Data Drives 'Em Crazy: Insights from John Lott


Longtime readers of this column know we like data, from Rasmussen surveys to the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report. The gun prohibition lobby may argue with a homely old news hack, but they’re far less likely to reject numbers from the feds or a well-established polling company.

Author and researcher John Lott has done extensive research on guns and crime.

This is why when John Lott — the economist and author who founded the Crime Prevention Research Center some years back — writes an op-ed somewhere, I jump right on it. Lott has written a few books about guns, crime and media bias including the ground-breaking More Guns, Less Crime and makes anti-gunners crazy. They have gotten used to reflexively declaring anything he says as “debunked” — often, it seems, before they’ve had time to actually read it.

When Lott recently took a look at crime data and gun sales over the past couple of years, it made for some fascinating reading.

Let's Talk Photo ID

In conversations with fellow journalists or people who dislike firearms, I make a point of bringing the discussion around to photo ID.

“If you don’t think people should provide valid identification to vote, especially in a gubernatorial, congressional or presidential election,” I ask, “Why demand it to exercise another right: buying a firearm?”

Lott’s first book, More Guns, Less Crime, sent a shockwave through the firearms community.

Here’s something Lott recently revealed in the Washington Times: “We found that of the 47 countries in Europe today, 46 of them currently require government-issued photo IDs to vote.” This seems pretty reasonable. If someone is going to vote, they ought to vote under their own name, and only once.  What’s wrong with that?

Lott also discovered 35 of the 47 European countries “completely ban absentee voting for citizens.” Ten more countries, including England, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal and Spain, let people vote absentee, he noted, but “they require voters to show up in person and present a photo ID to pick up their ballots.”

What about prosecutions for trying to buy a gun when you’re a prohibited person? Lott has the score on that too. “Since the Brady background checks began in 1994, there have been 3.8 million initial denials,” Lott wrote. However, it is one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun. It is quite another to stop a law-abiding citizen from buying a gun just because their name is similar to a felon’s. In 2017, for example, there were 112,000 initial denials for supposedly attempted prohibited purchases, but just 12 federal prosecutions for prohibited people trying to buy guns by June 2018.”

Many, if not most, of the initial denials were false flags, he said in a 2018 piece published by the New York Times. In that op-ed, Lott observed, “The background check system confuses the names of law-abiding individuals with those of criminals, resulting in thousands of ‘false positives’ every year. Relying on phonetically similar names along with birth dates just doesn’t allow for much accuracy.”

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Gun Sales & Crime

In 2015, Lott was recognized by Alan Gottlieb and the Second Amendment Foundation as Scholar of the Year.

Writing at Townhall last month, Lott said this: “Gun sales increased dramatically in 2020 before receding some in 2021. Background checks on gun sales soared from 12.4 million in 2019 to 20.3 million in 2020 and declining back to 17.6 million in 2021.”

A few lines later, Lott reported, “But what the media ignores is that the number of violent gun crimes dropped dramatically in 2020. Last October, the U.S. Department of Justice released a study showing victims reported 212,470 gun crimes to police in 2020, a drop of 27% from the 290,790 in 2019. The share of violent crimes committed with guns also fell — by over 30%.”

I frequently write about proposed bans on so-called “assault rifles,” an idea the far left holds onto like a winning lottery ticket. Read the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Tables 11 and 20, and you’ll confirm rifles of any kind are used in only 2% to 4% of all homicides in any given year. If rifles are used in a fraction of murders, why are anti-gunners trying so hard to get them banned?

Reports from 2019 and back are easy to use, while the FBI Crime Report for 2020 is by far the most user-unfriendly version I’ve ever dealt with. Making matters worse, as a working journalist I’ve made numerous inquiries to the FBI media office to find out why the agency adopted a new format and how to read it. Crickets. I haven’t heard anything from anyone in the FBI, not even via email. Nobody seems interested in explaining or defending the new format.

While the crime report doesn’t list all crimes or weapons used, the 2% to 4% pattern of rifles used in homicides has been consistent for many years. More people are murdered annually with knives/cutting instruments, blunt instruments or “personal weapons” (feet, fists or open hands) than with rifles of any kind.

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Five Million First Timers in 2021

The National Shooting Sports Foundation recently reported “at least 5.4 million people purchased a firearm for the first time in 2021,” amounting to nearly 30%of all gun purchases last year. This essentially confirms Lott’s op-ed information.

While that figure translates to a 10% decrease from the estimated 40% of first-time gun buyers in 2020, it’s still a healthy figure.

The NSSF also reported nearly 47% of first-timers asked about training, and 43% actually signed up. Of the first-time gun buyers in 2020, “nearly 23 percent of retailers” reported their new clients came back for a second purchase in 2021.

More than 33% of last year’s first-time buyers were women, and almost 40% of retailers “saw an increase of African-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.”



Politicians Bailing

Lott is not the only source of interesting data. Keep your eyes on “Ballotpedia” online. This website is keeping a running count of politicians who have announced they are not running for re-election this fall.

The website, at this writing, reported 47 members of Congress, including six members of the Senate and 41 members of the House, are bowing out. Thirty-two of these people are retiring and 15 others are running for different offices.

Here’s what I found interesting. The list shows 28 Democrats and 13 Republicans—better than a 2-to-1 margin—are not looking to come back. Twenty Democrats are retiring from public office, while only six Republicans are retiring.


Important Issues

Last month, NBC News released the results of a poll gauging concerns of Americans as we head toward the mid-term campaign season.

The top concern: jobs and the economy. Next came “voting rights and election integrity.” Third on the list is the corona virus. Nowhere on that roster did the word “guns” or the term “gun control” appear.

What?! To hear gun prohibition lobbying groups such as the Seattle-based (and billionaire-backed) Alliance for Gun Responsibility tell it, “a majority” of the people want “lifesaving” legislation such as gun bans, magazine capacity limits and other restrictions passed this year.

Why then, would the Seattle group declare frantically in a fundraising email message that, “This year, our opposition is larger and better-organized than they have been since the Alliance began. They are flooding legislators’ inboxes with messages opposing these evidence-based gun safety policies.”

If “most” people support gun control, why are these people even worried about all of those messages? Yeah, it doesn’t make sense, does it?