|Native name||John Richard Lott Jr.|
|Born||May 8, 1958|
|Institutions||University of Chicago, Yale University, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, College Park, American Enterprise Institute|
John Richard Lott Jr. (born May 8, 1958) is an American economist, political commentator, and gun rights advocate. Lott was formerly employed at various academic institutions including the University of Chicago, Yale University, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Maryland, College Park, and at the American Enterprise Institute conservative think tank. As of 2017, he is a contributor for FoxNews.com, the Hill, and the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, a nonprofit he founded in 2013. Lott holds a Ph.D. in economics from UCLA.
He has written for both academic and popular publications. He has authored books such as More Guns, Less Crime, The Bias Against Guns, and Freedomnomics. He is best known as an advocate in the gun rights debate, particularly his arguments against restrictions on owning and carrying guns. Newsweek referred to Lott as "The Gun Crowd's Guru."
John Lott studied economics at UCLA, receiving his B.A. in 1980, M.A. in 1982, and Ph.D. in 1984. Lott has held positions in law and economics at several institutions, including the Yale Law School, the Hoover Institution, UCLA, the Wharton Business School, Texas A&M University, and Rice University. Lott was the chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission (1988-1989). He spent five years as a visiting professor (1994-95) and as a fellow (1995-99) at the University of Chicago. Lott was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (2001-2006). He left AEI for SUNY Binghamton. From July 2007 to 2010, Lott was a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland Foundation at the University of Maryland, College Park and lectured on law and economics.
Op-eds by Lott have appeared in such places as the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Chicago Tribune. Since 2008, he has been a columnist for Fox News, initially weekly.
In a 1997 article written with David B. Mustard and Lott's subsequent books More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns, Lott argued that allowing adults to carry concealed weapons significantly reduces crime in America.
The work was immediately controversial, drawing both support and opposition. Several academics praised Lott's methodology, including Florida State University economist Bruce Benson,Cardozo School of Law professor John O. McGinnis,College of William and Mary professor Carlisle Moody,University of Mississippi professor William F. Shughart, and SUNY economist Florenz Plassmann and University of Adelaide economist John Whitley.
Other reviews said that there were problems with Lott's model. In the New England Journal of Medicine, David Hemenway argued that Lott failed to account for several key variables, including drug consumption, and that therefore the model was flawed.Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue, said that the model used by Lott contained significant coding errors and systemic bias. In the American Journal of Public Health, Daniel Webster et al. also raised concerns about other flaws in the study, such as misclassification of laws and endogeneity of predictor variables, which they said rendered the study's conclusions "insupportable". Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck considered it unlikely that such a large decrease in violent crime could be explained by a relatively modest increase in concealed carry, and others said that removing portions of the data set caused the results to still show statistically significant drops only in aggravated assaults and robbery when all counties with fewer than 100,000 people and Florida's counties were both simultaneously dropped from the sample. A 1998 study by Jens Ludwig that said it "more effectively control[ed] for unobserved variables that may vary over time" than the Lott and Mustard study concluded that "shall-issue laws have resulted, if anything, in an increase in adult homicide rates." A 2001 study in the Journal of Political Economy by University of Chicago economist Mark Duggan did robustness checks of Lott and Mustard's study and found that the findings of the Lott and Mustard study were inaccurate.
In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) National Research Council (NRC) conducted a review of current research and data on firearms and violent crime, including Lott's work, and concluded "that with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates." The NRC report studied over 100 different types of gun control proposal and it reached this same non-conclusion for all these regulations. For all these regulations, the NRC panel only called for more research.
Only right-to-carry laws had a dissent from this non-conclusion. The pre-eminent criminologist James Q. Wilson dissented from this non-conclusion. Wilson pointed out that committee's own findings showed "that shall-issue laws drive down the murder rate".
Referring to the research done on the topic, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that "Mr. Lott's research has convinced his peers of at least one point: No scholars now claim that legalizing concealed weapons causes a major increase in crime." As Lott critics Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue III pointed out: "We conclude that Lott and Mustard have made an important scholarly contribution in establishing that these laws have not led to the massive bloodbath of death and injury that some of their opponents feared. On the other hand, we find that the statistical evidence that these laws have reduced crime is limited, sporadic, and extraordinarily fragile."
A 2008 article in Econ Journal Watch surveyed peer-reviewed empirical academic studies, and found that 10 supported the proposition that right-to-carry reduces crime, 8 supported no significant effect and none supported an increase. The article was rebutted by Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue in the same journal in 2009. By 2012, there were 18 peer-reviewed studies that supported right-to-carry reduces crime, 10 supported no significant effect and one supported an increase. Other studies on the subject have been published in student-edited academic reviews or the commercial press.
In 2013, Lott founded the nonprofit organization Crime Prevention Research Center to study the relationship between gun laws and crime. As of July 2015, he was also the organization's president.
Using data from 1870 to 1940, Lott and Larry Kenny studied how state government expenditures and revenue changed in 48 state governments after women obtained the right to vote. Women were able to vote in 29 states before women's suffrage and the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Lott stated that "women's suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue and more liberal voting patterns for federal representatives, and these effects continued growing over time as more women took advantage of the franchise."
Lott argues in both More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns that defensive gun use (DGU) is underreported, noting that in general, only shootings ending in fatalities are discussed in news stories. In More Guns, Less Crime, Lott writes that "[s]ince in many defensive cases a handgun is simply brandished, and no one is harmed, many defensive uses are never even reported to the police."
Attempting to quantify this phenomenon, in the first edition of the book, published in May 1998, Lott wrote that "national surveys" suggested that "98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack." In that same paragraph he also wrote that "[s]ince in many defensive cases a handgun is simply brandished, and no one is harmed, many defensive uses are never even reported to the police." The higher the rate of defensive gun uses that do not end in the attacker being killed or wounded, the easier it is to explain why defensive gun uses are not covered by the media without reference to media bias. Lott cited the figure in op-eds in the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.
In 2002, he said that brandishing a weapon was sufficient to stop an attack 95% of the time. Other researchers criticized his methodology. A study in Public Opinion Quarterly said that his sample size of 1,015 respondents was too small for the study to be accurate and that the majority of similar studies suggest a value between 70 and 80 percent. According to Lott, Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz's 1994 estimate rises to 92 percent when brandishing and warning shots are added together.:8 Lott said that the lower rates found by others was at least in part due to the different questions that were asked. The other surveys all asked people to recall events over the previous five years, while Lott had only asked people about events that had occurred during just the previous year. Lott used the higher estimate because it accounted for his claim of media bias. The survey questions have also been made available for years to anyone who would have liked to replicate the survey themselves.
In a 2001 study, Lott and John E. Whitley reported that safe-storage gun laws not only did not reduce juvenile suicides or accidental gun deaths, but that they also increased rates of violent and property crime. The study was criticized by Webster et al. in the Journal of the American Medical Association for using Tobit regression despite the fact that the data used in the study on youth suicides was "highly skewed and heteroskedastic", and because the vast majority of crimes that Lott and Whitley claimed increased due to safe-storage laws occurred outside the home. Webster and Carroll also wrote in Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law that the Lott and Whitley study's findings with respect to crime were inconsistent with prior research.
Together with John Karpoff and Eric Wehrly at the University of Washington, Lott has worked to show the importance of government regulations through both legal and regulatory penalties and the weaknesses of reputational penalties in reducing pollution. Firms violating environmental laws suffer statistically significant losses in the market value of firm equity. The losses are of similar magnitudes to the legal penalties imposed; and in the cross section, the market value loss is related to the size of the legal penalty.
Lott finds that when hiring standards are lowered in the process of recruiting more minority officers, the overall quality of all officers is reduced and crime rates are increased. The most adverse effects of these hiring policies have occurred in the most heavily black populated cities. There is no consistent evidence that crime rates rise when standards for hiring women are changed, and this raises questions about whether norming tests or altering their content to create equal pass rates is preferable. The paper examines how the changing composition of police departments affects such measures as the murder of and assaults against police officers.
With John Whitley at the University of Adelaide, Lott has considered crime rates and the possible influence of laws which place abortion decisions with the pregnant person other than boards of physicians. They acknowledge the old 1960s argument that abortion may prevent the birth of "unwanted" children, who would have relatively small investments in human capital and a higher probability of crime. On the other hand, their research suggests that liberalizing abortion rules correlates with an increase in out-of-wedlock births and single parent families. In turn, they argue that this increase in single parent births implies the opposite effect on investments in human capital (i.e., average investment per child decreases under their argument). Using the correlation between children in poverty and in single parent homes with crime they build an argument that liberalization of abortion laws increased murder rates by around about 0.5 to 7 percent. In a review of the literature on the relationship between abortion and crime, Theodore Joyce, an economist at Baruch College and the National Bureau of Economic Research, praised Lott and Whitley for gathering additional data on abortion but criticized the methodology that they used.
In 2000, Lott argued, using a regression analysis, that George W. Bush lost at least 10,000 votes in Florida after the media incorrectly called the state for Al Gore while voting was still on-going in the more conservative parts of the state. Lott's argument is used in the influential social science methodology textbook Rethinking Social Inquiry (edited by Henry Brady and David Collier) as an example of poor methodology, and showed how the number of lost Bush votes ranged from 28 to 56.
Lott claims that most of the large recent increases in campaign spending for state and federal offices can be explained by higher government spending. Lott also supports the conclusion that higher quality judges, measured by their output once they are on the court (e.g., number of citations to their opinions or number of published opinions), take longer to get confirmed.
Lott has advocated government deregulation of various areas, and has also been published in the popular press taking positions in support of the U.S. Republican Party and President George W. Bush on topics such as the validity of the 2000 Presidential Election results in Florida.
On April 10, 2006, John Lott filed suit for defamation against Steven Levitt and HarperCollins Publishers over the book Freakonomics and against Levitt over a series of emails to John McCall. In the book Freakonomics, Levitt and coauthor Stephen J. Dubner claimed that the results of Lott's research in More Guns, Less Crime had not been replicated by other academics. In the emails to economist John McCall, who had pointed to a number of papers in different academic publications that had replicated Lott's work, Levitt wrote that the work by several authors supporting Lott in a special 2001 issue of the Journal of Law and Economics had not been peer reviewed, Lott had paid the University of Chicago Press to publish the papers, and that papers with results opposite of Lott's had been blocked from publication in that issue.
A federal judge found that Levitt's replication claim in Freakonomics was not defamation but found merit in Lott's complaint over the email claims.
Levitt settled the second defamation claim by admitting in a letter to John McCall that he himself was a peer reviewer in the 2001 issue of the Journal of Law and Economics, that Lott had not engaged in bribery (paying for extra costs of printing and postage for a conference issue is customary), and that he knew that "scholars with varying opinions" (including Levitt himself) had been invited to participate. The Chronicle of Higher Education characterized Levitt's letter as offering "a doozy of a concession."
The dismissal of the first half of Lott's suit was unanimously upheld by The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on February 11, 2009.
In 1996 when Lott's research first received media attention, Charles Schumer wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "The Associated Press reports that Prof. Lott's fellowship at the University of Chicago is funded by the Olin Foundation, which is 'associated with the Olin Corporation,' one of the nation's largest gun manufacturers. Maybe that's a coincidence, too. But it's also a fact." Olin Foundation head William E. Simon strongly denied Schumer's claims in a reply letter in which he stated that: Olin Foundation was funded by the personal estate of the late John M. Olin independently of Olin Corp. Like all candidates, Lott was selected to receive his Olin Fellowship by the faculty of the university, not by Olin Foundation and certainly not by Olin Corp.
In a debate on Piers Morgan Tonight on July 23, 2012, Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz claimed: "This is junk science at its worst. Paid for and financed by the National Rifle Association." Lott countered: "The NRA hasn't paid for my research." Dershowitz continued: "Your conclusions are paid for and financed--The National Rifle Association--only funds research that will lead to these conclusions." Separately both Lott and the NRA have denied NRA funding of Lott's research.
In the course of a dispute with Otis Dudley Duncan in 1999-2000, Lott claimed to have undertaken a national survey of 2,424 respondents in 1997, the results of which were the source for claims he had made beginning in 1997. However, in 2000 Lott was unable to produce the data or any records showing that the survey had been undertaken. He said the 1997 hard drive crash that had affected several projects with co-authors had destroyed his survey data set, the original tally sheets had been abandoned with other personal property in his move from Chicago to Yale, and he could not recall the names of any of the students who he said had worked on it. Critics alleged that the survey had never taken place, but Lott defends the survey's existence and accuracy, quoting on his website colleagues who lost data in the hard drive crash.
In 2001, Rutgers University sociology professor Ted Goertzel considered multiple regression to be not of much use in proving causal arguments in studies by Lott (and by Lott's critics Levitt, Ayres and Donohue).
The National Academy of Sciences panel that reported on several gun control issues in 2004 looked at Right-To-Carry laws in Chapter 6 and endorsed neither the Lott & Mustard (1997) level and trend models as definite proof nor the Ayres & Donohue (2003) hybrid model as definite refutation of Lott's thesis: the majority of the panel concluded that econometrics could not decide the issue, suggesting instead alternate research, such as a survey of felons to determine if RTC changed their behavior. The criminologist on the NAS panel, James Q. Wilson, wrote a dissent from the econometricians' conclusion. Wilson noted in the report that all the panel's estimates on murder rates supported Lott's conclusion on the effect of RTC on murder. The Committee responded that "[w]hile it is true that most of the reported estimates [of the policy on murder rates] are negative, several are positive and many are statistically insignificant." They further noted that the full committee, including Wilson, agreed that there was not convincing evidence that RTC policies affected other kinds of violent crime.
In a 2011 article for ALER, Donohue claimed the NRC panel results published from the hybrid model "could not be replicated on its data set". Lott replicated the NRC's results using the NRC's copy of the Ayres & Donohue model and data set, pointing out that the model used for the ALER article was different and introduced a truncation bias.
In response to the dispute surrounding the missing survey, Lott created and used "Mary Rosh" as a sock puppet to defend his own works on Usenet and elsewhere. After investigative work by blogger Julian Sanchez, Lott admitted to use of the Mary Rosh persona. Sanchez also pointed out that Lott, posing as Rosh, not only praised his own academic writing, but also called himself "the best professor I ever had".
Many commentators and academics accused Lott of violating academic integrity, noting that he praised himself while posing as one of his former students and that "Rosh" was used to post a favorable review of More Guns, Less Crime on Amazon.com. Lott has claimed that the "Rosh" review was written by his son and wife.
"I probably shouldn't have done it--I know I shouldn't have done it--but it's hard to think of any big advantage I got except to be able to comment fictitiously," Lott told the Washington Post in 2003.
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