John Lott is the former researcher and now full-time NRA flack who’s been tirelessly promoting the notion that the best way to fight crime is to give everyone a gun. Now he’s founded an organization called the Crime Prevention Research Center which will replace what he calls “poorly done and misleading public health studies” with academic “quality research” on the relationship of laws regulating the ownership or use of guns, crime and public safety.”
Now I’m all for quality research and and even though Lott’s been publicly accused by other scholars of inventing data, I’ve decided to take him seriously and, over the next several weeks, will examine some of his work from a serious and non-polemical point of view. The first piece is an article he co-authored in 2000 which claims to find a positive correlation between issuance of concealed-carry permits and a decline in multiple shootings. This has become a big part of the NRA public-relations arsenal since Sandy Hook, and Lott has been featured on all kinds of media shows promoting the dual notions of getting rid of gun-free zones (like schools) and widening concealed-carry rules so that virtually anyone can carry a gun anywhere they want.
Lott’s article on multiple shootings covers 1977 to 1997, during which time he claims to have information on 566 shooting incidents resulting in 1,421 injuries and 931 deaths. Lott defines multiple shootings as shootings in which two or more people were killed or injured, and he restricts his analysis to “public places” although he never defines what the word ‘public’ actually means. Of the total homicides that occurred during this period, 82% took place in the 20 states (and DC) which did not issue concealed-carry permits prior to 1997, with only 18% of multiple gun homicide deaths occurring in the 31 states that did. To bolster his argument about the value of CCW to mitigate multiple gun shootings, Lott then attaches a plethora of statistical data correlating multiple shooting with just about every other socio-economic factor that could be related to crime (unemployment, crime rates, incarcerations, etc.) and finds that no other factor explains the discrepancy in multiple shootings as well as citizens walking around with guns.
The data is breathtaking, the statistical analysis is dazzling, but Lott’s comparison of multiple shootings between CCW and non-CCW states is misleading and simply wrong. Why? Because of the 31 states that comprise his CCW sample between 1977 and 1997, 14 states (AZ, CT, ID, NH, ND, ME, MT, NV, OR, SD, UT, VT, WA, WY,) had minimal gun homicide rates before, during and after the period he studied, which makes any comparison between those states and the non-CCW states hazardous at best. The national gun homicide rate in 1977 was 6.6 per 100,000, the rate in New Hampshire, for example. was 2.3 and the rate in North Dakota was .68. How do you compare numbers from those states to such high-homicide and non-CCW states like California, Maryland and New York? You don’t.
But if you’re John Lott you do, and the reason you do is because it’s not scholarly research that you’re trying to advance. It’s a political agenda that promotes the ‘armed citizen’ as a replacement for government authority because government, particularly a government headed by an anti-gun President, just doesn’t work. I’m going to keep track of the Crime Prevention Research Center’s efforts to refute “misleading public health studies” and if they publish anything that’s as shabby as this article, I’ll be sure to let you know.