What Mother Jones Missed In Its Hit Piece About Me

John Lott President, Crime Prevention Research Center
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Mother Jones, a leftist magazine funded by people such as George Soros, and I have been in a running feud for years. They have continually made false claims about guns, often claims that have been cited by the general media, such as CNN, and I have corrected them. Unable to win the battle of facts, Mother Jones this past week published a report claiming that academics don’t support my research.

No mention was made about all the dust ups I have had with Mother Jones’ national editor, Mark Follman, when I have corrected their lie that concealed handgun permit holders have never stopped a mass public shooting (hint: when permit holders are present, they consistently stop these attacks before four or more people are killed). Or on their claim that these types of attacks have been increasing in recent years (hint: they haven’t increased, and Mother Jones inconsistently determined what cases to include over time).

Mother Jones did what it has done to others, such as Bill O’Reilly, and launched a personal attack, claiming that the work produced by the Crime Prevention Research Center isn’t “academic quality” and quotes Professor Gary Kleck as saying that my research “was garbage in and garbage out.” That the “National Research Council … concluded that the existing research, including Lott’s, provided “no credible evidence” that right-to-carry laws had any effect on violent crime.”

Gun control groups such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence immediately tweeted out the Mother Jones article announcing: “Pro-gun ‘academic’ now running org … that produces no ‘peer-reviewed research.’”

My research has been supported by a large majority of the published peer-reviewed studies by economists and criminologist who have studied the national data on right-to-carry laws. Yet, Mother Jones somehow was unable to find any of the academics who have confirmed my research. Apparently, Mother Jones never even took the time to glance through the index of the research they were criticizing.

Here are some inconvenient facts:

— The National Research Council report actually concluded as follows: “The committee concludes 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 majority of the panel advocated that more money be available to academics to fund additional research. Mother Jones somehow manages not to mention that despite evaluating every gun law that has been studied, the Council found no evidence supporting that any law had any impact.

In addition, right-to-carry laws were actually the only type of law where there was dissent. James Q. Wilson, who at the time was probably America’s most pre-eminent criminologist, concluded: “I find that the evidence presented by Lott and his supporters suggests that [right-to-carry] laws do in fact help drive down the murder rate.”

— That supposedly it only looks like right-to-carry laws reduced violent crime rates because the research didn’t account for the crack cocaine epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But from the very first study with David Mustard in 1997 through each edition of More Guns, Less Crime the impact of cocaine was indeed accounted for in many different ways.

— That the research didn’t account for some relatively small counties not including data from all the cities within the country. But in fact from my initial research, I first looked at all counties and then just counties with more than 50,000 people and then those with more than 100,000 people. If the missing data in some small population counties were creating a bias in favor of right-to-carry laws, removing those small counties and looking at larger counties should eliminate that result. But that didn’t happen. The results were similar when just the more populous counties were used. Other approaches also found that this bias didn’t exist.

— As to the claim that my center, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), doesn’t produce any peer-reviewed research, it helps provide some perspective that I have published over a 100 peer-reviewed academic journal articles. The CPRC-supported research published last year on right-to-carry laws in the Review of Economics and Finance in 2014. The CPRC also co-authored a paper published last year in Public Choice, which is a peer-reviewed journal. Another paper showing errors in a recent FBI report on active shooters was published in the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Today.

Generally, it takes time to produce research and then even more time to go the peer-review process. As Mother Jones was informed, another paper is at a journal were it has been revised and resubmitted.

— Professor Gary Kleck at Florida State University told Mother Jones: ”Do I know anybody who specifically believes with more guns there are less crimes and they’re a credible criminologist? No.” Presumably Kleck and Mother Jones will try to claim that James Q. Wilson wasn’t a credible criminologist, but a survey just completed by Gary Mauser of researchers who published empirical papers on firearm issues in peer-reviewed criminology journals from 2000 to 2014 found that 31 percent thought that right-to-carry laws lowered murder rates, 15 percent said that it increased murder rates, 46 percent said that the laws had no effect, and 5.1 percent said that they didn’t know. While the largest category of criminologists agree with Gary Kleck that right-to-carry laws have no impact on crime rates, the second largest group of researchers do believe the more guns, less crime hypothesis. For economists, the support for the notion of guns deterring criminals was overwhelming.

Mother Jones’ other attacks are more personal, implying some not clearly specified bad behavior regarding a survey, but they completely manage to mangle the timeline and seems unable to accurately report the numbers for a follow-up survey that confirmed the previous results in 2002, before controversy erupted about the first survey. Even on some internet chatroom postings, Mother Jones is unable to get the facts straight.

Over the last three months, Mother Jones constantly came up with new questions, totaling about 50, covering a wide range of topics. They apparently first wanted to prove the false claim that the Crime Prevention Research Center was getting funding from an NRA type organization.

If the political left can’t win the arguments on facts, they go after the person. Presumably Mother Jones just assumes that its readers won’t go and actually read my research. But it is a dangerous game. If readers do check, why will people ever trust them again?