[Note: This is a copy of a document found on John Lott’s website on April 6, 2003. I have added critical commentry, written in italics like this.
Tim Lambert ]

 ------ Forwarded Message
From: "Dave Kopel"
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2003 13:07:49 -0700
To: <cut> Subject: Re: FW: A quick question. John Lott I've got no specific recollection of editing the piece, but the evidence seems to indicate that attributing the 98% figure to Kleck was an error by the Independence Institute, rather than an error on the author's part. Dave Kopel ------ End of Forwarded Message

Apparently, some credence is being given to the claim that I have attributed the 98 percent brandishing estimate to others instead of myself. Some are taking this as evidence that I never conducted the survey. Yet, the fact is I never attributed this number to anyone else other than myself.

There are about 60 times where I have referenced the 98 percent number since 1997, though many of these are not really separate references since the same (or virtually the same) op-ed piece may be reprinted in multiple places. Other references were made during talks. As with most facts in most op-ed pieces, I do not cite a source for where the 98 percent number comes from. (Similarly, I don’t explain that the claim that fewer than 1 out of 1000 defensive uses result in the death of the attacker comes from comparing estimates of defensive gun uses with the Uniform Crime Report number of justifiable homicides. There are problems with the UCR number, but even multiplying their number by eight still produces this claim.) In any case, the only place where I supposedly directly reference another source is an online publication from the Independent Institute (this can no longer be accessed but the Heartland Institute also put the piece on its web site and it credits the Independence Institute).

Thus the claim that I referenced Gary Kleck as the source for the 98 percent number comes from a piece on the Independence Institute web site that dealt with safe storage legislation being proposed in Colorado. (The Independence Institute was interested in the issue because it is based in Colorado.) A virtually identical piece on the Colorado legislation was published in the Rocky Mountain News just a few days later. The Rocky Mountain News piece (see reference (A) below) is identical in every way to the one from the Independence Institute except for the absence of any reference to Kleck. My vague recollection of what happened is that David Kopel (Research Director at the Independence Institute) called me up asking for more information on who had done self-defense surveys and I mentioned that among them was Gary Kleck. [This is contradicted by Kopel’s account of what he thinks happened (see here for a summary). It is ridiculous to suppose that Kopel would have needed to ask Lott who had done self-defence surveys. As Kopel stated, he was well aware of Kleck’s work. You can see an earlier reference Kopel made to Kleck’s survey here. ] Unfortunately, the Kleck reference was erroneously included in both sentences for both survey facts. Pieces B, C, D, and E below are also extremely similar to the above "Gun Locks: Bound to Misfire" except for the absence of any reference to Kleck and a slight change at the beginning to use statistics from the state where the piece appeared, Maryland, New York, Michigan, or California instead of Colorado. The bottom line is that the reference tying Kleck to the 98 percent number obviously resulted from a misunderstanding in the final editing by a person other than myself. It at least made sense to attribute the over 2 million defensive gun use per year to Kleck, who along with other surveyors found similar estimates. If indeed I were trying to make an effort to assign the 98 percent figure to Kleck, then otherwise identical op-eds also would contain this error.

Independence Institute web site piece:

"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, according to research by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck. Kleck’s study of defensive gun uses found that ninety-eight percent of the time simply brandishing the weapon is sufficient to stop an attack."
John Lott Gun Locks: Bound to Misfire
On-line publication of the Independence Institute, Feb. 9, 2000 (republished with permission of the Independence Institute at Link. The Independence Institute removed the piece from its web site earlier this year.)

A) Rocky Mountain News: "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, Rocky Mountain News, February 13, 2000

B) Baltimore Sun: "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, Baltimore Sun, Friday, February 25, 2000. The piece is available on Link, Illinois Firearm Resource Link

C) New York Post: "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. 98 percent of the time simply brandishing the weapon is sufficient to stop an attack."
Gun Locks Bound to Misfire, New York Post, Monday, March 20, 2000.

D) "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, Detroit News, June 2, 2000. Link

E) San Diego Tribune: "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."
"Why safe storage laws, gun locks likely will backfire," San Diego Union-Tribune, Thursday, June 8, 2001.

2) The second case of false attribution is that I claimed that the Los Angeles Times, Gallup and Peter Hart were the source of the 98 percent number. Where people get the claim is by combining two sentences in a Chicago Tribune op-ed that I had in 1998 (the same op-ed was also republished, for example, in the Washington Times).

The relevant passage from the op-ed reads:

"Other research shows that guns clearly deter criminals. Polls by the Los Angeles Times, Gallup and Peter Hart Research Associates show that there are at least 760,000, and possibly as many as 3.6 million, defensive uses of guns per year. In 98 percent of the cases, such polls show, people simply brandish the weapon to stop an attack."

If the reference in the second sentence had been to "these" polls and not "such" polls, I would think that the critics would have a much better argument. Instead, I view "such polls" as merely referring back to this type of polls and not those specific polls. Still there is admittedly an error in using the plural. The most plausible explanation is that I was describing what findings had been generated by the polls, in other words I was viewing them in general as a body of research.

[I’m not sure that this is the most plausible explanation, but even if it is true, Lott has contradicted his claim that he “never attributed this number to anyone else other than [him]self”. Here he says that the 98% came from the polls as a general body of research. At best, only one of those polls was his.]

3) I have pointed out the differences in these polls previously, well before the piece on the Independence Institute’s web site. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal directly responding to other letters asking for the sources of defensive gun use information that I had referred to I noted (5/25/1999): "Jimmy Dunne and James Johnston question how frequently people use guns to protect themselves. 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." The second edition of my book, which was written and given to the University of Chicago Press during the summer of 1999, stated that: "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…." Not only is the Kleck reference on the Independence Institute’s web site inconsistent with all the other pieces that I have written on safe storage laws, but it makes little sense for me to incorrectly attribute the 98 percent number to Kleck during 2000 when I had just clearly stated months before February 2000 that that my work was the source for the number.

The bottom line is that there is not a single place where I have directly attributed the 98 percent figure to Kleck or anybody else’s study. The only thing that can be charge is that I likely on a couple of cases must have made some trivial plural/singular mistake. [This is nonsense. Try changing the plural to singular in one of his statements and you get this:

Polls by the Los Angeles Times, Gallup and Peter Hart Research Associates show that there are at least 760,000, and possibly as many as 3.6 million, defensive uses of guns per year. In 98 percent of the cases, such poll show, people simply brandish the weapon to stop an attack.

Chnging it to “a poll shows” doesn’t work either. If he really had been trying to say that the number came from his own poll, he would have written “my own poll shows”. This isn’t just some trivial difference. ]