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Wednesday, April 02, 2003  
John Lott: More dead in Ohio?

Why is John Lott, Jr., the author of the infamous "More Guns, Less Crime" worth watching, some of my readers may wonder. The answer is because his faulty and likely fraudulent research has influenced gun laws in several states. Let's consider Lott's role in the passage of a concealed carry law in Ohio. He testified in favor of the concealed carry bill before the legislature twice, giving his usual spiel.

Lott contends that gun owners routinely show their weapon to ward off attackers. Lott said the figure shows that wider gun ownership leads to safer communities.

Lott also presented county-by-county research of states that found that those with concealed-weapons laws have an average 1.5-percent decrease in murders and a 2-percent decline in rapes and robberies.

There is nothing wrong with someone supporting legislation, if the person is offering reliable information. However, as gun control activists in Ohio realized, Lott is not. The research he refers to seems to exist only in the minds of Lott himself and an imaginary advocate he created, Mary Rosh.

"There is probably no other issue in which the entire intellectual basis on one side depends so completely on the writings and research of one individual," said Sen. Eric Fingerhut (D-Cleveland). "I had the opportunity to debate him last year, and I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that when he is challenged he is unable to defend his position in either scientific or logical methods."

Despite has inability to support his claim of 'show a gun, frighten away a criminal' being the norm, Lott continues to repeat his unproven claim as if repetition would make it true. With the release of his new book, "The Bias Against Guns," published by a far Right vanity press, he is now claiming to have replicated the missing poll and again gotten unbelievably supportive results.

. . .He defended the validity of the 98 percent statistic, and said he redid that phone survey for his most recent book and found similar results: 95 percent use the weapon defensively without firing it.

Despite Lott's and his phony persona's claims otherwise, there is no other gun researcher asserting that brandishing a gun while facing a criminal is effective 98 percent or even 95 percent of the time. His so-called second survey is much too small to have any scientific validity. And the first one? I don't think there was a first one.

Another reason I focus on Lott is that his supporters, the monied far Right, are busy trying to help him maintain his house of cards. This article from the conservative Crosswalk.com championing Lott while deriding respected researchers is typical. It even provides him an opportunity to make some new allegations he will never substantiate:

"You have some people who were engaging in robbery in order to get money previously and, when people are able to carry concealed handguns to protect themselves, you have some criminals [who] stop committing crimes, but some switch into other crimes."

Most often, Lott said, that switch is from robbery, where criminals come into direct contact with their victims and face a newfound risk of getting shot, to burglary and property theft "because it's relatively less risky."

The role of a mouthpiece for the pro-gun lobby is not to provide legitimate research. It is to muddy the waters so that the facts about America's gun violence epidemic are not taken as seriously as they should be.

Lott's research suggesting that relaxed gun laws actually reduce crime has been a boon to the National Rifle Association and its efforts to pass "shall-issue" laws around the country, even though his methods have been called into question by criminologists from Georgetown, Emory, Carnegie Mellon and Johns Hopkins universities. For instance, critics of his have long wondered where he came across a "national survey" cited in his book claiming that "98 percent of the time people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack.''

Many of John Lott's promoters, including Washington Times editor and neo-Confederate leader Robert Stacy McCain, favor a politically reactionary agenda that supports gun ownership by the white middle-class as a way to return to the fabled past when men were men, women were silent and minorities were marginalized. Their entire outlook is in conflict with the society in which we actually live. Their conflict with legitimate gun researchers is glaring.

Since Lott has been largely discredited as a reliable source of information on gun policy, what do other studies say? Well, the FBI says the violent crime rate fell 25 percent between 1992 and 1998, but it dropped even more significantly — by 30 percent — in states with strict gun control laws. According to the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, the violent crime rate fell by only 15 percent in states that relaxed gun control laws before 1992.

Because of an interested mainstream press and capable gun control advocates in Minnesota, Lott and friends' efforts to arm citizens regardless of need for weaponry has failed there unlike in Ohio and New Mexico.

Another ploy of the gun lobby is to suggest that all law enforcement personnel support the ways of the Wild Wild West. But, as is shown by lawmen in Ohio, that is not necessarily so.

Senate President Doug White said that he has been in touch with [Gov. Bob] Taft's office and that it may yet be impossible to resolve the issues that remain. Key to the bill's success is satisfying the State Highway Patrol, which wants a prohibition against concealing handguns on one's person while in a car. Troopers want the weapon to be locked away during transport.

The governor may veto the bill because of opposition from Ohio law enforcement.

Who pays this piper? Right Wing foundations. Lott has been mainly funded by the John M. Olin Foundation, sometimes through related organizations. The Olin Foundation has an interesting relationship with another Olin.

There are significant links between the John M. Olin Foundation and the Olin Corporation, which owns Winchester Ammunition (the largest producer of ammunition in the U.S. and the manufacturer of the infamous "Black Talon" bullet). Olin Corporation at one time also owned Winchester Firearms, a trade name which it now licenses out. Winchester Ammunition stands to reap financial gain from the increased sale of handgun ammunition generated by the passage of lax concealed weapons laws.

To summarize, John Lott is the visible peak of a submerged iceberg that threatens to make our already violent society even more violent. That iceberg is well-funded and has been quite effective. We would be wise to watch him and watch him closely. Making it clear to the unaware that this person has been thoroughly discredited could spell the difference between the already flawed status quo and even more gun-related deaths in Ohio . . . and other states.

11:21 PM