We need to showcase the man most responsible for the misinformation being spread about gun control
When it comes to the gun debate in America, there is one name that has inexplicably flown under the radar, and that name is John Lott. Even though this pundit for the gun lobbies makes regular television appearances, his embattled background has managed to stay obfuscated. That’s because John Lott doesn’t want to be written about, he wants to do the writing.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There is a very good chance you have never heard of John Lott, his questionable history of bad data, or how important he is to the NRA and other gun lobbies. This piece will bring him to light, where he certainly doesn’t want to be, and show how integral this man is to the overall issue of gun violence in the USA.
Lott is most known for his book “More Guns, Less Crime” which exhorts the value of, you guessed it, more guns to decrease crime. This is a message the gun lobbies like of course, and so Lott gets paid to spread that message. He is a frequent “expert” called upon whenever the topic of guns comes up, and he writes a column for Fox News where he continues to forward a pro-gun agenda. And, whenever there is a mass shooting in America, there’s John Lott appearing on television to downplay the gun violence issue.
The problem is that the research he used to base his book upon is in dispute. Accusations have been leveled at Lott of fraudulence, (proven here) to which he has responded with claims that he lost his data in a computer crash. In the meantime, Lott’s books, based upon questionable data as they are, have become the cornerstone of gun lobby arguments and their base, which can prove rabid in their uncompromising stances. As this writer has experienced, when one speaks out against the gun lobbies, expect extreme resistance from gun advocates.
For the most part, gun lobby supporters don’t have much more to say than “You’re wrong!” They simply say it insistently. But those who do quote statistics in their arguments are using numbers taken from the works of John Lott. If those numbers are false, then arguments based upon them must be rendered moot.
Critics of Lott’s research are plentiful, although he dismisses them as “Liberal.” So it’s important to note this blistering rebuke by conservative pundit Michelle Malkin:
“Lott claims to have lost all of his data due to a computer crash. He financed the survey himself and kept no financial records. He has forgotten the names of the students who allegedly helped with the survey and who supposedly dialed thousands of survey respondents long-distance from their own dorm rooms using survey software Lott can’t identify or produce.
Assuming the survey data was lost in a computer crash, it is still remarkable that Lott could not produce a single, contemporaneous scrap of paper proving the survey’s existence, such as the research protocol or survey instrument.”
It is also important to note that John Lott has a history of vetting his own work under another pseudonym, “Mary Rosh.” This is not in question, Lott himself has admitted his use of the Rosh persona. Here’s Malkin again:
“By itself, there is nothing wrong with using a pseudonym. But Lott’s invention of Mary Rosh to praise his own research and blast other scholars is beyond creepy. And it shows his extensive willingness to deceive to protect and promote his work.”
John Lott is quick to respond to his critics, this writer included. But he remains unable to definitively address the specific problem of his questioned data. On twitter, he produced these links to absolve himself of these issues.
Two of the links provided were diversionary pivots that had nothing to do with the subject of his disputed data. Another was a collection of his responses to allegations of falsified research. All of Lott’s responses basically boiled down to his data is correct because he says so. Hardly substantial.
The third link, lists articles criticizing Lott’s data , each responded to by Lott. And the source John Lott continually uses to defend his own disputed data is… drum roll… his own website. He has done so with this writer, twice, and he has used it to respond to Malkin, as well as other critics. In fact, the only thing all three links had in common was that they originated from Lott’s sites.
In various responses, when he doesn’t try to pivot, Lott more or less says the same thing; he lost the data in a computer crash; he conducted a second smaller survey, and results were near enough to the original, non-existent survey to validate it; and that he has now provided the means for the survey to be replicated for whomever wants to prove him wrong.
Let’s break that down. John R. Lott lost all of his work in an extensive survey which was performed over the phone. He was unable to produce even one shred of that work. Not even one. But that’s okay because he did a second survey, and it got kinda the same results. And if we don’t like it, then we should go ahead and do that survey ourselves. Even though the very methodology of how he conducted the survey in the first place is one of the issues in question.
It needs to be said that, with his history of academia, Lott has to know what unacceptable answers these are. No boss would ever accept these excuses for work not done. No professor would ever pass you from a class with research this flubbed. And if the source of the information is itself flawed, then further information from that source cannot be admissible, let alone credible.
Lott has dismissed this writer and others for being far too beholden to similar critiques on Media Matters, which isn’t true. This piece, as well as previous ones about him, have used various sources. But, to answer his charges, this particular essay will continue to focus upon the conservative critique of Lott. As Michelle Malkin sums up charges against Lott succinctly and certainly holds no “Liberal bias,” then her account serves the purpose of exposing Lott’s research flaws:
“The most disturbing charge, first raised by retired University of California, Santa Barbara professor Otis Dudley Duncan and pursued by Australian computer programmer Tim Lambert, is that Lott fabricated a study claiming that 98 percent of defensive gun uses involved mere brandishing, as opposed to shooting. When Lott cited the statistic peripherally on page three of his book, he attributed it to “national surveys.” In the second edition, he changed the citation to “a national survey that I conducted.” “
Lott’s defenders, few that there are, also quote Lott’s own website. Here is “Luke” with a George Costanza profile picture, challenging me with the same link that Lott provides, which was previously dismissed in a prior article about Lott:
John R. Lott is quick to defend himself with himself. But as it is his work in question, the originator of said data cannot be taken as a reliable source of it’s defense. Hence Lott’s use of the “Mary Rosh” persona in the first place. Therefore, every defender of Lott’s data hiding behind a blatantly fake profile must be dismissed. Whether they are named “Mary Rosh” or “Luke” they are only illustrating the convoluted history of Lott’s work and his purposeful obfuscation of truth.
Consider; has John R. Lott Jr. intentionally falsified his data? This is what he denies. But if his only defense is incompetence, that’s not comforting or reassuring for people on either side of the gun debate. In the meantime, Lott’s discredited “More Guns, Less Crime” continues to forward gun lobby arguments. Think about that. The major arguments of gun lobbies rely upon the work of a man who cannot exonerate himself from charges of fraudulent data. As this is the case then many major arguments of the gun lobbies can be dismissed for good.
Gun lobby arguments are fallacies if based upon the work of John Lott. “More Guns, Less Crime” is a sales pitch, not a truth. Lott has managed to evade large scale public scrutiny while at the same time remaining a mouthpiece for the NRA and others. This needs to stop. Were it to be fully publicized how erroneous Lott’s research is, whether it’s because of purposeful deception or pure ignorance, the gun lobbies would be left scrambling.
Would this remove gun lobbies from the equation entirely? Of course not. Check the comments below. Gun advocates are sure to be raging against this article. Let them. It is pointless to engage them. They will only try to divert focus from Lott while tossing baseless accusations back at you.
John R. Lott Jr. is the key to defeating the gun lobbies. His data is either deliberately misleading or subject to ignorant methodology. It has been repeatedly defended only with his own responses. If Lott is held accountable for his mistakes and mis-truths, gun lobby talking points would get their volume turned down. It will be fully revealed how baseless many gun lobby arguments are. They are motivated by what they want, not how things are, and certainly aren’t interested in the greater good of the country.
Americans should be able to decide for themselves how to handle the issues of gun violence without vested interests shouting in their ears so loudly. John Lott’s story should be far bigger than it is. Perhaps you can help with that.
“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.” ~ Dorothy Allison