More Guns, Less Surveys

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Yet another academic is under fire for allegedly inventing evidence: John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime. At issue is a survey Lott says he conducted in 1997, which supposedly showed that in 98% of the cases where guns were used defensively, the weapon was brandished with no shots being fired. In the past, critics say, Lott attributed the 98% figure to other sources; more recently, he cites a survey he conducted himself. Unfortunately, he explains, the data from the survey was lost in a computer crash—and he can neither remember the names of any of the grad students who helped him nor (as of yet) produce evidence of their assistance.

Northwestern law prof James Lindgren—who helped expose the deceptions of Lott's ideological opposite, Arming America author Michael Bellesiles—has written a report on the dispute. Those interested in the details of the story should begin by reading it and a regularly updated website maintained by another scholar, Tim Lambert. Both men agree that the disputed survey does not, in Lindgren's words, "directly relate to the main thesis of More Guns, Less Crime." (Lambert puts it this way: "It is not even relevant to the main claim in his book, that concealed carry laws reduce crime.") On the other hand, if it turns out that Lott fabricated one piece of evidence, that obviously casts doubt on his book's other claims.

Reason is continuing to look into the controversy. We've asked Lott for his side of the story, and while he hasn't gotten back to us yet, a portion of his response to other inquirers has been posted here.

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  1. Lott’s book is full of statistics and charts. This one claim is probably impossible to prove. Sure, he may be able to find where his 98% number came from, but that still does not prove it. I have brandished an illegal gun to stop a crime. I wouldn’t dare report it. So were I questioned, I would have one crime (two if you count my gunpossession) and one use of a gun to thwart crime, neither of which are verifiable.

    I hope Lott survives this battle to discredit the authors. The disarmers have a lot to gain from this attack.

  2. Who cares if it’s 98% or 2%? It doesn’t matter. What matters is how many legally carried guns were ever used ILLEGALY, and how many guns used illegally were LEGALLY carried. The more guns=less crime axiom is self-evident in the simple logic that a well-armed public is less easy to victimize than an unarmed public.
    For a fascination piece on the constitutional right to bear (“carry”) arms see:

    http://www.pulpless.com/stopsamp.html#UNABRIDG

    It’s not too long in length, but plenty long in proof that the 2nd amendment is an individual right.

  3. Awwwww Crud! Just when I was settling into a world where Bellesiles would have to sell pencils and bits of string on the street corner for a living, this had to happen. If Lott fabricated the data, then I’m afraid that he has just as much to answer for as Bellesiles. Even if only the 98% figure was made up, then it does taint the enitre study making it useless as ammunition (no pun intended) against gun control.

    Then again, the anti-gunners didn’t buy the study anyway, but it’s the principle that counts.

    COME ON MAN! THINK! WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FIGURE!!!

  4. It really doesn’t matter. Gun control nuts believe what they will, as do those of us on the correct side of the issue. So who really cares?

  5. “It really doesn’t matter. Gun control nuts believe what they will, as do those of us on the correct side of the issue. So who really cares?”

    Ultimately, you may be right. Although it’s always nice to have empirical data to back up your argument, it really doesn’t do much to convince anyone. Anti-gunners point to the Kellerman study as “proof” that gun control works to curb crime, while pro-gun activists say that the research is flawed. Meanwhile the NRA points to Lott as evidence that concealed carry laws work and the antis claim Lott’s research is flawed.

    OK, who’s telling the truth, or rather, whose data is misleading? I couldn’t tell you. I flunked statistics in college… twice.

  6. As the old saying goes, ‘there are lies, damn lies, and statistics!’.

    All kidding aside, it’s important to understand what the numbers really mean, and that is difficult for laymen to do.

    As with other areas of science, the real key will be independent verification. According to Lott’s partial response, there is another survey that portends to support this thesis, but apparently we will have to wait for his next book to see it.

  7. I understand that Lott is being acused of a less than perfect scientific conduct for not being able to provide source for one of his claims. So what?
    Bellesiles makes several intentional mistakes and even then got the Bancroft prize, later denied.I think the two scenarios are completely different.Lott may have have committed an error but I don’t see him as someone with a hidden agenda.If I don’t annoy you, american gun owners in particular, let me tell you are very lucky indeed, even with so much gun control going on.In Brazil we do not have the same grace- We are fighting to be able to possess( not carry)firearm and on top of that we do have caliber limitations.In Rio de Janeiro for example it is practically impossible for a civilian to buy a firearm. Regards, Raimundo.

  8. Interesting link. I would argue that most people are stupid and think that “militia” means the Department of Defense, which is actually the exact opposite of what militia means.

  9. John Lott has shared his other datasets with other researchers; what does the ?fact? that he cannot find this one really prove? Did the other datasets collected by Lott stand up to close scrutiny by critics (I think the honest answer was yes)? Now, Lott’s figure of 98% of self defense without firing the gun is overshadowed by Gary Kleck’s stats on the same issue and skeptic Marvin Wolfgang analysed Kleck’s data and methodology and wrote an essay “A Tribute to a Position I Have Opposed” in admiration.
    Kleck claimed something like 10,000 self defense uses of guns to each justifiable homicide with a gun.

  10. Other blogs have gone into this issue in much more detail. My understanding is that Lott has done two surveys that have come to similar conclusions about defensive gun use rates In one that was done six years ago, there was a hard disk crash and the data was lost. The data had been used for one number in one sentence in a book with thousands of numbers. What is the big deal? So he lost one piece of data years ago and has apparently told people for years that the data was lost. The fact that a second survey finds similar results seems pretty important to me.l

  11. How does it feel to write about yourself in the third person?

  12. “We’ve asked Lott for his side of the story, and while he hasn’t gotten back to us yet”

    Well, actually, it turns out that Lott has admitted posting under the pseudonym “Mary Rosh,” so evidently he has gotten back to you–judge for youself the credibility of his response under the circumstances . . .

  13. To really understand what’s going on in the United States, Britain, Canada, and Australia today with regard to civilian weapons ownership and self defence, we need to see it from the globalist perspective.

    Under the fast-approaching, liberty-shattering ‘New World Order’ so beloved by Tony Blair, both of the Bushes, and the US and UK political elite, there will be NO personal weapons of any kind permitted, nor any ‘culture of violence’ [i.e. no potential future resistance].

    For a good introduction to the elite’s ultimate goals in this, from a U.S. perspective, see “GUN CONTROL AND THE NEW WORLD ORDER’ at http://www.survivalistskills.com/nwa.htm as well as ‘OPERATION GARDEN PLOT’ at http://www.survivalistskills.com/GDNPLOT.HTM and ‘THE PLANNED US AND CANADIAN CONCENTRATION CAMP AND DETENTION CENTRE PROGRAM’ at http://www.survivalistskills.com/camps.htm.

    The rational and normal mind recoils from the idea that a nation’s leaders might be at perpetual war with their own people in pursuit of some higher, global goal. But read “The U.S. Public Warms To The Idea Of Civilian Concentration Camps” at http://www.survivalistskills.com/CONCAMP.HTM [This is a long page, slow to load, but well worth it. Be sure to see the quotes and astonishing photographs at the end of the article!], and reflect on how consistently this occurs, and how easily the general public are pursuaded to applaud and agree with their own loss of rights.

    [for a similar perspective on the same process at work in Canada and the UK, see “How Canada Lost Its Liberties And Freedoms – And Few Cared!” at http://www.survivalistskills.com/CANLIB.HTM and “How Britain Legislated Away 2,000 Years Of Rights And Freedoms” at http://www.survivalistskills.com/UKLIB.HTM]

    Still unpersuaded? “TRAGEDY AND HOPE”, by Professor Carroll Quigley, is a virtual ‘blueprint’ of the political elite’s game-plan for accomplishing their ‘New World Order’ by guile – and by force, where need be. Read the huge array of quotations from political and other leaders on that page, and ask yourself whether they have not already accomplished much of what they need to achieve in order to turn the world into a giant ‘global plantation’, where they are the unresisted masters.

    There’s a substantial archive of other fascinating and invaluable ‘New World Order Intelligence Update’ articles on the New World Order at http://www.survivalistskills.com/sect22.htm and archived also at http://www.rarehistorybooks.com/NWOLINKS.HTM. The ‘NWOIU’ site itself is currently down for substantial re-construction, but these archived articles are well worth reading.

    One extraordinarily interesting page, at http://www.survivalistskills.com/GUNQUOTE.HTM, provides a large number of famous and favourable quotations on the citizen’s right to keep and bear arms AND a warning from Britain on the results of surrendering that right!

    All of us will ultimately be the victims of this global drive to eliminate the means – and even the very thought – of self defence.

  14. In the Criminologist (Sept./Oct. 2000), Lott reverts one more time to claiming that the 98% figure came from his own 1997 study – a claim he has never been able to substantiate. When asked about the survey, Lott says it was conducted by telephone in 1997 and that the data was lost a few months later in a computer crash. Moreover, he cannot produce any phone records to indicate he conducted the survey, has no record of where the money came from to conduct the survey, and cannot even remember the names of the student assistants he claims to have helped him conduct the survey.
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