UPDATED: John Lott Vs. The FBI

At first glance, it might seem problematic that this Newsmax piece about gun regulations makes flat assertions about gun sales without referencing any data or citing any sources. But when you consider that the author of the post, John Lott, has been caught using fraudulent data, lying about it, and using a fake internet persona to tout his bogus work, the lack of specificity may actually be a positive: At least Lott didn't fake a study to support his assertions. Unfortunately, that appears to be the result of laziness rather than a newfound commitment to the truth.

Lott asserts “Virtually no criminal guns are obtained from gun shows.” He offers no data or expert opinion to support this contention. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, on the other hand, has concluded:

The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... The access to anonymous sales and large numbers of secondhand firearms makes gun shows attractive to criminals. ... Firearms that were illegally diverted at or through gun shows were recovered in subsequent crimes, including homicide and robbery, in more than a third of the gun show investigations.

So, on the one hand, we have the unsupported assertion of a person who has previously been caught using fraudulent data about guns ... and on the other, we have a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.

Next, Lott asserts: “Background checks do not stop criminals from getting guns.” Again, Lott just expects readers to trust him. Now, just because Lott has previously used bogus data and lied about it doesn't mean he isn't telling the truth this time. Still, it's probably a good idea to check in with the FBI on this one. According to the FBI, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has denied more than 800,000 sales -- more than 600,000 of which involved convicted criminals. Another 100,000 were either fugitives from justice or the subjects of restraining orders for domestic violence. So, John Lott, who has been caught using bogus data, says background checks don't stop criminals from getting guns. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that has happened 600,000 times. Who to believe?

More Lott: “With all the delays found in background checks, this imposes a real cost on law-abiding citizens who need guns quickly for protection and a one, two or three day delay can take the prevent a sale from even taking place at a gun show.” Again, Lott offers no data or citations. Contrary to his suggestion that background checks routinely involve onerous delays, the FBI says that more than 90 percent of NICS background checks are completed immediately -- while the seller is still on the phone. That's why they're called “Instant criminal background checks.”

UPDATE 3/31/2011: from the author of the report titled, “Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2008: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearms Applicants Denied by a NICS check in 2008.”, which Lott cites to justify the NICS inaccuracy claim.

You [Media Matters] asked me if it was accurate for an article to state that “Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the [Brady] law were 'false positives' - law-abiding citizens incorrectly identified as banned individuals.” That statement cannot be supported by statistics on Brady Act background checks that have been collected since 1999.

A person whose firearm transfer application is denied by a background check pursuant to the Brady Act may appeal the denial. Statistics on appeals of denials have been collected since 1999 in a series of publications entitled Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, and are summarized in Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008. During that ten year period, nearly 1.5 million firearm transfer applications were denied and nearly 237,000 of those denials were appealed. Over 86,000 appeals resulted in a reversal of the denial, which would calculate to about 6% of the 1.5 million denials. Some of the reversals may have occurred because a person was mistakenly identified as being prohibited; however, no data is available on the reasons for reversals. The URL for Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008 is http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/231187.pdf.