Discredited gun researcher John Lott falsely claimed that guns are "banned" in South Carolina churches to blame the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on "gun-free zones."
On the evening of July 17, a gunman opened fire during a bible study meeting at the church, killing nine people.
Lott, who invented the debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis and is a frequent source of conservative misinformation on gun violence, quickly blamed "gun-free zones" for the shooting. On the website of his group, Crime Prevention Research Center, Lott wrote, "Not surprising that yet another mass public shooting has taken place where guns were banned. Yet, again, the ban only ensured that the victims were vulnerable." Lott titled his article, "Another Shooting in a Gun-free Zone: Nine Dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina."
Lott then offered a "synopsis" of South Carolina law - taken from an article on CriminalDefenseLawyer.com - that suggested guns cannot be carried in churches and some other locations.
Lott's synopsis linked to S.C. Code Ann.§ 23-31-215, which says that individuals with concealed carry licenses can bring guns into churches with the permission of a church official. Here is what the actual law says:
M) A permit issued pursuant to this section does not authorize a permit holder to carry a concealable weapon into a:
(8) church or other established religious sanctuary unless express permission is given by the appropriate church official or governing body;
In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Lott similarly mischaracterized South Carolina law, writing, "the massacre took place in a gun-free zone, a place where the general public was banned from having guns." Lott also speculated that gun policies formed the shooter's motive, writing, "Churches, like the one in Charleston, preach peace, but the killer there probably chose that target because he knew the victims were defenseless."
Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley falsely claimed that the FBI misrepresented data on mass shootings to "help drive Democratic turnout" during the 2014 midterm elections. In fact, the report only contained data on "active shooter" situations, not mass shootings, and made that clear in the introduction, which stated, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings."
In a June 9 editorial headlined, "Obama's Gun-Control Misfire," Riley wrote, "Last September the Obama administration produced an FBI report that said mass shooting attacks and deaths were up sharply -- by an average annual rate of about 16% between 2000 and 2013."
But the 2014 FBI report, which focuses on 160 incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013, literally says it is not about "mass shootings," but rather a different phenomenon known as an "active shooter" situation. From the report's introduction (emphasis added):
This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings, but rather a study of a specific type of shooting situation law enforcement and the public may face. Incidents identified in this study do not encompass all gun-related situations; therefore caution should be taken when using this information without placing it in context. Specifically, shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence--pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public--were not included in this study. In addition, other gun-related shootings were not included when those incidents appeared generally not to have put others in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a school building or a person who chose to publicly commit suicide in a parking lot). The study does not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore is limited in its scope. Nonetheless, it was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to both law enforcement and citizens as they seek to stop these threats and save lives during active shooter incidents.
The FBI defined an active shooter situation as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area," and found that such incidents occurred with increasing frequency over a 13-year period starting in 2000.
In his opinion piece, Riley used his inaccurate reading of the report to claim that the Obama administration hoped to use the report to help Democrats win in the 2014 midterm elections and to advance its own gun safety agenda:
The White House could not possibly have been more pleased with the media reaction to these findings, which were prominently featured by the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, the Washington Post and other major outlets. The FBI report landed six weeks before the midterm elections, and the administration was hoping that the gun-control issue would help drive Democratic turnout.
Following the high-profile mass shootings in 2012 at a cinema in Aurora, Colo., and an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the White House pushed hard for more gun-control legislation. Congress, which at the time included a Democratic-controlled Senate, refused to act. This surprised no one, including an administration well aware that additional gun controls wouldn't pass muster with enough members of the president's own party, let alone Republicans.
But the administration also knew that the issue could potentially excite Democratic base voters in a year when the party was worried about turnout. Hence President Obama's vow in his 2014 State of the Union address "to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook."
To attack the report's credibility, Riley cited criticism of it from discredited gun researcher John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center. Lott has a history of manipulating statistics and making false claims about guns to advance his pro-gun agenda, and he is the author of the well-known but thoroughly debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis. Lott, who is not considered a credible source for information about mass shootings, recently claimed Fox News is partnering with him to "start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders." (According to an analysis of 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones, no such cases exist.)
Riley's false accusations are the latest in a series of outlandish and baseless criticisms of the Obama administration and gun laws. In a 2014 appearance on Fox News, he said "The administration already has enough race baiters, starting with the president continuing to Eric Holder, his attorney general." In 2013, he said controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense laws "[benefit], disproportionately, poor blacks," even though research has shown that killings defended with such laws are much more likely to be found justified when a white person killed a black person, rather than the reverse.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott told his supporters that Fox News has agreed to pursue stories related to the Department of Justice's report on the Ferguson, MO police department and investigate reports of mass shootings supposedly stopped by people carrying legally concealed weapons.
In a June 9 letter posted on Facebook by National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, Lott revealed that he is "working with Fox News to obtain a copy of the data used by the Obama Department of Justice in evaluating the Ferguson police department" and that Fox News "has agreed to start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders."
The letter was addressed to supporters of Lott's Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). Nugent is a high-profile supporter of CPRC who has made inflammatory statements in his appeals for donations to the group.
In his letter, Lott suggests that he will act as a go-between Fox News and CPRC supporters with information about mass shootings that were supposedly stopped or prevented by someone legally carrying a concealed weapon (emphasis added):
The second accomplishment is something that you all can help with. Fox News has agreed to start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders (a partial list of cases is available here). If you ever see a defensive gun use story, especially one that might involve a permit holder stopping a mass killing, please email me the link to the news story as soon as possible.
Lott described the agreement with Fox News on mass shooting reports to his supporters by writing that "we won't get explicit credit," but that the venture "is still important."
Fox News hosts and guests relied and expounded upon recent comments by actor Vince Vaughn in support of carrying guns in public and in schools to push numerous falsehoods about gun violence that expert analyses have debunked.
Fox News relied on claims from discredited gun researcher John Lott to falsely suggest that an FBI report inflated the occurrence of mass shootings, possibly for political reasons. In fact, the report in question covered only "active shooter situations" and explicitly noted in its introduction, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings."
In September 2014, the FBI released a report on 160 active shooter situations that occurred between 2000 and 2013. The report counted 1,043 total casualties and noted that over the 13-year period, the incidence of active shooter incidents rose. In its report, the FBI defined an active shooter situation as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."
Lott, who often manipulates statistics to push a pro-gun agenda and is the inventor of the discredited "more guns, less crime" hypothesis, attacked the report in The New York Post last year with the false claim that the "FBI study discusses 'mass shootings or killings.'" Based on this false premise, Lott wrote that several of the incidents in the FBI report don't meet accepted definitions of mass shootings and therefore the report was "bogus" and being "used to promote a political agenda."
Lott's falsehoods on the FBI report are now being promoted on Fox News. On the March 25 edition of Fox & Friends First, host Heather Childers reported the claim of Lott's group, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), that FBI data on mass shootings "may have been overstated for political purposes." While Childers spoke, onscreen text warned viewers of the supposedly "SHODY [sic] STATS":
CHILDERS: Are the number of mass shootings getting blown out of proportion by the government? Well the Crime Prevention Research Center says that FBI stats on mass shootings are inflated. The CPRC says because of errors and biases, the FBI data shows twice as many mass shootings than really occurred. The organization says that the stats may have been overstated for political purposes.
The Star Tribune of Minneapolis cited a misleading statistic about carrying concealed guns from pro-gun group Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) without disclosing the group's pro-gun slant or that it is run by discredited gun researcher John Lott.
CPRC research was cited in a March 2 article on a recent increase in the number of permits to carry a concealed gun issued to Minnesotans. Arguments in favor of carrying concealed weapons were bolstered by the article's citation that "[t]he Crime Prevention Research Center found that states with a high percentage of gun ownership often had low violent-crime rates."
The article identified CPRC as "a nonprofit organization that studies the connection between firearms and crime," a description that fails to adequately inform readers about the nature of the group.
CPRC is run by discredited gun researcher John Lott, who often manipulates statistics about gun violence in order to advance a misleading pro-gun agenda. Armed With Reason, "a blog dedicated to academically refuting pro-gun myths," describes Lott -- the inventor of the now-debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis -- as "the most prolific and influential writer on the topic of gun violence and gun control."
According to Armed With Reason, Lott touts false claims about gun violence "repeatedly in articles and TV appearances" and has committed "ethical transgressions" in his pursuit of pro-gun research:
While [Lott's] initial research was groundbreaking, further examination revealed numerous flaws. Today the "more guns, less crime" hypothesis has been thoroughly repudiated. On closer inspection his impressive credentials reveal an academic nomad, never able to secure a place in academia. His ethical transgressions range from accusations of fabricating an entire survey, to presenting faulty regressions, to creating elaborate online personas to defend his work and bash critics, to trying to revise his online history to deflect arguments. And this doesn't even begin to cover the whole host of false claims and statistics he has peddled repeatedly in articles and TV appearances.
The CPRC statistic cited by the Star Tribune -- that "states with a high percentage of gun ownership often had low violent-crime rates" -- is misleading because it gives the erroneous impression that the concealed carry of firearms is associated with lower crime rates. In fact, credible academic research has proven the opposite to be true.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott misled about a controversial NRA-backed law that is being used to challenge Pennsylvania gun ordinances, the same day he hoped to testify as an expert witness in a related lawsuit.
In 2014, Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation that expanded the scope of a longstanding Pennsylvania state preemption law that limits the ability of local governments to pass gun ordinances that go beyond state gun laws. The new law, Act 192, expands how the preemption law can be enforced with an unusual provision that gives gun rights groups a special status to sue the local municipalities who allegedly violate the state preemption law.
The NRA has called the law "a much-needed protection for gun owners in the Keystone State" and has already moved to sue several Pennsylvania cities over local gun laws. Philadelphia Magazine called the law "astonishing" and "appalling" because the special "standing" to sue, carved out for gun rights groups under the law, means "[t]he NRA can sue -- and it can win without having to show that anybody actually had their rights violated." The magazine also noted that the law would allow the NRA to capture Pennsylvanians' tax dollars in the form of attorney's fees granted to the victor of a lawsuit under the law. Prior to the enactment of Act 192, the NRA had attempted to sue a Pennsylvania municipality, but had its lawsuit dismissed for lack of standing.
In a February 6 opinion piece for The Patriot-News, a Harrisburg newspaper, Lott misled in two ways about the scope of Act 192 in order to normalize the law's unusually broad standing to sue. Lott's piece was appended with the note that he is "serving as an expert witness in Friday's case against Harrisburg."
Right-wing media rushed to exploit the deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. But this is just the latest in right-wing media's long history of politicizing tragedy to push political objectives.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott attacked a recent FBI report on active shooter events by suggesting the report called some incidents where no one died "mass killings." In fact the report clearly states, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings," but a rather report on "active shooter incidents" in the U.S.
In September, the FBI released a report on the 160 active shooter incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013. The report found that during the 13 year period, 1,043 people were killed (486) or wounded (557) in active shooter incidents and the number of such incidents is increasing:
According to the FBI, "The agreed-upon definition of an active shooter by U.S. government agencies -- including the White House, U.S. Department of Justice/FBI, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency -- is 'an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.'"
The Washington Times is amplifying an attack on gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety by citing a shoddy report from discredited gun researcher John Lott.
In an October 9 article, Times reporter Kelly Riddell, who is a frequent source of misinformation about gun violence, shared a report from Lott's group, Crime Prevention Research Center, that purported to demonstrate that a recent Everytown report on mass shootings is "riddled with errors."
Riddell decided to base her article solely on highlighting Lott's claims about Everytown, even while acknowledging that Lott "is often decried as biased to the right." Riddell subsequently updated the piece with responses from Everytown that debunked the Lott claims that Riddell had credulously amplified.
Lott's purported debunking of Everytown's mass shooting report itself includes erroneous information. In one case Lott, who is an economist, criticized Everytown because of his failure to distinguish between two statistical terms.
The National Rifle Association made a botched attempt at statistics in order to defend economist and gun researcher John Lott, who famously put forward the debunked "more guns, less crime" thesis that undergirds the NRA's agenda.
In a 1997 paper Lott, along with David Mustard, purported to use econometrics to prove that the expansion of state laws allowing guns to be carried in public reduced crime rates in the United States. Since its publication, Lott's study has been endlessly cited by the NRA and other gun advocates even though the study's conclusions been repeatedly debunked by other academicians.
In an August 3 article for the conservative Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" page, the NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), defended Lott's work from recent criticism in The Washington Post.
Writing that "anti-gun activists ... worked themselves into a rage over Lott's research," and that Lott has been accused by critics of "using bad data," the NRA-ILA claimed that reductions in crime since the early 1990s coupled with increases in the number of states allowing guns to be carried in public proved Lott's case:
Reality check, however. For starters, in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, firearms were used in only 21.8 percent of aggravated assaults, according to the FBI. Furthermore, from the end of 1991, the year when violent crime hit an all-time high in the United States, through 2012, 24 states adopted [right to carry] laws (not counting Illinois, which adopted RTC in 2013). And according to the FBI, between 1991 and 2012, the nation's aggravated assault rate dropped 44 percent. The rates of 39 states and the District of Columbia decreased. And while the rates of 11 states increased, most of these states are ones with relatively low populations and aggravated assault numbers, thus small increases in the numbers of assaults can translate into seemingly large increases when the trend is measured on a percentage basis.
This defense of Lott purports to explain the entire decline in crime since the early 1990s as a result of gun carrying laws without offering any evidence to explain this unfounded claim. In fact, several plausible factors have been put forward to explain the crime drop including the end of the crack epidemic and reductions in the general public's exposure to lead. The General Social Survey indicates that the rate of household gun ownership has declined over time leading to speculation that recent increases in the number of guns sold are largely attributable to pre-existing gun owners buying more guns.
Gun researcher John Lott is dishonestly accusing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America of spreading "false information" over the gun violence prevention group's claim that the vast majority of female firearm homicides among high-income nations occur in the United States.
But the claim is true; a 2002 study (download) published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Women's Association found that among 25 high-income nations, the United States accounted for 84 percent of female firearm homicides but just 32 percent of the female population.
In a May 29 column for National Review Online, Lott offered false attacks to support his conclusion that "[t]he notion that gun violence disproportionately harms women does not hold up." According to Lott, "anti-gun group Moms Demand Action couldn't let the tragedy in Santa Barbara pass without interjecting more false information into the gun-control debate" by sharing the statistic "84% of female firearm homicides in 25 countries are in US."
Lott challenged the credibility of the statistic cited by Moms Demand Action, writing, "It is hard to see how Moms Demand Action could even make this comparison across all countries. Data from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) allows you to break down murders either by the sex of the victim or by whether firearms are used, but it doesn't allow users to identify both these categories simultaneously."
However, the study didn't use UNODC data, but instead used data gathered by the World Health Organization.
MSNBC military analyst and retired colonel Jack Jacobs pushed back against the conservative claim that all soldiers should be armed on U.S. military bases in a contentious head-to-head interview alongside pro-gun researcher John Lott.
Right-wing media have rushed to blame restrictions on the ability of soldiers to carry sidearms on military bases for the April 2 mass shooting at Fort Hood. But military veterans and base commanders, including Fort Hood's own commanding officer, have said that calls to expand access to firearms on bases are flawed.
Jacobs, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, added his voice to those critics during the April 4 edition of Jansing and Co.
"The situation that existed at Fort Hood the other day, in a circumstance in which everybody has weapons, could very easily result and probably would have resulted in an enormous mass fratricide, and you would have this all the time," said Jacobs. "Arming everybody in a civilian situation like at Fort Hood would result in a terrible, terrible tragedy, larger than this one."
Later in the segment, Lott repeatedly tried to interrupt Jacobs, with the MSNBC analyst responding, "Be quiet... please, don't be rude. Please, don't be rude... Be quiet."
Jacobs concluded: "No responsible commander would ever agree to arm all of his soldiers on post, that's all there is to it, and I know, I've commanded lots of troops in and out of combat."
Conservative media's recent smear that surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is controversial because he supports doctors discussing safe gun ownership with their patients is curious given frequent complaints from right-wing media -- albeit false -- that health care reform posed a threat to the inviolable doctor-patient relationship.
Gun researcher John Lott, an economist well known for his thoroughly discredited "More Guns, Less Crime" theory, is the latest member of right-wing media to offer baseless attacks on surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy. According to Lott, one of the "good reasons" to oppose Murthy is that he supports doctors advising parents to safely store firearms so they are inaccessible to children.
In recent weeks Murthy has come under attack from the National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media because, like the rest of the medical community, he believes gun violence is a public health concern. Murthy has said his concern about gun violence stems from his experiences as a doctor, but has also said that he would not "use the Surgeon General's office as a bully pulpit for gun control," and instead would make his top priority "obesity prevention."