirical research.


One sentence in MoGuLeCr 1998 came to override the entire book in
some circles:

"If national surveys are correct, 98 percent of the time
that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a
weapon to break off an attack."

Here is my timeline built on this issue:

98% Defensive Gun Use (DGU) Timeline

In 1993, C. D. Tavares cited Kleck in talk.politics.guns:
"The answer is that the gun never needs to be fired in 98% of
the instances of a successful self-defense with a gun. The
criminals just leave abruptly, instead." Web logger Tim Lambert
corrected Tavares that Kleck's not-fired percentage was 76%
and that the 98% was non-wounding non-killing. Tavares conceded
that Kleck's DGU figures were 2% wounding and killing and 24%
shots fired. Tim Lambert is an Australian professor who
specializes in computer graphics and pursues statistics and
gun politics as a hobby.

The Feb 1988 Social Problems article by Kleck was a review of
previous surveys; Kleck did not conduct his own survey until 1993,
the National Self Defense Survey (NSDS), and did not publish his
preliminary results until 1994 (peer-refereed publication in 1995).

In the NSDS article, Kleck and co-author Marc Gertz wrote that
while ~200 defensive gun users out of a 4,997 survey sample yields
a fair indication of DGU frequency, ~2.5 million incidents per year,
the sample of ~200 is not large enough to derive nation-wide details
about DGU. In spite of his own warning, Kleck did compile details,
which included 23.9% reported shots fired. That gives 600,000 DGUs
with shots fired. In other studies, Kleck projected less than
3,000 DGU adjudicated justifiable homicides, with ~8,000 to
~16,000 DGU woundings; from that, perhaps ten shots fired to no
effect for each wounding or killing, for a projection of 80,000
to 160,000 with shots fired. ~80,000 to ~160,000 shooting DGU of
2.5 million total would give 3.2% to 6.4% shooting DGU.

The later 1994 NSPOF survey reported in 1997 by Phillip J. Cook
and Jens Ludwig had about 45 gun users out of a 2,568 survey
sample: citing the Kleck-Gertz caveat, Cook-Ludwig did not project
details about DGU from the small sample of defensive gun users.

1997 - John R. Lott, Jr. and David B. Mustard, "Crime, Deterrence,
and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," (26 J. Legal Stud. 1).
Using county-level crime data for 1977-1992, L-M tied significant
drops in crime to passage of state "shall-issue" handgun carry laws.

1997 Spring - Lott claims he conducted a personally-funded
(no grants, no payroll checks, no government forms, etc)
telephone survey on DGU for his own information to check figures
he had derived from other sources. Of 2424 people surveyed about
28 had used a gun defensively with 2 firing shots. Lott claimed
his survey figures projected 2.1 million DGU incidents. Based
on his preliminary figures, Lott published a 98% nonshooting
brandishment-only DGU statistic. Such a precise figure from a
small sample would only be possible by elaborate weighting of
variables based on other statistics. From other statistical
sources, Lott projected ~1,000+ DGU adjudicated justifiable
homicides, ~8,000 DGU woundings and about ~32,000 shots fired
to no effect: total ~42,000 shooting DGUs or 2% of 2.1 million.

1997 Spring - In the Valparaiso University Law Review, vol 31
no 2, pp 355-63, Lott wrote about "... polls of American citizens
undertaken by organizations like the Los Angeles Times and Gallup
showing that Americans defend themselves with guns between 764,000
and 3.6 million times each year, with the vast majority of cases
simply involving people brandishing a gun to prevent attack."

1997 Feb 6 - Lott testified before the State of Nebraska, Committee
on Judiciary: "There are surveys that have been done by the Los
Angeles Times, Gallup, Roper, Peter Hart, about 15 national
survey organizations in total that range from anything from
760,000 times a year to 3.6 million times a year people use guns
defensively. About 98 percent of those simply involve people
brandishing a gun and not using them."

Lott attributed the number of DGU to polls by LA Times, Gallup,
etc. Lott did not attribute the "vast majority" or "98 percent"
to a source.

1997 June - Lott had a harddrive crash with inadequate backup: at
least five co-authors were affected. The data sets with co-authors
were rebuilt from co-authors' backups and hardcopy except one
co-authored data set was unrecoverable and the study was not
published. Lott claims that because the solo phone survey was a
personal information project, it was low priority for recovery:
the co-authors came first. Lott had already used the 98% statistic
and continued to use it, but was reluctant to mention the source.

1997 July 16 - John Lott in a Wall St. Journal, op-ed piece
Childproof Gun Locks: Bound to Misfire: "Other research shows
that guns clearly deter criminals. Polls by the Los Angeles
Times, Gallup and Peter Hart Research Associates show that there
are at least 760,000, and possibly as many as 3.6 million,
defensive uses of guns per year. In 98% of the cases, such polls
show, people simply brandish the weapon to stop an attack."
This WSJ op-ed article was reprinted in several papers. Lott
believes "such polls" were his words and he meant his survey
as a poll such as the others. This is weak tea, since his was
the only survey with exactly 98 percent.

John R. Lott, Jr. More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago
Press, 1998) "If national surveys are correct, 98 percent of
the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to
brandish a weapon to break off an attack."

1999 Jan - Otis Dudley Duncan first wrote to Lott about his DGU
research and publications.

1999 Feb - Lott in Washington Times: "Indeed, about 450,000 crimes,
including 10,744 murders, were committed with guns in 1996. But
Americans also use guns defensively over 2 million times a year
and 98 percent of the time merely brandishing the weapon is
sufficient to stop an attack." No source is named for the DGU
figure or the 98 percent.

1999 May - Otis Dudley Duncan told Lott he considered the 98%
a "rogue number" and sent Lott a draft of Duncan's article
which included: "The '98 percent' is either a figment of Lott's
imagination or an artifact of careless computation or proofreading."

1999 May 21 - Lott called Duncan and told him that the 98% figure
came from a 1997 phone survey by Lott: "I plan on repeating the
survey again during the next year to year and a half. I will be
happy to inform you what the results of that survey are after I
have conducted it." Lott did not mention that the 1997 data was
lost but offered to share the data from the new survey.

1999 Fall - More Guns, Less Crime (2000 2nd ed.): "If a national
survey that I conducted is correct, 98 percent of the time that
people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a
weapon to break off an attack." By citing his lost survey and a
dogmaticly precise figure (that commonsense suggests would vary
from year-to-year or sample-to-sample), Lott damaged himself,
even if his shooting DGU estimates are reasonable.

2000 Jan/Feb - In the Criminologist, Otis Dudley Duncan publicly
raised questions about Lott's 98% statistic.

2000 Mar - Most reprintings of Lott's Gun Locks op-ed article
basicly followed the text of WSJ 16 Jul 1997. One reprint of the
WSJ op-ed was edited by David Kopel to reference Kleck at "98%":
".... according to research by Florida State University criminologist
Gary Kleck. Kleck's study of defensive gun uses found that 98...."
Kopel admitted making this edit based on his own assumptions.

2000 Sep/Oct - In the Criminologist John Lott defended himself:
"The survey that I oversaw interviewed 2,424 people from across
the United States. It was done in large part to see for myself
whether the estimates put together by other researchers (such as
Gary Kleck) were accurate. The estimates that I obtained implied
about 2.1 million defensive gun uses, a number somewhat lower
than Kleck's. However, I also found a significantly higher
percentage of them (98 percent) involved simply brandishing a
gun. My survey was conducted over 3 months during 1997. I had
planned on including a discussion of it in my book, but did not
do so because an unfortunate computer crash lost my hard disk
right before the final draft of the book had to be turned in.
Duncan raises a related issue that "Lott may well have read
Will, in as much as Will's article is in the bibliography of More
Guns, Less Crime. ... Did Lott borrow the '98 percent' from Kleck
. . . from Snyder, via Will? Even if that account explains part
of the puzzle, the question remains. Where did the 2 million come
from?" The course that Duncan tries to follow - from a 1988
article by Kleck to a 1993 piece by Snyder to George Will to my
book because it cites Will - is fascinating. Yet, I am not sure
why this entire discussion was necessary since I told Duncan on
the telephone last year that the `98 percent' number came from
the survey that I had done and I had also mentioned the source
for the 2 million number."

2002 Mar - The New York Times ran a cartoon equating Michael
Belleisiles' massive fraud in Arming America (Knopf, 2000)
to Lott's alleged lost 98% survey.

Washington Post claimed the harddrive crash was fictitious.
To WP, Lott produced several witnesses to the harddrive crash.
Lott's critics responded that Lott proves again and again that
he had a harddrive crash because he cannot prove he did a survey.

2002 Jun 4 - Lott wrote to Otis Dudley Duncan about what he
remembered of the methods of the 1997 survey.

By that time, Lott had moved several times, which meant choosing
which possessions, paperwork and records were more important and
which had to be abandoned.

2002 Fall - Lott conducted a phone survey paralleling the
methodology of the questioned 1997 survey.

2002 Sep 15 - On FirearmsRegProf, Tim Lambert raised the
possibility that John Lott fabricated the 1997 survey to coverup
misciting the 98% brandishment-only DGU stat from Kleck.

2002 Sep 15 - On FirearmsRegProf, law professor James Lindgren
offered to help sort out Lambert's charges. Shortly after Lindgren
posted his offer, Lott called Lindgren and accepted his offer.

2002 Dec 24 - A very frustrated Professor Lindgren published an
inconclusive report: there was not enough evidence to prove either
that the survey was conducted or was fabricated. During the
investigation, Lott exhibited fuzzy memory and piecemeal recall.

2003 Jan 14 - Lott made his first post in his name on
FirearmsRegProf in response to Lambert's criticisms.

2004 Nov - In Fordham Law Review, John Donohue wrote that since
Michael Bellesiles lost his job at Emory U. over the "Arming
America" scandal, Lott should lose his job at American
Enterprise Institute over the "lost" 1997 survey and the
questioned 98 percentile.

May 31, 2007, 06:21 PM
Tim Lambert does a drive-by post in 5...4...3..

June 1, 2007, 07:30 PM
Um, I am not Tim Lambert. ;)

Thanks, Carl for that excellent summary. I have heard for a while about problems with Lott, but this is the first time I've seen a brief explanation from the beginning.

Carl N. Brown
June 14, 2007, 04:52 PM
Some of the criticism of Lott just does not stand up to close

Wikipedia entry on John Lott
Some aspects of his model of the causes of violent crime appear
counter-intuitive to critics. A review of his book More Guns,
Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws in the New
England Journal of Medicine states:

[Lott] finds, for example, that both increasing the rate of
unemployment and reducing income reduces the rate of violent
crimes and that reducing the number of black women 40 years
old or older (who are rarely either perpetrators or victims
of murder) substantially reduces murder rates. Indeed, according
to Lott's results, getting rid of older black women will lead
to a more dramatic reduction in homicide rates than increasing
arrest rates or enacting shall-issue laws[9]

[9]. Hemenway, David (December 31 1998). "Review of More Guns,
Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws".
The New England Journal of Medicine 339 (27).

Lott's data shows a correlation between a large population of
black female 40 years and over to high crime rates. Lott himself
did not claim causation or that PBF40+ perpetrated crime. A large
population of PBF40+ is correlated to the presence of large urban
racially segregated ghettos; the presence of large ghettos implies
the presence of multiple factors which are either causes or
correlations of high crime. The fact that Lott's data shows a
correlation does not mean that Lott claimed a causation, but that
is how Hemenway chose to misconstrue Lott's results.

The NAS review of the literature on gun control pointed out that
in their analysis of crime data John Lott and David Mustard treated
Connecticutt (CT) as Right-To-Carry (RTC) from 1977; NAS noted
that one the critics of Lott's MoGuLeCr thesis (Vernick) treated CT
as not RTC at all.

There are four classes of state handgun carry laws: unrestricted
(VT and AK), shall-issue permit, discretionary permit, and no carry
(IL and WI).

Today, CT issues more handgun carry licenses per 100,000 population
than Texas, which everyone acknowledges as a RTC state. I did
a quick search of materials at hand and found a CT application
for concealed carry license dated 1979. The 1979 CT forms and
requirements are roughly similar but less stringent than Tennessee
Handgun Carry Permit application: for example, CT required you to
read a page about CT self defense law, Tennessee requires you to
take a four-hour class on self-defense law and pass a written exam.
Tennessee is not only classed as a RTC state but its HCP law
is classed as "shall-issue."

I think Lott had CT right and Vernick had CT wrong.

Carl N. Brown
June 14, 2007, 04:56 PM

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