compiled by Otis Dudley Duncan and Tim Lambert
revised 26 Feb 2003 by Tim Lambert

This pages documents direct and indirect references Lott has made to a survey he claims to have carried out in 1997. Further analysis is here, and the latest update is here.

The information of over 2 million defensive uses and 98 percent is based upon survey evidence that I have put together involving a large nationwide telephone survey conducted over a three month period during 1997.
Letter from John Lott to Otis Dudley Duncan, dated May 13, 1999.

There are 15 national surveys that have been conducted by academics as well as polling organizations like the Los Angeles Times and Gallup, and their average estimate indicates that people use guns defensively well over two million times each year. My own survey put the defensive uses at about 2.1 million in 1997. Both numbers are about five times greater than the 440,000 crimes that the FBI reports were committed with guns in 1997.
John Lott, May 25, 1999, Letter to the Editor, The Wall Street Journal A27


School massacres are inherently more newsworthy than the over 2 million incidents each year in which people use guns defensively — including incidents were the gun is merely brandished and attacks on schools were the shooter is stopped before claiming victims. But the fact remains: guns are used for defense of purposes about five times as often as they are used for crimes.
John Lott Gun Show, National Review, May 31 1999

The 2.1 million defensive uses is the average of 15 private national survies on this topic. It is also the same as the estimate that I got from a survey that I did in early 1997.
John Lott, email to Tim Lambert, 23 June 1999

While some 430,000 violent crimes were committed with guns in 1997, Americans also used guns to defend themselves against attackers about 2 million times.
John Lott, “Letters” page in Newsweek, Sept. 13, 1999.


[Paraphrase of statements in a video taped lecture] Lott contrasts the number of violent crimes committed with guns with the number of defensive uses. He gives 1997 as the date for his figures: 2 million times a gun is used defensively and 98% of the time simply brandishing the gun is sufficient to cause the criminal to break off the attack. Later in the lecture Lott states that less than 1 time in 1,000 does the defensive use result in the death of the attacker. Again he says that 98% of the time simply brandishing the gun is sufficient to stop the attack, in “less than 2%” of the cases is the gun fired, and the firings are mostly warning shots. In less than 0.5% of the uses the gun is fired at the offender, and only a tiny fraction of these result in the death of the attacker.
“Do We Need the Second Amendment?” Eagle Council Forum XXVIII, September 24-26, 1999. [Video tape obtained from ACTS, Inc.]

Reason: You often say, based on surveys, that Americans use guns to fend off criminals more than 2 million times a year. But in the book, you note that people who report incidents of armed self-defense could be mistaken or lying. How big a problem is that, and how confident can we be that the true number is more than 2 million?
Lott: Well, 2 million is the average of the various surveys. Different problems may plague different surveys, and the problems can go in both directions. You may have questions that weed out people who shouldn’t be weeded out.
Cold Comfort, Reason Jan 2000.


“Guns clearly deter criminals, with Americans using guns defensively more than 2 million times each year — five times more frequently than the 430,000 times guns were used to commit crimes in 1997. Some 98 percent of the time, simply brandishing a weapon is sufficient to stop the attack.”
John Lott February 13 2000 Rocky Mountain News


“Guns clearly deter criminals. Americans use guns defensively more than 2 million times each year — five times more frequently than the 430,000 times guns were used to commit crimes in 1997. Ninety-eight percent of the time, simply brandishing the weapon is sufficient to stop an attack.”
Gun locks will cost, not save, lives in Maryland, Illinois Firearm Resource Originally published on Feb. 25, 2000.


“In 1997, for example, while people used guns to commit crimes about 440,000 times (with over 9,000 of those being murders), few Americans would guess that our best estimates indicate that guns were used defensively about two million times. Simply being able to brandish a gun was sufficient 98 percent of the time to cause a criminal to break off an attack.”
Talk by John Lott to the Independent Women’s Forum, May 2000


“If a national survey that I conducted is correct, 98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack.”
More Guns, Less Crime, second edition (University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 3. [Publication date, May, 2000]


“Guns clearly deter criminals, with Americans using guns defensively more than 2 million times each year – five times more frequently than the 430,000 times guns were used to commit crimes in 1997. Ninety-eight percent of the time simply brandishing the weapon is sufficient to stop an attack.”
Gun locks may increase crime June 2, 2000. Detroit News John R. Lott, Jr.

People use guns to stop school shootings or other violent crimes – 2 million defensive uses a year.
The Patriot’ Is Right John R. Lott, Jr New York Post June 22, 2000.

In 1997, for example, while people used guns to commit crimes about 440,000 times (with over 9,000 of those being murders), few Americans would guess that our best estimates indicate that guns were used defensively about two million times.
More Guns, Less Crime John R. Lott, Jr Speech to IWF July 2000


“studies by respected institutions estimate that guns were used defensively about 2 million times. Simply brandishing a gun was sufficient 98 percent of the time to cause a criminal to break off an attack.”
One case for guns,Christian Science Monitor, August 21, 2000.


“As I told Duncan last year in a telephone conversation, I had no idea why the estimated 2.5 million defensive gun uses was attributed to me. The 2.5 million estimate obviously comes from Kleck. The about 2 million reference is the average of the 15 national surveys and is very similar to my own estimate of a little over 2 million defensive uses. The survey that I oversaw interviewed 2,424 people from across the United States. It was done in large part to see for myself whether the estimates put together by other researchers (such as Gary Kleck) were accurate. The estimates that I obtained implied about 2.1 million defensive gun uses, a number somewhat lower than Kleck’s. However I also found a significantly higher percentage of them (98 percent) involved simply brandishing a gun. My survey was conducted over 3 months during 1997. I had planned on including a discussion of it in my book, but did not do so because an unfortunate computer crash lost my hard disk right before the final draft of the book had to be turned in.”
John R. Lott, Jr’s Reply to Otis Duncan’s Recent article in The Criminologist, The Criminologist, vol. 25, no. 5, September/October 2000, page 6.

Lott said. “The best estimates that we have indicates that people use guns defensively about 2 million times a year.”

Lott compared that to the 430,000 crimes that were committed with guns in the United States in 1997, pointing out guns were used defensively five times more frequently than were used to commit a crime.
Gun control: saving lives or endangering them? Christian Hale Daily Egyptian October 26, 2000.

About two million times a year people use guns defensively.
What we can do after Wakefield John R. Lott Jr. Boston Globe December 28, 2000.

Few people realize that civilians use guns defensively to stop about 2 million crimes a year, five times more often than guns are used to commit crimes, according to national surveys.
Others Fear Being Placed at the Mercy of Criminals John R. Lott Jr. LA Times March 30, 2001.


“Guns clearly deter criminals, with Americans using guns defensively over 2 million times each year — five times more frequently than the 430,000 times guns were used to commit crimes in 1997. Ninety-eight percent of the time simply brandishing the weapon is sufficient to stop an attack.”
Gun Lock Law Endangers Families, Independence Feature Syndicate Opinion-Editorial, Independence Institute, March 28, 2001. [This passage, almost verbatim, was also referenced on the net as having been published in Cost of gun locks too high, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 2, 2001.]


“Guns clearly deter criminals. Americans use guns defensively over 2 million times each year — five times more frequently than the 430,000 times guns were used to commit crimes in 1997. Up to 98 percent of the time, simply brandishing the weapon is sufficient to stop an attack.”
John R. Lott Jr., Why safe storage laws, gun locks likely will backfire. The San Diego Union-Tribune June 7, 2001.

with some 2 million defensive gun uses each year, defensive uses are five times more frequent than the crimes committed with guns.
Kmart Sells Out: Ammo Sales End, Under Pressure From PC Prankster John R. Lott Jr. Investor’s Business Daily July 10, 2001.

Even if this change reduces gun use by criminals and law-abiding citizens by the same percent (and that is an optimistic assumption), there will be a greater absolute reduction in defensive gun uses simply because, with some two million defensive gun uses each year, defensive uses are about 5 times more frequent than crimes committed with guns.
When Kmart Costs Lives John R. Lott Jr. National REview Online July 20, 2001

Defensive gun uses are almost completely ignored by the media, but Americans use guns defensively about two million times a year, five times more often than guns are used to commit crimes.
Small Arms Save Lives John R. Lott Jr. The Wall Street Journal Europe July 30, 2001

Guns are used defensively some 2 million times each year, five times more often than guns are used to commit crimes, according to national surveys from Florida State and Duke Universities, among others.
Will Questioning Our Neighbors Make Us Safer? John R. Lott Jr. Hartford Courant August 29, 2001.

Many people find it hard to believe that research shows that there are 2 million defensive gun uses each year.
The Missing Gun John R. Lott, Jr. New York Post January 25, 2002

Few people realize that people use guns defensively to stop about 2 million crimes a year, according to national surveys.
John Lott Off-Target News: When It’s Guns, Media Miss Big Part of Picture Investor’s Business Daily, February 7, 2002.

Guns are used defensively about 2 million times a year, according to national surveys.
Gun Laws Don’t Reduce Crime John R. Lott Jr. USA Today May 8, 2002.

But there are academic studies showing that people use guns defensively 2 million times a year.
Gun Panel Hears with An Ear Shut John R. Lott, Jr. August 31, 2002

Guns are used defensively some 2 million times each year, five times more often than guns are used to commit crimes, according to national surveys from Duke and Florida State universities, among others.
Take Aim at Ignorance, Not at Locking Up Guns John R. Lott, Jr. Times Union (Albany) September 2, 2001


“In 1997 there were about two million defensive gun uses that occured”
John Lott speaking on behalf of Jim Trakas campaign in Independence, Ohio on November 2, 2002. At time 1:10 of video.

[Editor's note: The only 1997 defensive gun use survey that gave a figure of about two million is the one Lott claims to have conducted.]