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  • Discredited researcher John Lott to testify before Congress about gun violence

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Gun violence researcher and National Rifle Association (NRA) favorite John Lott Jr. will testify as a witness in a congressional hearing on gun violence -- even though his work has been repeatedly debunked and discredited.

    On March 7, the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing to address “the public health emergency of gun violence.” In addition to Lott, other witnesses will include Ronald Stewart from the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, Andrew Morral from the Rand Corp., and leading gun violence researcher Daniel Webster from Johns Hopkins University.

    Lott is the founder and president of the conservative Crime Prevention Research Center and a frequent guest on NRATV, the media platform of NRA. Though he has made many attempts to position himself as a leading gun rights researcher, they have been unsuccessful as his work has been routinely discredited. For example, in his book More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Lott pushed the myth that increased gun ownership, especially increased concealed weapons permits, results in fewer incidents of violent crime. The book was widely criticized, and the Stanford Law Review said Lott made his central claim “without credible statistical support.” Lott’s premise was in fact proved to be patently false; states with right-to-carry concealed handgun laws have higher rates of violent crime than states with no such laws.

    Lott was also a subject of an ethics inquiry in 2003, after he claimed in the second edition of his book that he had conducted a survey that showed that 98 percent of defensive gun uses involved people only brandishing a weapon. Lott couldn’t provide any evidence that he had conducted such a study and later claimed he lost the data in a computer crash.

    In response to widespread criticism of Lott's book, Mary Rosh, who claimed to be an old student of Lott’s, frequently defended him online for three years. In 2003, Lott admitted that Rosh was actually a pseudonym he had used to defend himself. According to The Washington Post, “The name is an amalgam of the first two letters of his four sons’ first names.”

    In 2014, Lott ghostwrote an op-ed for a female victim of stalking who advocated for campus carry. The piece was published on, and the woman later told BuzzFeed that Lott pressured her into allowing him to submit a piece he had written.

    Most recently, Lott elevated a fringe conspiracy theory that bombs sent to prominent Democrats and media figures were false flags.

    Lott has long dismissed the fact that gun violence is a public health issue -- the same topic the upcoming congressional hearing will examine. He told CBS Evening News in 2015, “Every country in the world, or place in the world that has banned guns, has seen an increase in murder rates.” This claim falls apart when one looks at Australia’s homicide rate after the country’s lawmakers enacted sweeping gun safety legislation in 1996 -- the gun homicide rate fell by 59 percent and gun suicide rate by 65 percent in the decade after the laws were introduced.

    Lott made a similarly false statement after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that left 59 dead and hundreds wounded. In an opinion piece on, he attacked the gun safety regulations that were proposed following the massacre, writing, “Europe, which has all the gun controls that are being pushed in the aftermath of the Las Vegas carnage, has actually suffered more bloodshed from these types of attacks than the U.S.”

    Lott also wrote in his piece that though countries in Europe have banned semi-automatic weapons, people have used automatic machine guns to commit murder, and pointed out that the Las Vegas massacre was the first mass shooting in the U.S. with an automatic weapon. This comparison is based on the very narrow subset of gun violence involving machine guns which intentionally ignores a number of attacks in the U.S. in which a semi-automatic rifle was used, such as the mass shootings in Newtown, CT, Orlando, FL, Sutherland Springs, TX and Parkland, FL. Lott also failed to mention that countries in Europe with much stronger gun laws than the U.S. have much lower homicide rates.  

    Lott’s history of flawed research and multiple ethical controversies shows why he should not be considered a credible source on gun violence.

  • NRATV launches last-ditch effort filled with falsehoods to counter House background check bill

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Hours before the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on HR 8, a bill requiring universal background checks for gun sales, the National Rifle Association’s online broadcast outlet NRATV made a last-minute effort to push a deluge of falsehoods about the legislation, including claiming that it would “make felons out of good, hard-working Americans.”

    For the first time in over two decades, the House will vote on gun safety legislation that would require a background check on all firearm sales in the country. Under current federal laws, background checks are required only for gun sales through a licensed dealer. Individuals who do not have a license to sell firearms can still sell guns to others in “private” sales, which often occurs at gun shows, over the internet, or through newspaper classified ads. Under HR 8, the vast majority of gun transfers would now require a background check, although the new bill makes several exceptions for “gifts to family members” and for temporary transfers of firearms for “hunting, target shooting, and self-defense.”  

    During his February 27 broadcast, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield spewed falsehoods about the new bill, claiming it could cause gun purchasers to “wait up to 10 days” for a firearm. In fact, the bill does not include a waiting period, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System typically completes background checks for gun sales within a few minutes.  

    Stinchfield also falsely claimed that HR 8 would make “felons out of good, hard-working Americans because they made a mistake,” echoing the tired and false NRA talking point that background check bills seek to criminalize routine and obviously noncriminal gun use.  

    He went on to insist that the bill is “filled with feel-good ideas that do nothing” to impact gun violence and baselessly claimed there are “tens of thousands” of instances of unrecorded defensive gun uses.

    Among other misleading claims, Stinchfield questioned the constitutionality of requiring background checks for gun sales -- even though there is no serious legal debate over the constitutionality of such provisions -- and claimed that family members will have to “jump through hoops” to transfer firearms among themselves, even though the bill explicitly exempts many intrafamily transfers.

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Let’s make people pay a fee to exercise a constitutional right. That’s what the Democrats’ new universal background check bill will do. Let’s make law-abiding Americans wait up to 10 days for a gun because the federal government can’t do its job. That’s what the Democrats’ new universal background check bill will do. Let’s make sure people leave their guns in an empty house for days and sometimes weeks when they could leave them with a friend to watch over them. That’s what the new universal background check bill will do. Let’s make law-abiding Americans jump through hoops to transfer a gun even to a family member, while criminals will simply ignore the new law. That’s what the Democrats’ new universal background check bills will do. Let’s make felons out of good, hard-working Americans because they made a mistake. That’s what the Democrats’ new universal background check bill will do. The bill is filled with feel-good ideas that do nothing to actually stop the problem of violent individuals using guns for no good. It only puts a huge burden on the overwhelming law-abiding population of this nation. Again, the Democrats offer up legislation that depends on criminals to use the honor system. And I can tell you right now there is no honor among thieves or murderers or rapists or domestic abusers.

    STINCHFIELD: The lie -- as they always do, this is the Democrats’ go-to theme -- is the data shows universal background checks work. In fact, it is just the opposite. Study after study shows universal background checks do not work -- including universities half-funded by Michael Bloomberg have confirmed that universal background checks do not work to do anything to stop criminals from getting their guns. In fact, a United States study, out of the federal government, found that only 1.3 percent -- 1.3 percent of criminals got their gun from a retail establishment. Overwhelmingly, crooks [and] murderers will tell you they get their guns on the black market.        

    STINCHFIELD: If you want to look at statistics, there are tens of thousands of uses of firearms that are not recorded, that have saved lives. Simply someone drawing a firearm at a would-be criminal that is threatening them stops the crime. That’s never recorded anywhere. Guns in the hands of good people save lives. That is an absolute fact.  

    Requiring a background check for a gun sale is a deterrent for felons and other individuals who are prohibited by law from owning firearms. Even with the existing “private sale” loophole, the federal background check system has stopped more than 2.1 million prohibited sales since it was created in 1994. According to research highlighted by The Trace, a nonprofit media outlet that tracks U.S. gun violence, stronger background checks deter prohibited people by increasing the obstacles involved in obtaining a firearm. In a 2015 article, the outlet noted several states saw a drop in the number of prohibited persons applying to buy a firearm after the original background check system was created.

    There is no evidence to support Stinchfield’s claim that this bill will prevent the “tens of thousands of” uncounted defensive gun uses every year. The consensus among gun violence researchers is that firearms are used more often to commit crimes than to prevent them. In fact, defensive gun use is so rare that it’s difficult to measure. Researchers have instead conducted surveys asking respondents about different types of gun uses, and the results demonstrate that criminal gun uses far outpace defensive uses. 

    The NRA is claiming that expanding background checks on firearms sales will place a “huge burden” on gun owners. But even gun owners don’t seem to agree with this assessment; the vast majority of people who own firearms support requiring a background check for all sales. 

  • NRATV hosted members of the MSD commission to push for arming teachers in the year following the Parkland shooting

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    In the year after the mass shooting at a Parkland, FL, high school, the National Rifle Association’s broadcast outlet NRATV developed a relationship with members of the state commission set up to analyze the response to the shooting and suggest security improvements, which included arming classroom teachers.  

    The 16-member panel was put together to “investigate system failures” and recommend policies for active shooter situations as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, a “sweeping school-safety law” signed by Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott a month after the Parkland school shooting left 17 dead. NRATV host Grant Stinchfield praised the legislation on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, calling the law “amazing” and reminding viewers that “the NRA worked hard to get [it] passed.” Among its recommendations, which were released in December, the commission called for arming teachers who undergo background checks and training.

    Commission members were chosen by state Republicans -- Scott, then-Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and then-Senate President Joe Negron. They initially included three Parkland parents in the commission, though Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, later resigned. The panel held its first meeting on April 24.

    On August 16, Pinellas County Sheriff and commission Chairman Bob Gualtieri appeared with NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch on her NRATV show Relentless and echoed a common NRA talking point that “police officers cannot be everywhere.” He claimed, “The unfortunate reality is is cops can’t be everywhere all the time, and if there had been a good guy with a gun on that campus or in that building, there’s no doubt in my mind that they would have been able to minimize the carnage.”

    Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a commission member, has made at least five appearances on NRATV’s Stinchfield and Cam & Co. since his appointment to repeat NRA talking points and push for more guns in schools. On November 28, Judd appeared on NRATV with host Grant Stinchfield to take credit for guiding his “dear friend” Chairman Gualtieri toward supporting armed teachers after he initially expressed discomfort with the idea:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Here we have another recommendation that teachers should be armed. Not surprising to you, but what do you think about this recommendation? Was it surprising to others in Florida?

    GRADY JUDD: Well, do you know, I don’t think it was a surprise to others in Florida because Senate Bill 7026, which we pushed through, mandates armed guardians or school resource officers on every campus. Sheriff Gualtieri is a dear friend of mine and chairs the commission -- I’m on that commission with him. I established that position early on as, you know, through my sentinel program. Bob originally -- Bob Gualtieri, the chair -- was not really comfortable with that. And as I worked with him -- and he and I are dear friends and are on several committees together. And the research we developed through this shooting, it was abundantly evident had teachers -- not all teachers; those that wanted to and were capable of and completed thorough training -- could have and would have saved lives that day. We know one teacher that was shot by our suspect, had actually pulled himself over into a corner, and then the suspect came back and shot him again, fatally killing him, obviously. But we know he would have shot and killed the active shooter had he had a firearm. Had he had that firearm, not only would his life have been saved but so would have a lot of other children in school that day. As I’ve said over and over, Grant, this is not something we want to do. When I was a kid in school, we didn’t have to have armed security on campuses. But this is a new normal and a new day. And we have to have someone there so if we can’t discover this active murderer, shooter, ahead of time, that when they arrive on campus, somebody is there to stop them before they can hurt our students and our teachers.

    STINCHFIELD: You know, sheriff, to me this is all common sense. I mean, I don’t really even think you need research to understand the very basic premise that [NRA executive vice president and CEO] Wayne LaPierre coined the phrase “The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I know that research has been done, it backs up your case, but to me it comes down to just simple common sense. You’ve got to meet a threat with equal or greater force. That’s the only way to stop a threat. This does that, doesn't it?

    JUDD: It absolutely does.     

    Two weeks later, on December 12, the commission released a draft report that listed “a series of failures by Broward County agencies and recommendations for avoiding a similar tragedy in the future,” the Sun-Sentinel reported. Among its other recommendations, the commission voted 14-1 to allow classroom teachers to carry guns provided they undergo background checks and training.  

    Less than a week after the draft report was released, Loesch revealed that Gualtieri told her information about the shooting that was released to the commission but not to the public. On her December 18 radio show, she said CCTV footage from inside the school showed that the gunman took seven to 10 seconds to reload, a longer time compared to “an adequately trained person” who “can reload in a second.” The commission submitted its final report to the governor and state legislature on January 2.

    The NRA has long advocated for putting armed personnel in schools, and even though NRATV ramped up its advocacy following the Parkland mass shooting, there is little to no evidence putting guns in schools will stop mass shootings. An FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013 found that only four incidents were stopped by “armed individuals who were not law enforcement personnel” (three security guards and one licensed and armed citizen) -- compared to 21 incidents stopped by unarmed citizens. A working paper released in March 2018 by Johns Hopkins University education professor Sheldon Greenberg that relies in part on analyses of police officers’ confrontations with armed suspects also concluded that arming teachers would do more harm than good.