Discredited gun researcher John Lott made numerous false claims about guns -- covering “gun-free zones,” gun suicides, and whether loose gun laws deter crime -- during an appearance on CNN focused on the mass shooting at an Oregon community college.
During the October 2 broadcast of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, host Carol Costello said, “I don't really want to have a debate this morning, I actually want to have a conversation, so I've invited John Lott.” Lott, whose infamous research linking permissive gun laws to lower crime rates has been thoroughly discredited, then proceeded to use the segment as an opportunity to push numerous falsehoods about the October 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC) where a gunman killed nine people and wounded seven others.
Lott Falsely Claims Guns Were “Banned” At Umpqua Community College, Is Contradicted By Actual Facts Of The Shooting
Of the Oregon shooting, Lott claimed, “The one thing in common” with this and other recent mass shootings “is to notice that yesterday, just like in all these other cases, they occur where guns are banned, where citizens are aren't able to go and defend themselves.”
Lott's claim that guns were “banned” at UCC is not accurate. While the school's policy prohibits guns inside of its buildings, Oregon law allows people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on the grounds of public colleges and universities. In fact, a student who also happened to be a U.S. military veteran was carrying a gun on campus at the time of the shooting and described on MSNBC why he and other veterans he was with decided not to intervene, explaining, “Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't have known who we were, if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were bad guys.”
Lott's broader claim that mass shootings typically happen where guns are not allowed is also false. Of 134 mass shootings documented by Everytown for Gun Safety between January 2009 and July 2015, only 13 percent occurred where guns could not be carried:
Claims about “gun-free zones” are predictable talking points for Lott and other gun advocates following mass shootings, but the alleged connection is a red herring because there is no evidence that people with concealed guns stop mass shootings.
Lott's False Claim That Mass Killers Pick Targets Based On Whether Guns Are Allowed Is Contradicted By Analysis Of 70 Public Mass Shootings
At another point in the CNN interview, Lott said, “I don't know how many explicit statements these killers have to make about how they chose targets where they knew people weren't able to go and defending themselves,” citing the comments of other mass shooters and the diary of the gunman responsible for the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.
The claim that mass shooters pick their targets based on whether guns are allowed is false. Mother Jones' Mark Follman dismantled that theory in an article debunking Lott's claims about the Aurora gunman's diary: “As I reported in an investigation into nearly 70 mass shootings in the United States over three decades, there has never been any known evidence of gun laws influencing a mass shooter's strategic thinking.”
Instead, Follman found “the vast majority of the perpetrators have indicated other specific motivations for striking their targets, such as employment grievances or their connection to a school.”
Lott's False Claim That Suicidal Individuals Will Find Ways To Commit Suicide Even If A Gun Isn't Available Is Contradicted By 90 Studies
Lott used his appearance to push several other gun-related falsehoods. On suicides-by-gun, which claim nearly 20,000 American lives per year, Lott said, “To go and think that some type of gun control regulations that are being talked about are going to stop somebody from committing suicide, when there are so many other ways for people to commit suicide.”
Again, this is not true. Gun suicides are typically successful, resulting in death 85 percent of the time, while other methods of attempting suicide result in death just 9 percent of the time. According to a review of 90 studies on the long-term outcomes of individuals who survived a suicide attempt, 89 to 95 percent did not become future victims of suicide.
Lott's False Claim That Murder Rates Always Rise In Places Where Guns Are Banned Is Contradicted By The Very Examples He Cites
Another false claim Lott pushed on CNN was about gun bans and murder rates. Lott said, “Here's a simple fact, every place in the world that's banned guns, not just Washington D.C. and Chicago when we had our bans, but every place that has banned guns has seen murder rates go up.” Like Lott's claim about mass shootings and so-called “gun-free zones,” this claim is a red herring, namely because gun bans like the one that existed in Washington D.C. and Chicago are unconstitutional in the United States and are irrelevant to serious policy discussions on gun laws.
Lott's citation of Washington D.C. is highly misleading, as well. The District of Columbia banned ownership of handguns from 1976 until 2008. While the murder rate in D.C. was slightly lower in 1976 compared to 2008, that doesn't tell the whole story. Significantly, in each of the five years preceding D.C.'s handgun ban, the murder rate was higher compared to where the murder rate stood in 2008 after more than 30 years of banning handgun ownership.
Lott's False Claim Most Academic Studies Support His Claims Is Contradicted By Survey Of Academics
Offering another sweeping falsehood, Lott also claimed, “Most of the academic work out there finds that increases in concealed handgun permits, increases in gun ownership, generally is associated with reduced crime.”
Lott's claim that more guns equal less crime is actually the minority view, and his thesis has been debunked time and time again. Reputable research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center that looked at numerous studies concluded that where there are more guns, there is a higher risk of homicide.
According to a survey of the authors of “1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology” 62 percent of experts disagreed that permissive concealed carry laws reduce crime, compared to just 9 percent who agreed: