In Wake of Aurora, Fox News Contributor John Lott Denies Gun Violence Epidemic

During an appearance on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight last night, discredited gun "researcher" and contributor John Lott pushed a number of falsehoods about gun violence in America while discussing the July 20 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and scores wounded.

Lott rejected host Morgan's assertion that “America has the worst incidents of gun murders of any of what they call the civilized world.” Later on in his appearance, Lott baselessly claimed that banning the types of weaponry used by the Aurora shooter would necessitate banning all semi-automatic firearms. 

PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Do you accept that America has the worst incidence of gun murders of any of what they call the civilized world?

JOHN LOTT: No, I don't think that's true. Look, guns --

MORGAN: They are not true?

LOTT: No, I mean, factually, it's not true. Look --

MORGAN: But it is, isn't it?

LOTT: No, it's not.

Lott went on argue that because two gun deaths occurred in London in 1900 compared to 39 gun deaths in England in 2011, that restrictions placed on firearms between 1900 and 2011 can be linked to an increase in gun homicides. But Lott's reliance on century-old statistics doesn't change the modern reality of gun violence here in the United States.

The United States leads the world in private gun ownership. We also lead the industrialized world in gun deaths, which occurred in the United States at a rate eight times higher than our economic counterparts between 1990 and 1995. A 2003 study by Harvard School of Public Health professor David Hemenway found that the firearm homicide rate in the United States is 19.5 times higher than the average rate found in other high-income nations. A study by the Firearm and Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the availability of firearms is correlated with increased gun homicide rates in high-income industrialized countries. This is certainly born out in the United States where states that have the highest gun ownership and loosest gun laws also often have the highest rates of gun death.

Lott also saw no apparent difference between the Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault rifle equipped with a one hundred round drum used by the Aurora shooter and rifles commonly used for hunting. He suggested that measures to prevent individuals from acquiring the degree of firepower used in Friday morning's mass shooting would require banning all semi-automatic weapons.

MORGAN: Why does anybody need to have a gun that can fire that number of bullets?

LOTT: Sir, please, let me finish.

MORGAN: Tell me.

LOTT: OK. You said a civilian version of the gun. OK. Basically what that means is it's the same as any other hunting rifle or any other rifle in terms of inside guts. One trigger, one bullet goes out. It's not the same weapon that militaries would go and use.

MORGAN: How did he fire off so many rounds then?

LOTT: Because he pulled the trigger many times.


MORGAN: I'm not an expert, but a 24-year-old kid has gone in, bought four weapons, including an assault rifle. He's bought a magazine drum which has the capacity for 100 bullets a minute. He's armed himself to the teeth with defensive gear, which will stop anybody who has got a gun in there trying to kill him anyway. He's then slaughtered a load of Americans.

He slaughtered them in a movie theater. And your answer is, “It doesn't matter; that's what these weapons do; we should carry on, allowing people to do this, to buy this stuff.”

LOTT: No, what I was trying to say was that you have to understand. This is the same as any other semiautomatic weapon. If you want to go and ban this, you are going to ban all semiautomatic weapons.

Of course restrictions have been placed on certain semi-automatic firearms -- guns that fire a single bullet each time the trigger is pulled -- without banning the entire class of weapon. The assault weapons ban, which was in effect from 1994 to 2004, sought to ban both semi-automatic weapons that had characteristics deemed particularly dangerous as well as magazines with a capacity to hold over 10 rounds of ammunition. During this time period the sale of non-restricted semi-automatic weapons continued unabated.   

Meanwhile the threat of high-capacity magazines, which could be regulated without altering the availability of any gun, is increasingly clear. Besides playing a role in the Aurora theater shooting, high-capacity magazines were used in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in 2011, and many other mass shootings.