John Lott | Media Matters for America

John Lott

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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.

  • After Florida school massacre, right-wing media call for more guns in schools (the school had armed security)

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    In the wake of a Florida school shooting that left at least 17 dead, right-wing media figures immediately blamed “gun-free zones” and argued that future shootings would be prevented if there were armed guards at schools, ignoring that the school did have “an armed police officer” on campus “in addition to security.”

  • Why is The New York Times publishing discredited gun researcher John Lott?

    Lott’s Times op-ed makes easily disprovable attacks on the national background check system for gun purchases

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The New York Times published an opinion piece by discredited economist John Lott that made false claims about the national background check system for gun purchases and cited a survey that fact-checkers have criticized as unscientific.

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence and other topics. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research. He has also faced accusations of data manipulation and fabrication in order to advance a pro-gun agenda.

    Just last week, Lott made headlines after a paper he published claiming undocumented immigrants in Arizona “are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans” was debunked by the libertarian Cato Institute. As Cato immigration expert Alex Nowrasteh explained, “Lott’s controversial empirical findings regarding the high admission rate of illegal immigrants to Arizona prisons, a finding that contradicts virtually the entire body of research on the topic, stems from his simple misreading of a variable in the 1985-2017 [Arizona Department of Corrections] dataset. Lott thought that ‘non-U.S. citizens and deportable’ describes only illegal immigrants but it does not.”

    In his op-ed for the Times, Lott misrepresented data to attack proposals to expand background checks on gun sales to include private sales -- which constitute a substantial proportion of gun transfers -- by falsely suggesting that the system is broken because of “false positives” that deny legal gun owners the ability to purchase a firearm.

    In his piece, Lott wrote:

    Between 2006 to 2010, the last period for which more comprehensive annual data on the denial of firearm applications by the background check system are available, there were 377,283 denials. But the federal government prosecuted only 460 of those cases, leading to 209 convictions, mostly on charges of providing false information. There was a similarly small number of state prosecutions resulting from the gun purchase denials.

    This data led Lott to conclude that “a high percentage of cases are dropped because the applicant was wrongly denied clearance to buy a gun.” Despite Lott’s repeated touting of this talking point, it is false because it relies on the incorrect assumption that the federal government actually routinely prosecutes people who fail a background check when attempting to purchase a gun.

    A comprehensive analysis from The Washington Post suggests that the vast majority of individuals denied by the background check system are actually legally prohibited from buying a gun. The FBI, which in 2010 was responsible for approximately half of all denials, reported that less than five percent of denials were successfully appealed. The primary reasons for denial were a felony conviction or indictment (47.4 percent) or status as a fugitive (19.1 percent).

    In his Times op-ed, Lott also made the false claim that permissive laws allowing guns to be carried in public are a benefit to public safety. (Credible research indicates these laws actually increase violent crime, in particular aggravated assault.) To support his claim, Lott wrote, “In 2013, PoliceOne, a news and resource site for active and retired law enforcement officers, released a survey finding that over 91 percent of the more than 15,000 ‘verified law enforcement professionals’ who responded supported concealed carry.”

    The 2013 PoliceOne survey was criticized by fact checkers after the National Rifle Association used it to push a false pro-gun talking point, with concluding “The survey wasn’t a scientific poll that aimed to gather responses from a random sample of the nation’s police officers. Rather, it was a self-selected Internet poll, in which more than 15,000 of’s 400,000 registered members chose to respond, either because of email solicitation or a link to the survey on the website.”

    Last month, The Times published a glowing profile of NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch with the paper terming her a “telegenic warrior” despite criticism that Loesch has used her NRA role to incite violence against journalists and critics of the president. The Times’ acceptance of Lott’s opinion piece is another indication of how much the paper is willing to kowtow to pro-gun activists, no matter how extreme or false their claims are.

  • Laura Ingraham and John Lott tout Lott's debunked study attacking undocumented immigrants

    Lott regularly uses flawed research methods to push his right-wing agenda; this latest study is no exception

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham hosted John Lott, president of the conservative Crime Prevention Research Center, to defend his report alleging that undocumented immigrants in Arizona commit more crimes -- and more dangerous crimes -- than other Arizonans. But the report, which contradicts virtually every other study, failed to accurately distinguish between undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents and ignored other factors that likely skewed the results.

    Lott’s report, published January 30 and which purported to “separate non-U.S. citizens by whether they are illegal or legal residents,” claimed that “undocumented immigrants are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans.” The report also claimed, that “There are several reasons that these numbers are likely to underestimate the share of crime committed by undocumented immigrants.” In response, the libertarian think tank Cato Institute pointed out that the dataset Lott used in fact “does not allow him or anybody else to identify illegal immigrants” (emphasis original). According to Cato immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh, Lott “erroneously assumed” that the data he used, from a category “called ‘non-US citizen and deportable,’ only counted illegal immigrants.” Put another way, he “mistakenly chose a variable that combines an unknown number of legal immigrants with an unknown number of illegal immigrants.”

    Latino Decision’s Jose Marichal also noted that Lott’s findings contradict “the academic consensus that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than the general population.”

    On February 6, Ingraham gave Lott a platform to respond to criticisms of his report. He disagreed with Cato’s assertion that he had mistakenly attributed crimes of legal permanent residents to undocumented immigrants, arguing that he used “pre-sentencing reports that” determine “what their citizenship status is.” However, there is no mention of “pre-sentencing reports” in Lott’s study, and he has demonstrated in the past that he has no qualms about pushing blatant lies to support his research. Lott suspiciously ignored that aspect of Cato’s criticism in his written response.

    Lott also claimed that other studies that contradict his findings on this issue are unreliable because, he argued, they “completely mix together legal and illegal immigrants, or they do surveys.” But nearly every reliable study that has examined the crime rate of immigrant populations, undocumented and otherwise, has consistently found that immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S.-born citizens; none of these studies relied solely on surveys.

    Lott regularly publishes skewed research that supports his conservative agenda, particularly on gun issues. Nonetheless, Fox and other right-wing media outlets treat him as a legitimate figure, and as result, public institutions occasionally have embraced his error-filled work. According to Will Gaona, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Arizona chapter, Lott is currently authoring a publicly-funded report for Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council (APAAC).

    Lott published his flawed report amid immigration negotiations in Congress that will decide the fate of millions of immigrants, some of whom have lived in the U.S. since childhood. With the help of his conservative media echo chamber, Lott may be aiding the implementation of public policies that are not based in reality.

  • Discredited gun researcher John Lott’s misleading Las Vegas massacre claims are falling apart

    Lott doesn’t want readers to know that strong gun regulations are associated with lower levels of homicide

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott attacked strong firearms regulations in a op-ed with a dishonest comparison between the United States and Europe relating to gun laws and public massacres.

    Following a mass shooting sniper attack on a Las Vegas country music concert that left 59 dead and more than 500 people wounded, Lott -- a go-to source for conservative misinformation about gun violence following high-profile shootings -- published an opinion piece at comparing machine gun attacks in Europe versus the United States.

    Lott wrote that “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.,” before noting that machine guns have been used in multiple public attacks in Europe in recent years while the Las Vegas attack “may be the first mass public shooting in the U.S. involving a machine gun.”

    Using this comparison to attack strong gun regulations is highly misleading because it is premised on a narrow subset of gun violence -- public mass shootings involving machine guns. For example, the parameters of Lott’s comparison exclude mass attacks in the U.S. where the shooters used semi-automatic assault weapons, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which killed 26, and the Pulse nightclub shooting, which killed 49.

    What Lott fails to tell readers is that overall, Europe has much stronger gun laws and much lower rates of gun homicide than the United States.

    And it’s not the case that murders by means other than guns in Europe make up the difference in rates; European countries -- and high-income nations generally -- typically have lower homicide rates by all means compared to the United States:

    Overall, the association between stronger gun laws and lower gun violence is well-established. As the Harvard Injury Control Research Center has concluded, “A broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the U.S., where there are more guns, both men and women are at a higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.”

    Lott’s comparison between the U.S. and Europe also underscores that he failed to wait for the facts of the Las Vegas shooting to play out before attacking strong gun regulations.

    At the time Lott published his article, audio and video footage of the attack were spurring lots of speculation that the gunman used a fully automatic machine gun, which is legal to own in the U.S. if manufactured before 1986 but is more heavily regulated than other weapons. But this may have not been the case, further undercutting Lott’s cherry-picking comparison.

    Following his piece’s publication, The Associated Press reported that, according to authorities, the gunman possessed “two ‘bump-stocks’ that could have converted semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic ones.” These weapon attachments are legal in the United States, although Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) 2013 assault weapons ban bill proposed to outlaw them.

    Lott is best known as the author of More Guns, Less Crime, a book whose conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research.

    While Lott is often quoted in media following high-profile incidents of gun violence, he should not be considered a credible source for information. In addition to pushing flawed research, Lott has been embroiled in a number of ethics controversies, including regarding his admission that he used the pseudonym "Mary Rosh" to defend his works from critics and praise his own research in online discussions. He has also faced allegations that he fabricated the results of a study on defensive gun use and has been caught attempting to surreptitiously revise his data after critics discovered errors.

  • Trump Echoes Conservative Media’s False “Gun-Free Zone” Talking Point


    Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump echoed conservative media’s tendency to blame mass shootings on so-called “gun-free zones,” saying of the June 12 attack at gay nightclub Pulse that left 49 dead, “if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.” In fact, the gunman engaged in a firefight with three police officers during the massacre at the the Orlando, Florida, nightclub. 

  • Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott Calls It "Inflammatory" To Point Out San Bernardino Was The 355th Mass Shooting This Year In The U.S.

    CNN's Carol Costello: "Oh, John, Let's Be Serious, There Are Too Many Mass Shootings In This Country"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott called CNN host Carol Costello's citation of the fact that there have been 355 mass shootings in the United States in 2015 "inflammatory," causing an incredulous Costello tell Lott to "be serious" about the problem of mass shootings.

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics, who found serious flaws in his research.

    On the December 3 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Costello asked Lott how Democrats and Republicans can "come up with a plan together" to stop mass shootings, noting that according to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have been 355 shootings in the United States this year where four or more people were shot. Lott characterized Costello's citation of the figure as "inflammatory," causing a visibly exasperated Costello to tell Lott to "be serious" because "there are too many mass shootings in this country":

    CAROL COSTELLO (HOST): That's how this incident is being reported overseas. The BBC calling it "just another day of gun violence in the United States." And according to at least one unofficial tally, the numbers support that claim. -- which defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people, including the gunman, are killed or injured by gunfire -- says San Bernardino was 355th. The 355th mass shooting this year alone. It was also, according to ShootingTracker's definition, the second worst mass shooting in the United States. The first took place early Wednesday morning in Savannah, Georgia, where a gunman killed one and wounded three others. So, let's talk about guns in America. John Lott is the founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of More Guns, Less Crimes. Good morning, John.

    JOHN LOTT: Good morning.

    COSTELLO: John, you know gun rights advocates and those in favor of more gun laws, they always talk at cross purposes. They can't seem to get on the same page. And I guess I don't feel like having an argument with you this morning. I kind of just want to find out how we can stop these shootings together. How can both sides come up with a plan together?

    LOTT: Well, sure. I mean, if you have proposals you want to talk about, I'm happy to do so. I suppose, part of it, though, is inflammatory claims, such as the two that you just went through from the BBC, as well as the tracking numbers there. I mean, first of all, these occur at about the same rate in Europe --

    COSTELLO: Oh, John, let's be serious. There are too many mass shootings in this country. John, let's be clear. There are too many shootings in this country.

    LOTT: Well, I'm just saying --

    COSTELLO: We've seen several in the past couple of weeks.

    LOTT: We should be accurate.

    COSTELLO: So let's just concentrate on that. There's a lot of gun violence in this country. We can all agree on that.

    LOTT: But the point was, I was just saying in order -- there's a reason why you started with those two things. I'm just saying, just to be accurate, Europe has about the same rate of mass public shootings as we have here in the United States. France, this year, has had 508 people killed or wounded in mass public shootings. In the entire Obama presidency, there has been a total of 424. And this tracking number that you just had, the vast majority of those are gang fights, which are bad. Gang fights over drug turf are bad things. But it's, I think, misleading.

    COSTELLO: John, let's just concentrate on the matter at hand: gun violence in the United States and how we can stop it. And how we can prevent these mass shootings, how we can prevent mentally imbalanced people from getting a hold of guns. How can we do that? How can we all get on the same page?

    LOTT: Right. Well, I think you're going to have a hard time stopping terrorists or others from getting a hold of weapons. I mean, if you really believe someone is a danger to others, you should lock them up. But simply going and telling them they're not going to be able to legally buy a gun when these individuals, such as the ones in San Bernardino, I wouldn't be surprised if they were planning this a year or more in advance. It's very common for these types of mass public shootings to be planned at least six months, and sometimes even a couple years in advance. And if somebody's planning that long in advance, they're going to make the pipe bombs. They're gonna go and get a hold of the other the weapons that are there and this is very difficult to stop them. The question is, what's your backup plan? What do you do when you can't stop these individuals from making these types of weapons? And I hope we're beginning to get to the place where we allow individuals to go and defend themselves. California, it's extremely difficult for anybody to go and get a concealed carry permit, to be able to go and defend themselves against these types of attacks. The type of attack that occurred at Planned Parenthood on Friday or this or at the Oregon school or all places where --

    COSTELLO: But let's be honest about one thing, John. Two of the weapons that these suspects used were purchased legally. In fact, all the guns, as far as we know, were purchased legally. So even though there are tight gun controls in the state of California, it's still easy to buy a high-powered weapon in the United States. And that's because there are so many guns out there. Over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, 185,000 firearms were purchased. That's a record for the holiday season. Lots and lots of people have guns in this country. Yet these mass shootings keep happening. So, how can more guns be the answer?

    LOTT: Well, the question is where people are allowed to have guns. If you ban guns from certain areas, people like these killers don't -- aren't stopped by the bans. The people who obey the laws are law abiding good citizens, who are no longer able to defend themselves, who are essentially sitting ducks. You make it safer for the attackers to go and commit these crimes because they don't have to worry about law-abiding citizens being able to stop them.

    COSTELLO: Alright. I have to leave it there, John.

  • Fox's Stossel Attempts To Rehab Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott With False Characterization Of National Research Council Study

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Fox Business host John Stossel defended discredited research conducted by John Lott that found more guns equal less crime by falsely claiming Lott's finding had been "replicated" by the National Research Council (NRC).

    In fact, when NRC examined Lott's work in 2004, it found there was "no credible evidence" for Lott's conclusions.

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research.

    In his December 2 syndicated column, Stossel wrote that the accusation that Lott's research has been "discredited" is a "smear." Stossel noted that "Media Matters for America called Lott 'discredited' at least 40 times."

    In defending Lott's research, Stossel wrote, "Lott's 'More Guns, Less Crime' study has been replicated often, including by the National Research Council and even by some critics."

    That never happened. One of the "major conclusions" of a 2004 study issued by the NRC was that "despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime." The study exhaustively examined Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" theory in reaching this conclusion. (NRC's report also did not "replicate" research, instead it submitted existing research to examination by experts.)

    Lott was unhappy with NRC's analysis of his work, and issued a response claiming that the committee members "favored gun control" and suggested that "the National Academy is so completely unable to separate politics from its analyses that it simply can't accept the results for what they are."

    In turn, the NRC's executive officer published a letter claiming Lott's response to NRC "contained significant errors" while disputing Lott's claims about the supposedly biased backgrounds of committee members and defending the objectivity of NRC's work.

    Critics have replicated Lott's work, but not in the way that Stossel describes. One 2003 analysis of Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" thesis found that correcting significant coding errors in Lott's work completely undermined his conclusions. In fact, after correcting these errors the data suggested that if anything more permissive concealed carry laws increase crime.

    Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" theory has been repeatedly discredited. David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, offered numerous critiques of Lott's data set in his 2003 book Public Guns Public Health, including descriptions of bizarre scenarios that demonstrated the volatility of Lott's data (emphasis added):

    Many of the results for the other control variables do not make sense. For example, the results show both that increasing the rate of unemployment and reducing income will significantly reduce the rate of violent crime. The results indicate that reducing the number of middle-aged and elderly black women (who are rarely either perpetrators or victims of murder) will substantially reduce homicide rates. Indeed, according to the results, a decrease of 1 percentage point in the percentage of the population that is black, female, and aged forty to forty-nine is associated with a 59 percent decrease in homicide (and a 74 percent increase in rape). [Hemenway, Private Guns Public Health, pg. 244]

    According to the most recent credible research, permissive concealed carry laws actually increase violent crime, particularly aggravated assault.

    In his piece, Stossel stretched in other places to defend Lott. In one instance he described calling attention to an incident Lott was involved in a "smear" despite acknowledging that the claim about Lott is "actually true":

    Barrett continued her smear: Lott "actually impersonated a student ... to say what a great professor he is."

    That's actually true. On the Internet, Lott once posed as a student to praise his own course. Dumb, yes. Deceitful, too. But it doesn't "discredit" all his research.

  • Prominent Gun Advocate John Lott Was Twice Interviewed By Anti-Semitic Newspaper

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott was twice interviewed about mass shootings by the anti-Semitic publication American Free Press (AFP). In one instance, Lott was interviewed by Victor Thorn, the author of The Holocaust Hoax Exposed: Debunking The 20th Century's Greatest Fabrication. In the other instance, Lott was interviewed by Keith Johnson, who has called President Obama "the house nigger for the Jews."

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research. (Reputable research indicates that permissive concealed carry laws do not reduce crime and may actually increase the occurrence of aggravated assault.)

    Lott was interviewed by Thorn in August 2012, just days after a gunman killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others during a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. In his interview, Lott pushed the debunked conservative media talking point that places where guns are not allowed attract mass violence:

    During a July 25 interview with this writer [Victor Thorn], Lott expanded on this notion.

    "Guns were banned from the movie theater where that shooting took place," said Lott. "So, law-abiding citizens obeyed, but the criminal didn't. Obviously, these gun-free zones make it easier for lawbreakers to engage in this type of violent behavior, producing the opposite effect of what we want to see happen."

    Thorn has repeatedly promoted the conspiracy theory that the Aurora shooting was an event staged by the government. In an article published at AFP two weeks before his interview with Lott, Thorn suggested that a "federal operation" was behind the shooting, arguing that, "The high-profile mass murder in Aurora, Colorado doesn't add up." Thorn continued, suggesting that James Holmes, who was sentenced to life in prison for carrying out the attack in August 2015, was a "patsy" or alternately had been brainwashed by the government into carrying out the attack.

    Thorn has continued to promote conspiracy theories about the Aurora mass shooting. In an April 2015 article, Thorn interviewed an anonymous engineer who theorized that multiple gunmen carried out the attack based on "anomalies" in law enforcement's account of the shooting.

    Similar to his Aurora conspiracy theory, he has also suggested that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was staged by the government.

    Beyond his mass shooting conspiracy theories, Thorn is a prominent anti-Semite who has been accused by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of "promoting anti-government and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories." A summary of his book, The Holocaust Hoax Exposed: Debunking The 20th Century's Greatest Fabrication, states that it purportedly exposes "the mythology surrounding 'concentration camps,' the truth about Zyklon B, Anne Frank's fable, how the absurd 'six million' figure has become a laughingstock, and the betrayal by maniacal Zionists of their own Jewish people that led to their deaths." AFP lavished praise on the book writing, "Once again, with THE HOLOCAUST HOAX EXPOSED: DEBUNKING THE 20TH CENTURY'S BIGGEST LIE, our expectations have been met -- even exceeded. In 25 concise chapters he demolishes once and for all the Zionist-Jewish Holocaust fable."

    In another release, Thorn argued that Israel was responsible for the 9-11 terrorist attacks in his book MADE IN ISRAEL: 9-11 And The Jewish Plot Against America.

    AFP is a well-known anti-Semitic organization that has drawn condemnation from ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). SPLC describes AFP as an "anti-Semitic weekly" that "was founded by Holocaust denier Willis Carto." ADL called Carto "one of the most influential American anti-Semitic propagandists" and "the mastermind of the hate network."

    Lott was interviewed by another AFP writer, Keith Johnson, in January 2014 to argue that mass shooters are influenced to carry out their attacks by a copycat effect.

    During the September 4, 2012 broadcast of his anti-Semitic radio show, Johnson said, "Yeah, I did deliberately call Barack Obama -- the word nigger would apply, or house nigger -- and the reason I say that, folks, is because that's not how I consider him, well wait a minute, it all depends on the context, but what I am trying to say is that's how he is viewed and if I was to see Obama, I would tell him, 'You're the house nigger for the Jews.'"

    In July 2012, Thorn appeared on Johnson's radio show where they both promoted Holocaust denial conspiracy theories.

  • In New Series Examining Gun Violence, CBS Evening News Gives A Platform To Discredited Misinformers


    A new CBS Evening News' series that examines gun violence in America has featured prominent conservative misinformers on the issue, including a guest who once suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government. While "Voices Against Violence" has also featured advocates for stronger gun laws, CBS has given airtime to Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt -- whose group has donated money to a white supremacist group -- and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, who has raised the idea of justifiable armed revolution against the government and is well-known for his inflammatory commentary, such as that Hillary Clinton "is willing to prostitute herself to secure the black vote."

  • CNN Allows Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott To Push 5 Myths About Guns In 7-Minute Interview

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Discredited gun researcher John Lott made numerous false claims about guns -- covering "gun-free zones," gun suicides, and whether loose gun laws deter crime -- during an appearance on CNN focused on the mass shooting at an Oregon community college.

    During the October 2 broadcast of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, host Carol Costello said, "I don't really want to have a debate this morning, I actually want to have a conversation, so I've invited John Lott." Lott, whose infamous research linking permissive gun laws to lower crime rates has been thoroughly discredited, then proceeded to use the segment as an opportunity to push numerous falsehoods about the October 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC) where a gunman killed nine people and wounded seven others.

    Lott Falsely Claims Guns Were "Banned" At Umpqua Community College, Is Contradicted By Actual Facts Of The Shooting

    Of the Oregon shooting, Lott claimed, "The one thing in common" with this and other recent mass shootings "is to notice that yesterday, just like in all these other cases, they occur where guns are banned, where citizens are aren't able to go and defend themselves."

    Lott's claim that guns were "banned" at UCC is not accurate. While the school's policy prohibits guns inside of its buildings, Oregon law allows people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on the grounds of public colleges and universities. In fact, a student who also happened to be a U.S. military veteran was carrying a gun on campus at the time of the shooting and described on MSNBC why he and other veterans he was with decided not to intervene, explaining, "Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't have known who we were, if we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were bad guys."

    Lott's broader claim that mass shootings typically happen where guns are not allowed is also false. Of 134 mass shootings documented by Everytown for Gun Safety between January 2009 and July 2015, only 13 percent occurred where guns could not be carried:

    Claims about "gun-free zones" are predictable talking points for Lott and other gun advocates following mass shootings, but the alleged connection is a red herring because there is no evidence that people with concealed guns stop mass shootings.

    Lott's False Claim That Mass Killers Pick Targets Based On Whether Guns Are Allowed Is Contradicted By Analysis Of 70 Public Mass Shootings

    At another point in the CNN interview, Lott said, "I don't know how many explicit statements these killers have to make about how they chose targets where they knew people weren't able to go and defending themselves," citing the comments of other mass shooters and the diary of the gunman responsible for the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.

    The claim that mass shooters pick their targets based on whether guns are allowed is false. Mother Jones' Mark Follman dismantled that theory in an article debunking Lott's claims about the Aurora gunman's diary: "As I reported in an investigation into nearly 70 mass shootings in the United States over three decades, there has never been any known evidence of gun laws influencing a mass shooter's strategic thinking."

    Instead, Follman found "the vast majority of the perpetrators have indicated other specific motivations for striking their targets, such as employment grievances or their connection to a school."

    Lott's False Claim That Suicidal Individuals Will Find Ways To Commit Suicide Even If A Gun Isn't Available Is Contradicted By 90 Studies

    Lott used his appearance to push several other gun-related falsehoods. On suicides-by-gun, which claim nearly 20,000 American lives per year, Lott said, "To go and think that some type of gun control regulations that are being talked about are going to stop somebody from committing suicide, when there are so many other ways for people to commit suicide."

    Again, this is not true. Gun suicides are typically successful, resulting in death 85 percent of the time, while other methods of attempting suicide result in death just 9 percent of the time. According to a review of 90 studies on the long-term outcomes of individuals who survived a suicide attempt, 89 to 95 percent did not become future victims of suicide.

    Lott's False Claim That Murder Rates Always Rise In Places Where Guns Are Banned Is Contradicted By The Very Examples He Cites

    Another false claim Lott pushed on CNN was about gun bans and murder rates. Lott said, "Here's a simple fact, every place in the world that's banned guns, not just Washington D.C. and Chicago when we had our bans, but every place that has banned guns has seen murder rates go up." Like Lott's claim about mass shootings and so-called "gun-free zones," this claim is a red herring, namely because gun bans like the one that existed in Washington D.C. and Chicago are unconstitutional in the United States and are irrelevant to serious policy discussions on gun laws.

    Lott's citation of Washington D.C. is highly misleading, as well. The District of Columbia banned ownership of handguns from 1976 until 2008. While the murder rate in D.C. was slightly lower in 1976 compared to 2008, that doesn't tell the whole story. Significantly, in each of the five years preceding D.C.'s handgun ban, the murder rate was higher compared to where the murder rate stood in 2008 after more than 30 years of banning handgun ownership.

    And Lott's citation of Chicago is totally false: the murder rate in 1982, the year the city's gun ban went into effect was significantly higher compared to 2010, when the ban ended.

    Lott's False Claim Most Academic Studies Support His Claims Is Contradicted By Survey Of Academics

    Offering another sweeping falsehood, Lott also claimed, "Most of the academic work out there finds that increases in concealed handgun permits, increases in gun ownership, generally is associated with reduced crime."

    Lott's claim that more guns equal less crime is actually the minority view, and his thesis has been debunked time and time again. Reputable research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center that looked at numerous studies concluded that where there are more guns, there is a higher risk of homicide.

    According to a survey of the authors of "1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology" 62 percent of experts disagreed that permissive concealed carry laws reduce crime, compared to just 9 percent who agreed:

  • Gun Advocate John Lott Blames "Passive Behavior" By Mugging Victim For Attack That Left Him Paralyzed

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Prominent gun advocate John Lott blamed a robbery victim who was shot in the back for his injuries, claiming the man displayed "passive behavior" because he fled his attacker.

    According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christopher Sanna was shot after being robbed while walking to his car following a St. Louis Cardinals game, and is likely to be paralyzed. Army veteran Sanna was wounded when he and his girlfriend fled two robbers after complying with their demands:

    Christopher Sanna had parked at the Old Cathedral parking lot and was waking to his car. According to police, two men in a dark-colored sedan drove up to them. The driver got out with a gun and demanded their property. The woman gave the gunman her purse, and the couple turned to run away. The gunman fired several shots in their direction, hitting Sanna in the back.

    "They turned to run away, but they didn't make it very far," Candis Sanna said. "As soon as they gave them the stuff, they were going to try to run away but he shot them. They were within arm's reach.

    Sanna's mother told the Post-Dispatch that her son is always "very aware of his surroundings," but that the robbery "happened so fast."

    In a blog post headlined, "Passive behavior probably leaves robbery victim paralyzed," Lott criticized Sanna on his website and on Twitter:

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research. (Reputable research indicates that permissive concealed carry laws do not reduce crime and may actually increase the occurrence of aggravated assault.)

    Lott's claim follows a growing trend among gun rights activists to blame victims of violent crimes for not properly defending themselves. Most notably, several commentators blamed the victims of the June massacre at an historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina for their own deaths.

    Besides the offensive nature of Lott's claim -- that crime victims are responsible for getting hurt -- research on what typically happens during a violent crime debunks Lott's thesis that behaving "passive[ly]" makes a crime victim more vulnerable to harm.

    According to a recent study in The Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4.1 percent of crime victims were injured after brandishing a firearm compared to 2.4 percent of victims who ran away or hid.

  • CBS Evening News Allows Discredited Researcher John Lott To Falsely Connect Gun Laws To Higher Murder Rates

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    CBS Evening News allowed discredited gun researcher John Lott to attack the view that gun violence is a public health issue with the unsupported claim that murder rates have increased everywhere guns have been banned.

    Lott is a well-known pro-gun advocate and frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence. He rose to prominence during the 1990s with the publication of his book, More Guns, Less Crime, although his conclusion that permissive gun laws reduce crime rates was later debunked by academics who found serious flaws in his research.

    During an August 27 segment on CBS Evening News that discussed the shocking killing of two Virginia journalists, Lott said he did not believe gun violence was a public health issue and claimed, "Every country in the world, or place in the world, [that] has banned guns has seen an increase in murder rates, it's not just Washington, D.C. and Chicago."

    Lott's claim is unsupported by the data. It's also a red herring; in the United States, sweeping gun bans were found to be unconstitutional in the 2008 Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, effectively making the proposition of banning all guns irrelevant in serious policy debates over gun laws, which are focused most strongly on strengthening the background check system for firearm sales.

    Lott's claim about higher murder rates where gun sales are all but banned falls apart after examining one of the cities he cites, Washington D.C.

    Lott is technically correct that the D.C. murder rate in 1976 -- the year a ban on private ownership or possession of handguns in nearly all circumstances went into effect -- was 26.8 people per 100,000 residents, and was 31.4 in 2008, the last year the ban was in place. But those two data points don't tell the whole story. For example, the murder rate in the last full year in which D.C. did not have a gun ban, 1975, was 32.8  -- higher than the murder rate when the ban ended

    In fact, D.C.'s murder rate during the last year of the gun ban was lower than the murder rates in each of the five years before it was implemented (31.4 vs. 32.8, 38.3, 35.9, 32.8, and 37.1).

    Homicide trends in D.C. also cast doubt on Lott's suggestion of a causal connection between the District's handgun ban and number of murders. Murders in D.C. peaked in 1991 -- a crack epidemic was raging at the time -- at 80.6 per 100,000 residents. During the last 17 years D.C.'s gun ban was in effect, the rate fell by more than half, suggesting that factors other than the ban were driving the murder rate.

    Data from Australia also casts doubt on Lott's premise that more restrictions on firearms equal more murders. Following a series of mass shootings that culminated with the 1996 Fort Arthur massacre of 35 people, Australia enacted extremely restrictive gun laws that placed strong limits on firearm ownership -- especially for handguns and semi-automatic rifles -- and confiscated 650,000 privately owned guns

    After Australia implemented these laws, according The Washington Post, an academic study found that "the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides."

    In a more general sense, an examination of research on guns and homicide by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found "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."

    Although Lott is well-known to reporters and news producers, he should not be considered a credible source for information about gun violence. In addition to his flawed research, Lott has been embroiled in a number of ethics controversies, including his admission that he used the pseudonym "Mary Rosh" to defend his works from critics and praise his own research in online discussions. He has also faced allegations that he fabricated the results of a study on defensive gun use and has been caught attempting to surreptitiously revise his data after critics discovered errors.