Discredited pro-gun researcher John Lott Jr. hired at Department of Justice

Discredited pro-gun researcher and right-wing media favorite John Lott Jr. has been hired at the Justice Department despite a career of manipulating statistics about gun violence, presenting allegedly fraudulent data, and suffering repeated ethics scandals 

On November 24, Politico reported Lott -- who founded the nonprofit Crime Prevention Research Center -- had left his position to “take a job as a senior adviser for research and statistics at the Office of Justice Programs—a DOJ division that doles out $5 billion in grants each year.” According to the article, Lott confirmed to Politico that he was hired at the DOJ but claimed that he’s “really not supposed to say more than that.” 

Lott was previously a frequent guest on the National Rifle Association’s now-defunct broadcast outlet, NRATV, as well as a columnist for Fox News. He was also invited to testify before a joint congressional committee on gun violence in 2019, where he immediately fell apart when questioned about his past ethics scandals. Lott has also dabbled in the promotion of conspiracy theories, tweeting that perhaps Democrats were actually behind a series of bombs that were sent to the homes of prominent Democratic leaders and media figures in 2018.

Though Lott has made many attempts to position himself as a leading researcher on gun violence and crime, his studies and books have been repeatedly debunked. In his book More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Lott makes the false argument that increased gun ownership lowers the rate of violent crime. The theory was widely criticized for errors in its data and the Stanford Law Review wrote that Lott made his argument “without credible statistical support.” It was later shown in a 2017 Stanford study that states with right-to-carry laws, also known as constitutional carry, actually experience more violent crime than states without concealed carry laws.  

In 2003, Lott was involved in an ethics inquiry after he claimed in the second edition of More Guns, Less Crime that he conducted a survey which showed 98% of defensive gun usage involved people brandishing their weapon but not firing it. Lott could not provide any evidence of the study and later said he lost all his data because his computer crashed, leading to allegations that he invented the data.   

That same year, Lott admitted to creating a fake persona called Mary Rosh who claimed to be a previous student of his and defended him online for three years in response to criticism of his publications. 

In 2014, Lott ghostwrote an op-ed for a female college student who was the victim of stalking and became an ardent supporter of campus carry. She later told BuzzFeed that Lott had pressured her into letting him submit the pro-gun piece under her name.

Lott has spent his career arguing that gun violence is not a public health issue and every country that restricts gun ownership sees an increase in violent crime. Following the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left atleast 58 dead and hundreds wounded, for example, Lott authored an opinion piece on FoxNews.com in which he falsely claimed that despite Europe’s tight gun safety laws, those countries have “actually suffered more bloodshed” from mass shooting attacks than the U.S. has. 

This comparison, however, is based only on the number of attacks that occurred with fully automatic machine guns and purposefully ignores all the massacres that have taken place in the United States with semiautomatic rifles. In reality, countries which ban or restrict semiautomatic rifles have much lower homicide rates than the U.S. 

Lott’s career has been marked by multiple academics repeatedly pointing out flaws in his data and zero attempts to correct his own pro-gun misinformation.