John Lott Jr. gets respectful treatment from the media, but his “scholarship” withers under scrutiny.
The War Against Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies by John Lott is well on its way to ascending into the pantheon of pro-gun literature. A parade of conservative heavyweights has lavished praise on the book since its publication this month, among them Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity. Cruz opined that “the Second Amendment has no better defender than John Lott,” adding that with this book, Lott “has done his country and the cause of gun rights a great service.”
Lott’s 250-page book covers a wide range of territory, and seeks to debunk what he sees as many of the most common arguments by gun control advocates and their allies in the media. This is familiar territory for Lott, whose first major book, More Guns, Less Crime, published in 1998, marked a turning point in the gun debate. For the first time, it allowed the gun lobby to couch its arguments in the language of social science. The central finding in that book — that rates of gun ownership and the existence of “right to carry” laws reduce violent crime — have been the subject of numerous subsequent studies, the most sophisticated of which conclude Lott’s results are specious. (A National Research Council report found that the data did not support the theory.)
After controversies involving his work and his aggressive, sometimes pseudonymous defense of it online, Lott left academia to become the founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. Yet that has hardly dented Lott’s reputation among defenders of minimal restrictions on guns.
In our view he remains the single most important quasi-academic figure opposing gun control: There are many people making Second Amendment arguments in favor of the right to bear arms, but he is the originator of two of the NRA’s favorite talking points: that “right to carry” laws reduce crime and that murderers seek out gun-free zones for their “sprees.”
But despite the effusive praise from gun advocates, and respectful treatment by the mainstream media, The War on Guns is riddled with errors and falsehoods that undermine most, if not all, of its major claims.