Interview: Economist John Lott Launches Initiative to Facilitate Truthful Reporting About Guns
John Lott, an economist and an expert on firearms in society, recently announced that he is launching the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), which will produce studies on the relationship between crime and guns. Lott ultimately hopes that CPRC's research will equip journalists and media with accurate statistics and reliable information.
Lott felt compelled to create CPRC after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg began funneling money into various studies which, in Lott's view, misrepresented facts in order to further the former mayor's own anti-gun agenda.
"Bloomberg and others are spending a great deal of money putting out research that is poorly done and riddled with errors," Lott told Breitbart News. "But they always get massive news coverage. I've done work that's gotten national attention before – but journalists covering it virtually always ask a critic of mine for comments. When Bloomberg releases a study, on the other hand, his critics are almost never asked for comments."
Lott mentioned that Bloomberg's two anti-gun groups – Moms Demand Gun Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns – touted in February that there have been 44 "mini-Newtowns" since the Sandy Hook school shootings in December 2012. To make this figure especially alarming, the groups repeatedly trumpeted that one of these incidents happened every ten days.
"The media covered the groups' report ad nauseam," Lott said.
Unfortunately for Bloomberg, Lott is a thorough researcher and took a closer look at the list of so-called mini-Newtowns.
"What they included in the list of Newtown-like incidents was ridiculous," Lott said. "They included, for instance, a case of legitimate self defense at Eastern Florida State College. A student there was attacked and beaten by two men. The student was close enough to his car that he was able to retrieve his handgun, which was legally stored in his car. One of the attackers was wounded as a result – that's legitimate self defense, but the incident is classified by Bloomberg's people as being a 'mini-Newtown.'"
Lott said that many the other cases were "lone suicides." The report's authors seemed to have included any incident in which a gun was fired, even if nobody was injured. Lott found that in total, 28 people died as a result of the 44 "mini-Newtowns" and 40 percent of the shootings were suicide-related.
Lott's research has unquestionably irritated many of those on the left who become unhinged when they talk about the economist. Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, said of Lott, "He's a researcher who's been proven to come up with faulty data that supports the gun lobby's points of view."
Watts and others with a similar agenda are quick to dismiss Lott. However, he is hard to dismiss so quickly – not merely an activist, Lott is an experienced economist whose teaching and research career has taken him to prestigious institutions such as Yale Law School and Stanford. He is one of the few scholars in the country who has been assiduous in working to debunk the reports of anti-gun lobbyists that he considers to be erroneous and fear-mongering.
"Nobody else is really doing this kind of research right now," Lott said. "You have places like the NRA and Gun Owners of America, and they can certainly be a useful thing – but none of them really deal with hard data. There's an asymmetry because Bloomberg can fund studies and it doesn't bother the media. But if the NRA were to fund someone who did research it would be completely dismissed."
Lott will launch CPRC using funds donated by individuals who support his mission. Donations may be made here.
"I want to get a group of academics together who can produce high-quality research on these topics," he said. "We also plan on doing original research, not just responding to what others have done. Many reporters don't understand the facts – if anti-gun groups provide information, the media are usually sympathetic to that narrative."
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.