22 October 2009

More Guns, Less Crime???

I have been asking this question for quite some time: How can Michael Bellesiles be ripped to shreds for his book Arming America, yet we still see John Lott cited as authoritative about CCW reducing crime?

John Lott makes Bellesiles look honest as heck.

Tim Lambert catalogues Lott's unethical behaviour. In fact, Lambert basically rips apart everything John Lott says.


From Mother Jones:

One of Michael Bellesiles' most dogged critics, Northwestern University law professor James Lindgren, also prepared a report investigating Lott's survey claims. "I have serious doubts whether he ever did the study," says Lindgren, "and the only evidence that he's brought forward for having done the study is ambiguous" -- an NRA activist who claims to remember having been called and asked about defensive gun uses.

But many gun rights conservatives have taken a pass on the Lott issue. A glowing review of "The Bias Against Guns" in National Review -- which made much hash of the Bellesiles affair -- failed to mention Lott's recent difficulties in corroborating the existence of his survey. "It's so interesting that Michael Bellesiles gets hung from the highest tree, while Lott, if anything, he's been more prominent in the last couple of months," says Donohue.

The right has good reason to stick by Lott: "The entire ideology of the modern gun movement has basically been built around this guy," says Saul Cornell, an Ohio State University historian who has written widely on guns. Over the years the pro-gun intellectual agenda has had two prongs: Defending a revisionist legal understanding of the Second Amendment in constitutional law, and refuting social scientists and public-health researchers who argue that the widespread availability of guns in America plays a key role in the nation's staggering number of homicides and suicides. Without Lott's work, the latter argument becomes much harder to make.

More conservative soul searching may result from a forthcoming National Academy of Sciences report from an expert panel dedicated to "Improving Research Information and Data on Firearms." Scheduled for release in late fall, the panel's report will address Lott's work. Duke University economist Philip Cook, co-editor of the Brookings Institution book "Evaluating Gun Policy", draws a historical analogy: In the late 1970s, after economist Isaac Ehrlich published a complex analysis supposedly proving that every execution in America deters about eight murders, the NAS released a devastating expert report debunking Ehrlich's findings. The same thing could happen to Lott.

If it does, we can be reasonably sure of one thing: Lott will have a response ready. "Lott will never say, 'that's a good point.' Lott will offer you some rebuttal," says Georgetown gun policy expert Jens Ludwig. But if Lott won't fully address the errors that undermine his thesis, it may fall to someone else -- his conservative peers, the American Enterprise Institute, perhaps -- to step in and do it for him.