This past week, nine members of the Democratic Senate caucus sent a letter to the Attorney General requesting information “on the completed and potential conversions to civil service positions at the Department and its components.” You can read the entire letter here.
The letter was sent by Dianne Feinstein and was co-signed by the usual gaggle of Senators who always co-sponsor Dianne’s annual attempt to get rid of assault rifles, a move that I suspect may actually get some traction in the upcoming Senate term.
This letter, however, had nothing to do with assault rifles. Rather, it was an attempt to undo an appointment to the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, in this case the appointment of none other than the infamous and notorious John Lott.
What makes John Lott such a lightning-rod for the anger and advocacy of the Gun Violence Prevention crowd, a.k.a., GVP? To quote from Feinstein’s letter, Lott is a “pro-gun advocate who claims that widespread gun ownership can reduce crime.” In other words, he’s the mastermind behind all those guns being bought during the Covid-19 year, he’s the reason why companies like Smith & Wesson can’t ship enough products to satisfy demand, he’s the pied piper of Gun-nut Nation leading the armed forces of liberty and justice forward in the MAGA crusade.
Am I being somewhat too self-righteous in my description of how the GVP describes Lott? I don’t think so. If anything, I’m actually being somewhat charitable in what I believe is nothing more than a cynical and mis-informed campaign conducted by gun-control advocates and researchers every time that Lott’s name appears.
Here’s what our friends at The Trace have to say about Lott’s research: “Respected academics have repeatedly discredited Lott’s work.” Who are some of these ‘respected’ academics? One of them is John Donohue, who co-authored a paper claiming that the decline of violent crime in the 1990’s was due to the ability of inner-city women to abort unwanted kids. Another ‘respected’ academic is Daniel Webster, who along with the head of gun research at RAND, stated (under oath) at a Congressional hearing that he didn’t support national gun registration, even though he has supported this idea both verbally and in print.
I’m not saying that John Lott’s research is flawless, I’m not saying that he isn’t promoting a pro-gun agenda. What I am saying is that the continued attempts to defame him personally and professionally is nothing more than a McCarthyite tactic indulged in by GVP advocates and researchers who have been unwilling to confront the fundamental issue which John Lott has raised.
And that issue happens to be the degree to which, contrary research notwithstanding, a growing majority of Americans believe that their lives will be safer and more secure if they have access to a gun. In 1986, there were 8 states which issued licenses to carry firearms (CCW) without any ‘show cause’ requirement. By 1998, the number had increased to 30 such states.
John Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime, which is what Feinstein’s letter incorrectly describes, (since Lott argues for a shift from violent to non-violent crime as opposed to a ‘reduction’ in crime) was published in 1998. One of the earliest reviews by David Hemenway, another ‘respected academic,’ faults the book for a statistical approach that yields “invalid results.”
Neither Hemenway nor any other GVP researcher has yet to publish a single study which attempts to determine why more than one out of three legal gun owners also now holds a license to carry that gun.
I have given up trying to explain to David and his colleagues at the Harvard University School of Public Health that demonizing John Lott won’t do anything to reduce gun violence in the United States. As long as John Lott continues to be the focus of the GVP debate, well-intentioned GVP researchers and GVP advocates will be talking to themselves.
Shouldn’t we instead be communicating correctly and cogently about gun risks to the folks who own all those guns?