John Lott's Website John Lott's Website
Welcome! This is the site where I will be posting most statements. The latest statements will be on this page. The data sets, various "do" files, and debates on previous controversies can be found at You can go here to buy The Bias Against Guns, my latest book. Please e-mail me with any questions at

Notice: I have found websites, particularly “”, that are pretending to be run be me. They are not. At first glance, it may be hard to tell that it is not my site. The only sites I control are this and Anything else is an impersonation and is trying to create a negative impression.

So What About Rumsfeld's Claim About the Murder Rates in Washington, DC and Baghdad?

A 6/26 op-ed of mine referenced Rumsfeld's statement that Baghdad's murder rate (despite still mopping up after a war and civilians being able to own high power guns) is greater than Washington, DC's. The sentence in my piece that seems to upset people is that:

"Yet, despite Iraqis owning machine guns and the country still not under control, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointed out that Baghdad is experiencing fewer murders than Washington, D.C., where handguns are banned. "

Other web sites and various e-mails have claimed in typical diplomatic language that "JOHN LOTT LIES AGAIN" (7.22.2003). Yet, Rumsfeld's statement and logic seems extremely clear;

"'You've got to remember that if Washington, D.C., were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month,' Rumsfeld said. 'There's going to be violence in a big city.' "

Baghdad is a city with a population some 8.5 times greater than Washington. While it might be difficult to keep track of the number of property crimes or robberies these days in Iraq, presumably Rumsfeld knows whether the number of murders is greater or less than 200 a month. Given that during 2001 Washington had 261 murders, my math is a little different from Rumsfeld's (185=(261/12)*8.5), but the numbers are of a similar order of magnitude and the point is the same.

Finally, an e-mail suggests that Rumsfeld was referring to the military deaths of our soldiers. I think that is clearly false when one reads Rumsfeld's quote.


A vote on allowing the re-importation of pharmaceutical drugs back to the U.S. is slated for Wednesday afternoon. The vote is expected to be very close, and as Jim Glassman and I argue in our piece in the Wall Street Journal Europe the entire world will likely suffer if this legislation becomes law. Right now the rest of the world is free-riding off the research funded by the expenditures that American make on drugs. That is hardly an ideal arrangement, but effectively placing price controls on American drug purchases will greatly reduce the incentive to develop new drugs.


The was another review of The Bias Against Guns in The Journal News (Westchester County, NY).


Today there was another review of my book, The Bias Against Guns, in Ether Zone.


My latest op-ed, Letting Teachers Pack Guns Will Make America's Schools Safer, was published in the LA Times.


For letters to the LA Times that responded to my op-ed and my responses follow this link:,1,

You can also click here to see the letters and responses.


Here is my lastest op-ed, published in the Kansas City Star.


My latest article, U.N. vs. Guns: An international gun-control fight is now up on my site. Just click on the link.


A couple more reviews of my book, The Bias Against Guns, have come out this weekend in the Orange County Register and on World Net Daily


I have been e-mailed a few questions about the discussion in my book The Bias Against Guns (pp. 24-27) regarding the press coverage of the Appalachian Law School attack. The attack was stopped by two students who had guns. The general question raised by the e-mailers is that there are nowhere near 208 unique stories and that in order to get that number I must have counted each time an AP story appeared as a separate story.

This is simply incorrect. There were indeed many separate stories. The claims seem to be based upon a very superficial recent re-examination of news stories. I had an RA double check the earlier Nexis search. The earlier search was correct, though in the intervening year plus since the original search was done some new stories have been added to the Nexis database (indeed nine mainly non-unique new stories have been added to the database in the last week). (Nexis is the most comprehensive source for these stories.) There are thus now 218 unique stories after duplicate AP and other stories have been substracted. A total of 294 stories, counting duplicates and reprinted stories, were found. An excel file provides a general overview of the stories (the stories in yellow were duplicates) and the accompanying file provides the specific stories. There is also an additional story that explicitly mentions using a gun defensively raising the total number from 2 to 3. The story that was previously not included in the earlier Nexis search was from the Asheville Citizen-Times. Two more stories have also been added to the file that mentioned that Bridges and Gross had guns, but these additional stories did not mention that they used the guns.

By any measure, whether the comparison is 3 stories actually mentioning that the students used their guns to stop the attacks out of the 218 separate news stories about the attack or 3 out of the 294 total news stories about the incident, virtually none of the stories actually mentioned that the students who used their guns to stop the attacks. Both the measures of unique versus total stories provide interesting information. The unique stories come from over 70 different writers or TV shows. Four additional stories mentioned that the students who stopped the attack had guns but did not mention that the guns were actually used to stop the attack.

One concern has been raised about whether virtually all the stories that left out the fact that students used guns to stop the attack were published right after the attack. In other words, perhaps the press had no knowledge of this fact until later. Specifically, I have been told by one e-mailer that there were only a few stories after the 17th, and that a large portion of those later stories indeed did mention that the students used guns to stop the attack. Thus the claim is apparently that once the press learned that guns had been used in stopping the attack, they supposedly were only too willing to include this in their stories. To answer this, again we use the Nexis search, and it indicates that there were 151 stories from the 18th to the 22nd, 106 of which were unique stories not republished elsewhere. Therefore about half the stories were run on the 16th (the day of the attack) and the 17th, and the other half were run from the 18th to the 22nd. The three stories actually mentioning that guns were used to stop the attack were run on the 18th (two stories) and the 19th (one story). None of the 60 stories that were run from the 20th to the 22nd mentioned this fact. However, many of these later stories (particularly on the 22nd) were different than the earlier ones in that they focused on the people who were released from the hospitals after the attack.

I was also asked about whether there is an inaccurate reference to the New York Times in my book The Bias Against Guns. I point out that the book notes (pp. 279): "The two Nexis hits that mentioned that the students retrieved guns from their cars but did not use them were from the New York Times and NBC's Today. One newspaper op-ed that I wrote on this topic incorrectly implied that the New York Times had completely ignored that the students who stopped the attack had a gun. The number 208 was also transposed so that it was listed incorrectly as 280."

To bring up another related issue that has not been raised by any of the e-mailers, Senate Democrats are delaying passage of legislation that would allow former police with at least 7 years experience or current police with at least five years experience to carry their guns with them when traveling across state lines. The threatened filibuster by Senator Ted Kennedy is preventing this legislation from even getting to the Senate floor for a vote. Kennedy claims that the legislation would "do great damage to the effort of state and local governments to protect their citizens from gun violence." He also argued the law would further "undermine the safety of law enforcement." One would think that cases such as the Appalachian Law School attack would have finally provided some impetus for passing less restrictive legislation.


On a more traditional economic topic, I have an op-ed in today's Investors' Business Daily on the debate over extending the child tax credit changes to those who are not paying income taxes. The language that the Bush Administration is using to push the new change is disappointingly Keynesian.


For those interested in crime generally, there is a debate today between the editors of USA Today and myself on the current move by states to save money by cutting back on law enforcement. I think many who support the changes are motivated more by the desire to reduce penalties that they regard as too harsh than they are motivated to save money. I agree with USA Today on some of these issues and that penalties for some crimes should be cut or eliminated, but I think that it is a mistake to try to cut penalties across the board.

Last night I was also on MSNBC debating whether teachers should be able to carry concealed handguns at elementary and secondary schools. It is obviously an emotional issue, but it seems hard to me how one can make the hypothetical fear based arguments without some reference to what happened prior to the 1995 federal law banning guns within a 1000 feet of a school. Prior to that law permit holders were regularly able to carry their guns on school property and there is no record of any problems.


The National Review has an extremely (overly) nice review of my book in the latest issue.


Armed and safer Iraqis


Has the gun control issue really disappeared? Some recent commentary suggests that it has. In a piece that I have posted this weekend I argue that gun control initiatives are just as numerous as ever. The reason for the lack of attention is that attention goes to those initiatives that have a chance to pass and especially at the federal level, with Republicans controlling both houses of congress, most initiatives stand little chance of passing.


Here is a MSNBC interview that I did. The subjects ranged from media coverage of defensive gun uses to what constitutes justifiable force.


Here is a recent review of my book, The Bias Against Guns.

"John Lott's latest salvo in the gun wars, The Bias Against Guns, explains why virtually everything one hears about gun control is wrong.
With a cool and analytical tone that is a refreshing contrast to the overheated rhetoric of the anti-gun crowd, Lott makes the case that private ownership of guns and the right to carry them actually results in a safer society. He includes reams of data to back up his claim."

In my June 7th post I discussed John Donohue's letter to the Columbus Dispatch. Well, Professor David Mayer at the Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio has joined the fray with a letter in today's Dispatch. Professor Mayer raises questions about the emotional tone of Donohue's letter, and he addresses whether Ayres and Donohue's own statistical evidence shows what they claim that it does. One point that I would add is that while Ayres and Donohue have now written several pieces between them on right-to-carry laws, none of their papers have appeared in refereed journals.


An e-mailer asks about whether the Ayres and Donohue piece in the American Law and Economics Review was refereed. While the original papers in that journal are indeed refereed, their piece was a review article and my understanding from Ayres was that it was not refereed.


Associated Press: "Alaskans will no longer need a permit to carry a concealed weapon under a bill signed into law Wednesday."

Alaska has had some of the strictest rules in the country among right- to-carry states for obtaining a concealed handgun permit so this represents a major change in their law. Other states that have adopted major concealed handgun laws this year are Colorado, Minnesota, and New Mexico.

Here is another interview regarding my new book, The Bias Against Guns.


My latest piece on the bias against guns can be found here.


Stanford Law Review Debate

The Stanford Law Review Editor Ben Horwich promised me that Florenz Plassmann and John Whitley would be able to respond to the attack by Ian Ayres and John Donohue saying that I had withdrawn my name from the Stanford Law Review after I read their response to our work. Unfortunately, Ben did not carry through on that promise. (I realize that Ben was under some pressure (whatever the denials) and I have some sympathy for his position.) In any case, here is what Florenz and John had written up:

Why the paper "Confirming 'More Guns, Less Crime'" appeared in the Stanford Law Review as a joint paper by Florenz Plassmann and John Whitley when it had been circulated on the SSRN as a joint paper by John Lott, Florenz Plassmann, and John Whitley.

In their paper "The Latest Misfires in Support of the 'More Guns, Less Crime' Hypothesis" (Stanford Law Review, April 2003, vol.55: 1371-1398), Ayres and Donohue (A&D) write (p.1374):

"But after seeing this Reply to the original Lott,
Plassmann, and Whitley paper, Lott asked the Stanford Law
Review to take his name off the work. We hope that this
indicates that the arguments in our Reply have caused the
primary proponent of the more guns, less crime hypothesis
to at least partially amend his views."

The authors give the impression that Dr. Lott had asked the Stanford Law Review to take his name off the work because he had lost confidence in the validity of the arguments in the original Lott, Plassmann, and Whitley paper. This impression is factually incorrect.

Dr. Lott had asked that his name be removed because he would not agree to a change in the paper that the Stanford Law Review mandated to accommodate a late change in the original A&D article ("Shooting Down the 'More Guns, Less Crime' Hypothesis"). Specifically, we were given an ultimatum to either: (A) agree to the change and our paper would be published in the Stanford Law Review, or (B) the Stanford Law Review would publish only A&D's original paper but neither our paper nor A&D's reply. These changes violated an agreement that we had reached with the Stanford Law Review about the editorial process and constituted a "final straw" to Dr. Lott in what had been a grueling editorial process.

Although Dr. Lott was prepared to withdraw the paper from the Stanford Law Review at this point and attempt publication elsewhere, he did not want to impose the cost on his junior coauthors of possibly losing the publication and generously offered to withdraw his name from the paper. Although we (Plassmann and Whitley) fully understood and agreed with Dr. Lott?s dissatisfaction, we decided to accept his offer, to accept the mandated change to our paper, and to proceed with publication.

Most of this debate with the journal editors took place by email (copies of these emails are available from us upon request). Particularly relevant are the two passages below, one from Dr. Lott's email to Mr. Ben Horwich, the president of volume 55 of the Stanford Law Review, withdrawing his name from the paper, and the second from Mr. Horwich's reply.

"[Dr. Lott wrote to Mr. Horwich:] My coauthors
will go along with proposal (A). They have both put a
tremendous amount of grueling work into this paper and
both are young academics who would like to see it
published. As to myself, I am not very happy with
the way things have turned out. I do appreciate
your hard work on this and I also appreciate the
difficult position that we have all put you in. I
think that you have done a very good job in what I am
sure has not been a very pleasant situation, and I think
that my exit from this project is the best way to help
somewhat minimize the hassles that are being imposed on
you and others. I am sorry that things haven't gone more
smoothly, though I trust that the end of these travails is
now insight."

"[Mr. Horwich wrote in reply to Dr. Lott:] While I'm of
course disappointed that your name won't appear on a piece
that you have no doubt put in equally tremendous amounts
of grueling work on, I understand and can accept your
decision. Indeed, as someone who himself may someday be
in the position of being a young academic, I find your
respect and concern for your coauthors' interests admirable."

The impression left by A&D is objectively and verifiably false. We appreciate the editors of the Stanford Law Review giving us this opportunity to set the record straight.

(End of piece by Florenz Plassmann and John Whitley.)

Unfortunately, since the Stanford Law Review did not keep their promise (though they have put out their own statement), I wanted to make sure that Florenz and Whitley's statement was posted someplace. Yet, I probably shouldn't have been too surprised because there were multiple instances where promises made by the editors were not carried through with.

My biggest disappointment with Ayres and Donohue's attack is how it damages a couple of good, decent young academics. By claiming that the paper was so flawed that even I wouldn't put my name on it, Ayres and Donohue are attacking the reputations of these young academics. Florenz and Whitley are being painted as being so desperate for a publication that they would put their names on a flawed paper. Of course, this is nothing new with their misleading attacks on David Mustard, where minor coding errors did not change what he had written. (Instead of letting David correct a small mistake which did not fundamentally change the results, David was forced to cut out what would have been a damaging evidence against Donohue. If correcting these minor points had changed the results in a way favorable to Donohue, why wouldn't they let David publish the figure that he wanted to publish? However, I believe that David is perfectly capable of defending himself.) And in Donohue's recent piece in the Columbus Dispatch (6/7, see below for a more complete discussion) he implies that David Olson's paper was so flawed that Olson and Maltz had to withdraw the paper. Olson is the lead author on the paper (note that the names are not in alphabetical order) and I know of absolutely no evidence that he has "withdrawn" his paper. By the way, Olson is also a fine young academic. I don't think that it looks very good for two senior academics to lash out at young people like this, especially when the attacks on them are unjustified.

The irony of all this is the large number of easily identifiable mistakes in Ayres and Donohue's work on concealed handguns, starting with their original piece in the American Law and Economics Review . Of course, their recent paper in the Stanford Law Review contains a large number of errors from: claiming that David Mustard and I "never acknowledge" the costs of guns or the possible bad effects of concealed handgun laws, juxtaposing quotes to make it possibly appear that I was arguing about law-abiding citizens carrying guns on planes when the op-ed was about pilots carrying guns (p. 1199), that previous work did not deal with the possible impact that cocaine could explain the changes in crime rates attributed to concealed handgun laws, the measurement error problems in county level data, and even Philadelphia's concealed handgun laws are incorrectly described.


In a letter to the editor in today's Columbus Dispatch, John Donohue claims my research is "fatally flawed" and that:

Trying to revive his discredited thesis, Lott now cites the work of
others rather than his own research. But neither of the studies he
refers to, one of which was written by his own co-author, David
Mustard, actually supports Lott's view. Mustard's work follows the
same flawed methodology that Lott employs, and the author of the
other paper (as Lott well knows) has withdrawn the paper after
concluding that the data on which it (and Lott's work) was based is

Donohue is responding to a piece that I had in the Dispatch in April where I wrote:

One particular fear that some police have is that right-to-carry laws
would actually make their jobs more dangerous by making it more
likely that they would be shot. Yet, research has shown that the laws
make police safer. Professor David Mustard at the University of
Georgia found that right-to-carry laws reduced the rate that officers
were killed by about 2 percent per year for each additional year
that the laws were in effect.

Other research, by David Olson at Loyola University and Michael
Maltz at the University of Illinois, found that when law-abiding
citizens carried concealed handguns, criminals were much less
likely to carry guns. In fact, they found gun murders fell by 20
percent. Fewer criminals carrying guns makes the jobs of police
less dangerous. By contrast, while law-abiding permit holders
have come to the aid of police, they have never killed a police officer.

There are problems with Donohue's claims here. 1) The Olson and Maltz paper was never "withdrawn." It was published in the October 2001 Journal of Law and Economics. 2) While Michael Maltz has indeed written a piece critically discussing the measurement error in county level data, the lead author on this paper, David Olson, has never written anything after his paper was published critical of his paper and Donohue does not cite anything to the contrary. 3) John Whitley and I have a piece that has just appeared in the June 2003 issue of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology where we point out that all data has measurement error, that the error in the county level crime data is not particularly large, and, most importantly, there is not systematic error.

Donohue has not examined any of David Mustard's data studying the impact of right-to-carry laws on police fatalities. Therefore it is difficult to understand how Donohue can claim that Mustard's methodology was "flawed". Donohue's apprehensions about there being a temporary increase in crime before there is a decline are straightforward empirical questions and can only be examined with data. As an aside, David Mustard and I have indeed co-authored one paper in the past, but the passage is written ambiguously enough to suggest that David may be my co-author on the paper in question ("which was written by his own co-author, David Mustard"), which would be an incorrect inferrence.

Donohue's piece concludes by claiming:

Legislators may feel a modest increase in the number of dead Ohioans in
exchange for the ability to carry hidden handguns is an acceptable trade-off.
But don't believe anyone who says concealed carry laws will reduce crime.
There is no credible support for that view.

Of course, despite Donohue's attempt to imply that there is only my work as well as the work cited by Mustard and Olson and Maltz, there are many other papers that find that concealed handgun laws reduce violent crime. Five papers in addition to the ones by Mustard as well as Olson and Maltz that were published in the Journal of Law and Economics during October 2001 also find significant benefits from concealed handgun laws. There are also papers by Plassmann and Whitley in the same issue of the Stanford Law Review as Ayres and Donohue's piece (an earlier version of the Plassmann and Whitley paper with me as a coauthor is available here and see also the data and corrected results are available at ) and work by people such as Bartley and Cohen as well as papers that academics such as Steve Bronars and William Landes have written with me. Unlike all of these papers the work by Ayres and Donohue was not refereed.

The Appendix in Plassmann and Whitley's paper (p. 1366, as well as a similar breakdown in appendix 1 of my book) shows that even the harshest critics find at least as much support that the right-to-carry laws lower violent crime as they have no impact and essentially no evidence that they increase violent crime.

Possibly a more important point is that Plassmann and Whitley show that the vast majority of Ayres and Donohue's own results show that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime rates and produce overall benefits to society. Even their so-called hybrid results on a state-by-state basis are reversed when a more general year-by-year analysis of the law is broken down on a state-by-state basis. The Ayres and Donohue results using the state-by-state breakdown is driven by two factors: 1) that the hybrid approach of fitting a straight line with an intercept shift to nonlinear data overestimates the crime rates in the early years and 2) Ayres and Donohue then only focusing on the first five years after the law.

Finally, even Ayres and Donohue?s county data results using their hybrid specification do not show a statistically significant increase in crime. Their mistake is a simple one since they are only looking at the coefficient on the intercept shift by itself when the crime rate during first year that the law is in effect is measured by both the intercept shift as well as the trend variable. When you do that none of the net effects of the law is statistically significantly different from zero during the Law?s first year is zero. Just to see the point estimates during the first year of the law, Ayres and Donohue?s own results from their Table 10:

Murder Rape Robbery Aggravated Assault
6.9% 5.9% 5.9% 3.6%
-3.5% -3.4% -3.4% -4.1%
Net Effect
During the
First Year
Using the
Hybrid Approach
3.4% 2.5% 2.5% -0.5%
Net Effect
During the
Second Year
Using the
Hybrid Approach
-0.1% -0.9% -0.9% -4.6%

Of course, by the second year of the law all the point estimates are negative and they become more negative with each successive year. Again, the positive (if statistically insignificant) point estimates during the first year of the law are an artifact of trying to fit an intercept shift with a straight line trend to nonlinear data (see Plassmann and Whitley?s discussion on page 1328).


There is an interesting editorial by John Derbyshire at National Review Online. John discusses some of the problems with the most recent gun control laws in the United Kingdom. My only clarification for his piece is that the British 1997 Act banning handguns was probably not as important in increasing crime as the fact that the law literally made it a crime to use a gun defensively. Anyway, the discussion reminds me of some facts that I write about in my new book, The Bias Against Guns, regarding changing crime rates in Australia and England after their recent gun control laws.

p. 77:

In 1996, Britain banned handguns. Prior to that time, over 54,000 Britains owned handguns. The ban was so tight that even shooters training for the Olympics were forced to travel to Switzerland or other countries to practice. Four years have elapsed since the ban was introduced and gun crimes have risen by an astounding 40%., The United Kingdom now leads the United States by an almost two-to-one margin in violent crime. Although murder and rape rates are still higher in the United States, the difference has been shrinking. A recent Associated Press Report notes:

Dave Rogers, vice chairman of the [London] Metropolitan Police Federation, said the ban made little difference to the number of guns in the hands of criminals. ?The underground supply of guns does not seem to have dried up at all.?

Australia also passed severe gun restrictions in 1996, banning most guns and making it a crime to use a gun defensively. In the next four years, armed robberies there rose by 51 percent, unarmed robberies by 37 percent, assaults by 24 percent, and kidnappings by 43 percent. While murders fell by 3 percent, manslaughter rose by 16 percent. In Sydney, handgun crime rose by an incredible 440 percent from 1995 to 2001. Again, both Britain and Australia are ?ideal? places for gun control as they are surrounded by water, making gun smuggling relatively difficult. The bottom line, though, is that these gun laws clearly did not deliver the promised reductions in crime.


Transcript of the panel discussion from the American Enterprise Institute on my new book, The Bias Against Guns. The discussants of my book included Professor Paul Waldman the Associate Director of the Annenberg Public Policy School at the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Carl Moody the chairman of the economics department at the College of William and Mary, and Professor Eugene Kontorovich of George Mason University Law School. Sorry, but many of the good questions from the audience were not picked up by the microphone.


I have gotten an e-mail asking me some questions about the AEI panel discussion on my book.

1) "Why do you use the government's survey estimate for the number of crimes committed with guns but use other surveys in your two books for estimates on the number of defensive gun uses?"

The problem with the survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics is that "virtually none of the victims who use guns defensively tell interviewers about it in the [National Crime Victimization Survey]" (Kleck, Targeting Guns, p. 225. As many people who used a gun defensively may have prevented a crime, and thus have avoided an incident serious enough to be included in the set of events asked by the interviewer, many successful defensive gun uses would never be recorded.

2) "Is it accurate to describe the students who stopped the attack as having law enforcement backgrounds?"

The students were attending law school in Virginia and were on leave from their deputy sheriff jobs in another state, North Carolina.

3) Does the New York Times actually claim that the "rampage" killings were increasing during the 1990s?

The first article (April 9, 2000) in the series contains a massive table that shows very clearly that most of the attacks over the last 50 years supposedly occurred within the last five years.

"The series of articles published in The Times this week based on that research offered several new insights. Although such killings account for only one-tenth of 1 percent of all homicides, the series confirmed the public perception that they appear to be increasing." Editorial, "A Closer Look at Rampage Killings," New York Times, April 13, 2000, p. A30.

4) "Why did you use the CBS and Voter News Service surveys for gun ownership in your book More Guns, Less Crime but use the General Social Survey in your book The Bias Against Guns?"

The CBS and Voter News Service surveys have the advantage in that they are very large surveys (e.g., the VNS survey interviewed over 30,000 people). That makes it possible to get a fairly accurate measure of gun ownership rates in individual states. The problem with these surveys is that they cover only two years, 1988 and 1996. By contrast, the GSS has a very small sample in any given year, but the survey covers most states every other year. Which survey you use depends upon the questions that you want to ask. In the current book, The Bias Against Guns, states have adopted safe storage gun laws over many different years from 1989 to 1998 during the period that I studied. The question that I wanted to apply the survey data to was how gun ownership rates changed in the different states that adopted these laws in different years (see pp. 177 to 179 in the book). For the general question addressed in More Guns, Less Crime on whether the places with the biggest relative increases in gun ownership had the biggest relative drops in violent crime (pp. 113-14), I wanted to use the largest surveys available to get as accurate a measure as possible of the differences in gun ownership rates across states. However, in the chapter on gun storage laws in The Bias Against Guns, it was desirable to see how gun ownership rates changed immediately before and after the adoption of the law and the only way that I could do that was with the GSS data. To do this, John Whitley reweighted the GSS data using the state level demographic data we used in our Journal of Law and Economics paper.


Here is my latest op-ed, Scare Tactics on Guns and Terror.


An interview about my new book, The Bias Against Guns, can be found at The Illinois Leader. A discussion of a presentation that I recently made here at the American Enterprise Institute can be found at The Bias Against Guns, May 20, 2003.

Today the "big" controversy seems to involve a sentence in a footnote from a paper that John Whitley and I wrote on safe storage gun laws (so-called child protection acts) in the October 2001 Journal of Law and Economics. It is certainly flattering that people read the papers so carefully. The charge, addressed in an e-mail to me and sent to firearms discussion groups, is that footnote 32 on page 668 incorrectly discusses a paper by Peter Cummings, David Grossman, Frederick Rivara, and Thomas Koepsell that was published in the October 1997 Journal of the American Medical Association. Our footnote says that:

"While the Cummings et al. piece examined national data, they did not use fixed year effects which would have allowed them to test whether the safe storage states were experiencing a drop relative to the rest of the country."

We had been unable to replicate their claimed results using fixed effects and the only way we could get something similar was without fixed effects. It really shouldn't have been that difficult for us to confirm what they found since we were used their dates for the laws. Unfortunately, Cummings, Grossman, Rivara, and Koepsell were unwilling to give us their data when we asked for it. I asked for the data from Cummings and one other coauthor. I also told them what I had found regarding the fixed effects and Cummings didn’t disagree with me. Possibly we should have made a big deal of yet more academics who refused to share their data, but we decided that the more straightforward approach would be to simply say what we found. Alternatively, we could have simply stated that we were unable to confirm their results. For those interested, our data is readily available by following the links at the bottom of the page for


Another aspect of this discussion which people apparently do not understand is the difference between examining changes in before-and-after trends in a state's accidental death rates and differences in before-and-after averages. Take a simple case where accidental gun deaths were falling before the law and continued to fall at exactly the same rate afterwards. In that case, a simple before-and-after average would indicate that the law had reduced accidental gun deaths, but it would be pretty obvious from looking at the data that a pre-existing trend had simply continued at exactly the same rate and that the law had no impact. Unlike the work that Whitley and I have done, the Cummings, Grossman, Rivara, and Koepsell piece merely examines the simply before-and-after averages.


Additional confirmation of Vin Suprynowicz's discussion

Another article in a Bee newspaper on the Merced Pitchfork murders indirectly discusses the law making the gun inaccessible to minors. The article states:

"Ashley sacrificed her life to save the lives of her sisters," said the Rev. Tom Driscoll of Gospel Defenders Church. He described how the tiny girl tackled the intruder, Jonathon David Bruce, and wrapped herself around him, yelling to her siblings, "Go. Go. Get away."

Bruce killed Ashley with the same wide-blade pitchfork he used to kill her little brother. When sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 call at the Vassar Avenue home, Bruce attacked them with the same farm tool, authorities said. He was shot 13 times and died at the scene. Investigators have said that they suspect Bruce was under the influence of drugs.

"This case is far from over," said their father, John Carpenter, from the church pulpit. "The real murderer is still loose. The real murderer is the drug dealer who supplied the drugs. . . . It's a big business."

And he implied that the two children might be alive if gun laws were different. "From the White House to the outhouse, why are you taking away handguns?"

He said there was a gun in the house that the older sisters knew how to use, "but I had to put it away in a supposedly safe place. The only thing I forgot to put a lock on was my pitchfork."

Taken together, the different articles in these various posts indicate that the gun was locked; it was placed in a way that was not accessible by the children; both the father and the great-uncle, the Rev. John Hilton, believed that if the gun had been accessible children's lives would have been saved; and these moves were done because of fear of the California state law. As an aside, despite these murders getting extensive media attention, I can not find any news articles in any other newspapers in the state of California or other places that mentioned these facts. E-mails to me claiming that I must have known that Suprynowicz's discussion was "a lie" or "untrue" are obviously incorrect.


I have gotten a couple really amusing responses to my May 24th post. Apparently some don?t really believe that the Fox News quote from John Carpenter is really from John Carpenter. Instead, Fox News is supposedly just quoting me saying what I said that Carpenter said. I have even been told that it is impossible for Carpenter to have actually made this quote because it contradicts what (they believe) happened in the Merced pitchfork murders.

To believe that a television network would do this involves a really high level conspiracy theory. However, if a television segment actually runs a quote from someone on the air, it is because that person gave the network the quote. Otherwise the conspiracy theorists would have to believe that Fox News actually had me posing as the other person. Here is the text the Fox News story as it ran on July 5, 2002 from a Nexis search:

One example John Lott could cite is the Merced family, whose guns were put away because of California's safe storage law. John Carpenter believes it cost him the lives of two children after a man broke into his home with a pitchfork.

If a gun would have been here today, I'd have at least a daughter alive.

Unfortunately, the transcription service does not make it clear that the "Unidentified Male" is John Carpenter, but the July 8th piece posted by reporter Dan Springer on the Fox News web site that I referenced on May 24th should correct any misimpressions.


A couple of people have asked me about claims about the inaccuracy of a quote I used in my book. The quote is from Vin Suprynowicz (Las Vegas Review-Journal, September 28, 2000) regarding a fourteen-year-old girl not being able to defend herself and her younger siblings because the family gun was locked up. The quote that I use is shown on page 165 of The Bias Against Guns.

Fox News interviewed the father of the dead children and reported the following:

"Lott cited a Merced, Calif. family whose guns were put away because of the state's safe storage law. John Carpenter, who lost two children in an attack in 2000, said a gun would have stopped the man who broke into his home with a pitchfork. 'If a gun had been here, today I'd have at least a daughter alive,' Carpenter said."

In addition, there are two articles published in a local california newspaper that discuss this case and confirm what Suprynowicz wrote about the tragedy.

From the Fresno Bee (August 26, 2000):

On Friday, the children's great-uncle, the Rev. John Hilton, said: "If only [Jessica] had a gun available to her, she could have stopped the whole thing. If she had been properly armed, she could have stopped him in his tracks."

Maybe John, William, and Ashley would still be alive, he said.

Their father, John Carpenter, kept a gun in the home. His children had learned how to fire it. But he kept it locked away and hidden from his children.

"He's more afraid of the law than of somebody coming in for his family," Hilton said. "He's scared to death of leaving the gun where the kids could get it because he's afraid of the law. He's scared to teach his children to defend themselves."

Hilton said Carpenter feared overregulation as well as laws that make gun owners criminally and civilly liable if their children or others are injured.

From the Fresno Bee (August 31, 2000):

"Carpenter also said he had a gun at his house that he kept locked away from his children because he feared government laws. 'I didn't put a lock on my pitchfork,' he said. More than anything, Carpenter asked people to follow his daughter's example and get back to the root of the problem: 'We need to change the hearts of men.' "

On top of this I appeared on a radio show with Rev. John Hilton, the children's great-uncle, who repeated what he said in the quote used by Suprynowicz.


For your convinience, here is Suprynowicz's quote, which I used in my book:

Jessica Lynne Carpenter is 14 years old. She knows how to shoot. Under the new safe storage laws being enacted in California and elsewhere, parents can be held criminally liable unless they lock up their guns when their children are home alone. So that's just what law-abiding parents John and Stephanie Carpenter had done. [The killer], who was armed with a pitchfork had apparently cut the phone lines. So when he forced his way into the house and began stabbing the younger children in their beds, Jessica's attempts to dial 9-1-1 didn't do much good. Next, the sensible girl ran for where the family guns were stored. But they were locked up tight. The children's great-uncle, the Rev. John Hilton, told reporters: If only (Jessica) had a gun available to her, she could have stopped the whole thing. If she had been properly armed, she could have stopped him in his tracks. Maybe John William and Ashley would still be alive, Jessica's uncle said.

Vin Suprynowicz, Las Vegas Review-Journal, September 24, 2000.

I don't know how anybody can say that Suprynowicz's quote was inaccurate.

This is my latest Op-ed, about the bias at the New York Times.

Book Reviews:

Here are some recent reviews on my book, The Bias Against Guns:

Another bull's-eye for John Lott Jr.

"Critics cannot dismiss Lott's book as simply a political pro-gun rant. His conclusions are so well supported that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for anti-gun foes to prove him wrong. Of course, they'll try.

Writing a book like this takes guts. Let's hope that those in the media and the government who seem bent on keeping and holding an unfounded bias on guns will have minds open enough to read "The Bias Against Guns," if not the courage to start setting the record straight."

Author Accuses Media of Intentional Bias Against Guns

" Moody criticized Lott for not submitting his latest work for peer review but said his compliance with the other two points more than compensates.

"On the other two criteria, he is way ahead of his competition," Moody said. "He makes the data available, which means he is probably not cheating. I've checked him out; he's not cheating, and he uses all the requisite controls. "He does it right, and so, I tend to believe the results that John has published in the back of the book.

"If you wish to be informed on the debate concerning guns and public policy," Moody concluded, "you must have read John's book.""


Lack of data sharing etiquette

------ Forwarded Message
From: "Ian Ayres"
Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2002 14:39:08 -0500
To: "John R. Lott, Jr."
Subject: request

I finally got round to reading the epilogue to your second edition and will try to make sure that we respond to the work that you have done there so that we don't make the error of responding to just the last edition.

Because of the massive amount of additional work that you have done in creating the second edition, there are now several types of editional data that you have that would help us in assessing your work.

I think listed in order of importance, Donohue and I would be inteested in obtaining:

the county spillover data
the 10 state permit data
tje city level data
the fee and training data
the 2SLS instrument data

You have been incredibly generous with us and others already (and Levitt and I have not responded in kind) so I will understand if you are to busy to provide any of the foregoing pieces of info. Even putting aside issues of confidentiality, it takes a lot of time to dig up and present data in a usable way. So don't worry if you can't do this. And either way, Donohue and I will give you all of the do files and datasets for the regressions that we report in our paper.

It is amazing the number of hours that Donohue and I have put into this and it can only be a fraction of what you have invested.

Professor Ian Ayres
William K. Townsend Professor of Law
Yale Law School
PO Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520
203.432.7101 (voice)
203.432.4769 (fax) (publications)

Home (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

Academic papers:

Social Science Research Network

Book Reviews:

For a list of book reviews on The Bias Against Guns, click here.

List of my Op-eds

Posts by topic

Appalachian law school attack

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

Mother Jones article

Vin Suprynowicz quote


Craig Newmark

Eric Rasmusen

William Sjostrom

Dr. T's

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper