Gun Researcher John Lott Relies On Falsehoods To Downplay Gun Violence Threat To Women

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.

Lott further misled by claiming that the proper comparison between countries would involve examining “homicide rates” (emphasis original). He went on to use UNODC data to compare the percentage of homicide victims who were female in the United States to the rest of the world, concluding, “the U.S. share of its homicides committed against females is relatively low.”

This comparison is a red herring. The purpose of the statistic cited by Moms Demand Action was to show that women in the United States are killed by guns at a rate disproportionate to other high income nations, which is true. Even taking guns out of the equation, the 2002 study found that despite representing 32 percent of the study group's population, women in the United States accounted for 70 percent of homicides by all means.

The fact is the murder rate in the United States is much higher compared to other high-income nations, with the discrepancy being largely driven by gun murders.

Lott's purpose was to distract from violence perpetrated against women, a much discussed topic since a 22-year-old California man apparently acted on his intense hatred of women by carrying out a May 23 stabbing and shooting spree that left six victims dead.

In the United States women are murdered -- most often by men -- at a much higher rate than women themselves kill others.

Despite recent efforts by the National Rifle Association and the gun industry to attract female gun owners -- who historically own firearms at a much lower rate compared to men -- firearms pose a special danger to women in the United States.

A gun in the home does not make a woman safer, even if she has access to the weapon. As a February 23 article in The Atlantic on a recent firearm ownership meta-analysis noted, “females are uniquely impacted by the availability of a firearm. Indeed, the study found that women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher rates than men.” The article also shared the conclusion of a study in the Journal of Trauma which found "[m]ore than twice as many women are killed with a gun used by their husbands or intimate acquaintances than are murdered by strangers using guns, knives, or any other means."

According to the Violence Policy Center's annual report “When Men Murder Women,” the most recent FBI data found 94 percent of female murder victims killed by men are killed by someone they know and the most common means of murder was a gun.

Best known as the author of the book More Guns, Less Crime, Lott's research in support of looser gun laws has been discredited in academic circles and he has faced credible accusations of data manipulation and fabrication. He often twists statistics on gun violence in order to advance a pro-gun agenda.