Star Tribune Credulously Cites Work Of Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis cited a misleading statistic about carrying concealed guns from pro-gun group Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) without disclosing the group's pro-gun slant or that it is run by discredited gun researcher John Lott.

CPRC research was cited in a March 2 article on a recent increase in the number of permits to carry a concealed gun issued to Minnesotans. Arguments in favor of carrying concealed weapons were bolstered by the article's citation that "[t]he Crime Prevention Research Center found that states with a high percentage of gun ownership often had low violent-crime rates."

The article identified CPRC as “a nonprofit organization that studies the connection between firearms and crime,” a description that fails to adequately inform readers about the nature of the group.

CPRC is run by discredited gun researcher John Lott, who often manipulates statistics about gun violence in order to advance a misleading pro-gun agenda. Armed With Reason, “a blog dedicated to academically refuting pro-gun myths,” describes Lott -- the inventor of the now-debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis -- as “the most prolific and influential writer on the topic of gun violence and gun control.”

According to Armed With Reason, Lott touts false claims about gun violence “repeatedly in articles and TV appearances” and has committed “ethical transgressions” in his pursuit of pro-gun research:

While [Lott's] initial research was groundbreaking, further examination revealed numerous flaws. Today the “more guns, less crime” hypothesis has been thoroughly repudiated. On closer inspection his impressive credentials reveal an academic nomad, never able to secure a place in academia. His ethical transgressions range from accusations of fabricating an entire survey, to presenting faulty regressions, to creating elaborate online personas to defend his work and bash critics, to trying to revise his online history to deflect arguments. And this doesn't even begin to cover the whole host of false claims and statistics he has peddled repeatedly in articles and TV appearances.

The CPRC statistic cited by the Star Tribune -- that “states with a high percentage of gun ownership often had low violent-crime rates” -- is misleading because it gives the erroneous impression that the concealed carry of firearms is associated with lower crime rates. In fact, credible academic research has proven the opposite to be true.

Research conducted at Stanford University and published in a peer-reviewed journal that studied decades of crime in the United States found “the most convincing evidence to date that right-to-carry laws are associated with an increase in violent crime.” The research found some association between concealed carry and rape and robbery and a stronger association between concealed carry and aggravated assault. (Incidentally this research also represents another debunking of Lott's famous “more guns, less crime” theory.)

In a more general sense, academic research has associated higher levels of state gun ownership with higher rates of gun homicide. According to research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, “Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.” 

Research from gun violence prevention group Violence Policy Center indicates “that states with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest overall gun death rates in the nation” while “states with the lowest overall gun death rates have lower rates of gun ownership and some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the nation.”

CPRC is also associated with inflammatory National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who frequently uses his celebrity to solicit donations for the group. Nugent, who reportedly served on the CPRC's board of directors, has promoted the group in incendiary ways. In an October 14, 2014, Facebook post, Nugent called for either “freedom” or “the evil carcasses” of President Obama and other progressives while asking his followers to support CPRC.