Lott’s Bias

In Lott’s latest piece he is once more complaining that the media doesn’t report defensive gun use. Mark Wilson intervened to try to stop a shooting rampage in Texas. Unfortunately, the shooter was wearing body armour and Wilson was shot and killed. The police eventually killed the shooter (full story).

Lott concedes that Wilson’s bravery was widely reported, but also writes:

For example, in about 30 percent of the multiple victim public school shootings that have captivated Americans’ attention starting in 1997, people used guns to stop the attacks before uniformed police were able to arrive on the scene. Few people know about these cases because only about one percent of the news stories on these cases mention how the attacks were stopped.

Lott is referring to these three cases:

Pearl, Mississippi
Joel Myrick used a pistol to capture Luke Woodham as he was escaping from the scene of his shooting rampage at a high school.
Edinboro, Pennsylvania
James Strand pointed his shotgun at Andrew Wurst and made him drop his pistol after Wurst had fled from a school dance where he had shot several people.
Appalachian School of Law
Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross, two armed, off-duty police officers, helped capture Peter Odighizuwa as he was leaving the school where he had killed three people.

Lott is wrong to say that these people used guns to stop the attacks. In all three cases the shooter had already stopped and was trying to leave the scene of the crime. In the last case, the defenders’ guns did not have much of a role since Odighizuwa was out of ammunition, had put his gun down and had to be physically tackled. On his blog, Lott even claims that

the Tyler, Texas attack that was stopped by Mark Wilson.

Lott’s one percent number is also misleading. There is no reason for most of the stories about the shootings to mention how the shooter was captured. For example, a story about the funeral of one of the victims or a news brief would obviously not cover this. A realistic examination for bias would look only at stories about the capture and see if they mentioned the defenders’ guns. Even this would not be conclusive, since the reporter could have talked to a witness that was not aware of the gun use. I did a detailed analysis of the hundreds of stories on the Appalachian School of Law and found that at most there was one biased story.

Lott’s article continues:

In the book, The Bias Against Guns, Bill Landes of the University of Chicago Law School and I examine multiple-victim public shootings in the United States from 1977 to 1999 and find that when states passed right-to-carry laws, these attacks fell by 60 percent. Deaths and injuries from multiple-victim public shootings fell on average by 78 percent.

One of the arguments Lott uses to attack Ayers and Donohue’s work refuting Lott’s more-guns-less-crime claim is that A&D’s work did not appear in a peer-reviewed journal. But here Lott is citing work that did not appear in any kind of journal, peer-reviewed or otherwise. What’s more there has been a peer-reviewed journal paper on carry laws and concealed carry. Duwe, Kovandzic and Moody found virtually no support for the notion that concealed carry laws reduce mass public shootings. They were unable to replicate the results of Lott and Landes.

Lott continues:

Many people find it hard to believe that 18 national surveys by academics as well as national polling organizations show that there are 2 million defensive gun uses each year.

What are these “18 national surveys”? Well, numbers 1 to 14 are the surveys listed in table 1 of Kleck and Gertz. Trouble is, if you look at the table, two of the surveys don’t give any estimate and three aren’t national surveys. Less obvious is the fact that the estimates were produced by combining the results with information from Klecks’s own survey. Only four of the surveys give independent measures of defensive gun use: Kleck’s NSDS: 2.5 million DGUs, Hart: 650,000, Mauser: 600,000, Tarrance: 300,000. Survey 15 is the NSPOF which estimates 23 million (twenty-three million—not a typo) DGUs. Survey 16 is from Hemenway, Azreal and Miller. Lott falsely claims that this survey yields an estimate of 2 million DGUs a year when actually it is 400,000 a year. Survey 17 is Lott’s own 2002 survey. Lott claims this indicates 2.3 million DGUs per year, but he screwed up the calculations. And survey 18? That’s the one that exists only in Lott’s head. Yes, he’s still citing it. Lott is incorrigible.

Lott does not mention the results of the NCVS which gives numbers varying from 50,000 to 150,000. The NAS Panel on Firearms and Violence could not reconcile the wildly varying estimates and decided that more research was needed to find out how many defensive guns uses there were each year.

Lott complains about the stories that did not mention Wilson’s gun use, writing:

This misreporting actually endangers people’s lives. By selectively reporting the news and turning a defensive gun use story into one that merely says “police shot him dead,” the media give misleading impressions of what actions saved the lives of people confronted by violence.

Reality check. Wilson’s defensive gun use got him killed. He did not, despite Lott’s claim, stop the killer. Reporting the full story is likely to discourage defensive gun use.

In any case, Lott’s whole premise is pretty silly. The media reports deaths caused with cars all the time, but rarely reports the life saving uses of cars. Is this a bias against cars?

Comments

  1. #1 Yelling
    March 7, 2005

    While I am not part of the “gun” debate, I found this interesting and well researched. Posts like this are the reason Deltoid is so good. Thanks.

    Y.

  2. #2 Cameron Riley
    March 7, 2005

    Not directly related to the intent of your post – but for the record – in my time in Australia and America, I have not personally seen one instance of irreponsible gun ownership or usage. Consequently I am ambivalent about the gun debate.

  3. #3 Too bad Tim is not very accurate
    March 7, 2005

    Questions

    Lott’s book mentions the Santee, California case.

    It just takes a few minutes to go through Lott’s website to see the inaccuracies in this post.
    Even the Washingon Post gets the Appalachian Law School case correct, but see Posts on the Appalachian Law School Attack. He has interviews with several of the students who stopped this attack, and it appears that these students were former deputy sheriffs from another state. Does Lambert claim that the students got their job status wrong?

    Lott’s site says that the difference between the Duwe, Kovandzic and Moody and Landes and Lott research is on account of they looked only at 4 or more deaths and that the sample was very small and Landes and lott got significant results for 2 or more or 3 or more. This is discussion of replication is not very accurate.

  4. #4 Pro bono mathematician
    March 7, 2005

    If guns are so good for you, what is Lott’s explanation for the US having so many guns and so many murders?

    A related question: Is there a table available with gun ownership per capita for various countries?

  5. #5 Tim Lambert
    March 7, 2005

    In Santee, an off-duty police, along with several uniformed police helped capture the shooter. If Lott was referring to this as a case where somebody used a gun to stop the attack before uniformed police arrived, then he is even more inaccurate than I indicated in my post. I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

    Gross and Bridges were police officers at the time of the attack, not former ones. See here.

    Duwe’s sample was big enough to show significant effects if the reductions were as large as Lott claims. Instead Duwe found increases in some of the specifications. Further discussion is here.

  6. #6 Too bad Tim is not very accurate
    March 7, 2005

    Well, if you read Lott’s book, you would know that he specifically discusses that the Santee person who stopped the killer was an off-duty officer. His book also indicates that you are wrong about your claim that these bad guys were leaving the scene (though I am not sure why that matters). The book indicates that the Edinboro bad guy was reloading his gun. In Pearl, the bad guy was going to the middle school down the street. I have read through the articles on lott’s site and I can’t see anything obvious that makes it clear that Odighizuwa was going to leave the law school. You are just making these things up. It is not worth going through the other inaccurate claim you make.

  7. #7 Too bad Tim is not very accurate
    March 7, 2005

    Well, if you read Lott’s book, you would know that he specifically discusses that the Santee person who stopped the killer was an off-duty officer. His book also indicates that you are wrong about your claim that these bad guys were leaving the scene (though I am not sure why that matters). The book indicates that the Edinboro bad guy was reloading his gun. In Pearl, the bad guy was going to the middle school down the street. I have read through the articles on lott’s site and I can’t see anything obvious that makes it clear that Odighizuwa was going to leave the law school. You are just making these things up. It is not worth going through the other inaccurate claim you make.

  8. #8 Too bad Tim is not very accurate
    March 7, 2005

    Well, if you read Lott’s book, you would know that he specifically discusses that the Santee person who stopped the killer was an off-duty officer. His book also indicates that you are wrong about your claim that these bad guys were leaving the scene (though I am not sure why that matters). The book indicates that the Edinboro bad guy was reloading his gun. In Pearl, the bad guy was going to the middle school down the street. I have read through the articles on lott’s site and I can’t see anything obvious that makes it clear that Odighizuwa was going to leave the law school. You are just making these things up. It is not worth going through the other inaccurate claim you make.

  9. #9 Too bad Tim is not very accurate
    March 7, 2005

    Well, if you read Lott’s book, you would know that he specifically discusses that the Santee person who stopped the killer was an off-duty officer. His book also indicates that you are wrong about your claim that these bad guys were leaving the scene (though I am not sure why that matters). The book indicates that the Edinboro bad guy was reloading his gun. In Pearl, the bad guy was going to the middle school down the street. I have read through the articles on lott’s site and I can’t see anything obvious that makes it clear that Odighizuwa was going to leave the law school. You are just making these things up. It is not worth going through the other inaccurate claim you make.

  10. #10 Noumenon
    March 7, 2005

    Posts like this are the reason Deltoid is so good.

    I totally agree. I don’t know whether the secret is the solid statistics or the devastating rhetorical attacks on their logic or the non-math, non-logic loophole finding like how obituary stories can fail to mention the capture. Put them all together, it becomes Deltoid.

  11. #11 SayUncle
    March 7, 2005

    “Reality check. Wilson’s defensive gun use got him killed. He did not, despite Lott’s claim, stop the killer. Reporting the full story is likely to discourage defensive gun use. ”

    Mr. Wilson died after saving Arroyo’s son. Additionally, he drew fire from the gunman thereby minimizing how bad this situation could have been. Even the local police attest to that. Granted, it didn’t ‘stop’ the attack but it ‘stopped’ the death of arroyo jr. and may have ‘stopped’ further death.

  12. #12 Jonathan
    March 8, 2005

    All sorts of things might have happened, SayUncle. But Lott explicitly referred to

    the Tyler, Texas attack that was stopped by Mark Wilson.

    and this is simply wrong.

  13. #13 ben
    March 8, 2005

    No it is not wrong, Jonathan. Wilson did stop the attack; the attack on Arroyo’s son and any other unarmed civilians. Sure, the police finally finished Arroyo off, but the attack ceased after Wilson intervened.

  14. #14 Gregg
    March 8, 2005

    “Too bad Tim is not very accurate” nails lambert. I have been going through the links on Lott’s website, and if there is some evidence that the killer was leaving the Edinboro shooting or the Appalachian Law School. I have yet to see it. The killer was leaving the Pearl, Mississippi school, but get this Tim forgets to mention that the killer was going to the middle school. Gee, I guess that is the same as saying the killer was leaving the scene.

    On the survey question, isn’t it obvious to everyone that Lott was talking about the average and if Lott’s two surveys are removed from the sample that will not change the answer for a simple reason: Lott’s surveys were getting numbers close to the average. So what is the point of all this?

  15. #15 Jonathan Dursi
    March 8, 2005

    ben:

    After having killed Wilson, the shooter continued shooting at police officers. You think the attack was `stopped’ because `only’ police officers were being shot at? Yes, different people were being shot at after Wilson was killed than before. By what definition of `attack’ and `stopped’ does that mean the attack was stopped?

  16. #16 Ian Gould
    March 8, 2005

    Gregg et al

    Defending Lott by using his own works as references isn’t a particularly logical way to go about things, especially not given his history of dishonesty on other issues.

  17. #17 Terry Josiah
    March 8, 2005

    How many people were killed or wounded after Wilson was killed?
    Wilson hit the shooter four times with a nine millimeter.
    The shooter was wearing body armor, so he was immediately disabled, but, since I have never been shot, I have read that the armor stops the bullet from penetrating, but one still feels the impact.
    The shooter was slowed down because he was wounded. Not severly, but not lightly either.
    After Wilson was shot, a security guard opened fire on the criminal. He missed but the criminal ran.
    “Shooting at the police”, how many shots? Did he stop and aim?
    Yes, one can claim, especially on this site, where the Lancet study got so much print because of the death of “innocent civilans”, that the attack was stopped by Mr. Wilson since the attack against civilans was stopped.

    Where in the world when a country has made it more difficult for law abiding citzens to defend themselves, has crime gone down?
    The FBI reported that crime, ALL CRIME, decreased again, 12th year in a row. Since 1987 the number of states allowing citzens to carry concealed guns has gone from 8 to 37. Most of these states are the ones gaining in population, Florida, Texas being the biggest two.
    There is your proof, more guns, less crime.
    Your turn. Where less guns, less crime?

  18. #18 Toby
    March 8, 2005

    Refer to the British Crime Survey (URL given above). Crime in Britain has dropped steadily since 1995, and is currently at its lowest level since 1981.

  19. #19 Ian Gould
    March 8, 2005

    Terry,

    Crime is also down in Australia.

  20. #20 Gregg
    March 8, 2005

    Ian, good try. Violent crime soared for the six years after the gun regulations, and that is after a long downward trend. Law goes into effect, violent crime is dramatically higher for six years, violent crime is then similar to what it was before the law after other changes are made regarding things like police. Boy the gun law sure did work.
    See the charts on Australia’s crime rates at 9/21/04.

  21. #21 Tim Lambert
    March 8, 2005

    Gregg et al, you are just digging the hole deeper for Lott.

    1. Santee. Lott mentions that Clark was an off-duty police officer, but somehow forgets to mention the five uniformed police officers working with Clark. Lott’s account makes it seem like Clark was acting by himself.

    2. I linked to an NAS report that contricts your claim that Wurst was reloading:

    Seeming confused, Andrew left the banquet hall and went to a grassy area in back. Nick’s Place owner James A. Strand, who lives next door, heard the gunshots, grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun, and ran over to confront the shooter. He spotted Andrew about 40 yards in back of the building. In his statement to police, Strand said that Andrew pointed the pistol at him. He drew a bead on Andrew with his shotgun and twice yelled for the boy to drop the gun. Andrew hesitated but did not drop his weapon immediately. Strand then heard someone else yell for Andrew to drop the gun, and he did.

    3. Appalachian Law School. The shooter was out of ammunition. Lott does not mention this in his book, instead iplying that he wasn’t

    4. Pearl. Again, I linked to a comprehensive report on the trial. If there was evidence that Luke Woodham was heading for Pearl Junior High to kill more people, I think it would have been mentioned in the trial. I checked with Google and Factiva and the first time it was claimed that Fordham was planning to head to Pearl Junior High dates from 1999. It looks like this story has no basis in fact.

  22. #22 Ian Gould
    March 9, 2005

    Gregg

    Tell you what go the the Australian Institute of Criminology and look at their figures.

    Go back through the posts on this site and there’s ample evidence as to why John Lott is simply not a reliable source.

  23. #23 Ian Gould
    March 9, 2005

    For example: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/facts/2004/fig010.html

    The number of murders in 2003 was virtually the same as in 1993. This is despite an increase in the population over the intervening decade. The number of manslaughters fell over the same period.

    There’s a peak in the murder rate in 2000. I’m speculating here but I suspect that’s the year the Snowtown murders, which actually occurred over about a decade, were discovered.

    A little bit of context. 300-350 murders a year in a population of 20 million scales up to around 4500-5000 murders in a population the size of the US. From memory, the US annual murder rate is around 10,000 although I think it may have fallen as though as 8,000 in recent years.

  24. #24 Ian Gould
    March 9, 2005

    http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/facts/2004/tab01a.html

    Quote:

    * The number of robbery offences in 2003 was the lowest since 1996.

    * The number of sexual assaults has risen each year since 1999. The 2003 figure is 1% higher than in 2002.

    * The 2003 figure for homicide was 3% lower than in 1996 and 7% lower than in 2002.

    * The number of assaults in 2003 was the highest recorded since 1996 with the exception of 2002. There were 1% fewer assaults in 2003 than in 2002.

    So the most serious category of violent crime – murder is down. Robbery is also down but assault and sexual assault is up.

    This is unlikely to be related to fire-arm laws for the simple reason that hand-guns were already effectively illegal in Australia for most members of the general public and had been for decades.

  25. #25 Ian Gould
    March 9, 2005

    A correction – robbery is down since 1997, the current rate is still higher than in 1996.

  26. #26 Gregg
    March 9, 2005

    Ian, Lott’s website gives out all the data that is at the Australian Institute of Criminology website. Compare the excel file available on Lott’s website at 9/21/04 with Table 1a on page 5 from the AIC. They are identical, sorry. His figures are exactly right. The problem with you picking and choosing the dates to compare is that the gun control laws went into action in 1996 and the robbery rates are still much higher in 2002 than 1996, though they have finally gone down below the rate in 1997. Lott’s numbers show that sexual assault and assault rates are still higher in 2002 than in either 1996 and 1997.

    Robbery
    Year Number rate

    1996 16372 89.4

    1997 21605 115

    1998 23801 127.1

    1999 22606 119.4

    2000 23336 121.8

    2001 26591 137

    2002 20961 106.4

    Lott has all the numbers and rates for all the crimes on his website. Every crime. The problem with your and Lambert’s lies is that they are easily checkable for anyone who takes the time to go to Lott’s website.

  27. #27 Ian Gould
    March 9, 2005

    No, the problem is that you accept every statement of Lott’s site as the truth without checking it.

    In regard to my claims, I was incorrect to say that criem has fallen in Australia. I should have said murder has fallen – which it has.

    While I will happily admit to an error in this instance (unlike Lott), I think that Tim has explained to you in detail why Lott’s statements regarding the various mass shootings are incorrect.

    Stop looking at this as a battle been the forces of virtue – led by Lott – and the forces of evil.

    Be objective. Start by asking yourself how much credence Lott deserves in the face of the Mary Rosh afair – and that’s just for starters.

  28. #28 Kevin H
    March 9, 2005

    Tim, making all this stuff up must take some time.

    1) Lott hasn’t claimed that the off-duty police officer did it all by himself. “An off-duty police officer, who was registering his daughter for classes, helped stopped a public-school shooting at Santana High School in Santee, California in 2001.”

    or

    “An off-duty police officer used his gun to help end an attack at a Santee, California school.”

    2) Lott has a piece in the Pittsburgh, PA newspaper right near by where the Edinboro, PA attack occurred.

    3) Go through all the stories that Lott has on his website. Go through the interviews that he did with the different students who were there. There are disagreements over whether the killer was out of ammo, though there is no question that he still had ammo in his car and there is no disagreement that people knew about it. Let’s just call it for you despite the disagreements, how would the students have stopped him from getting to the additional ammo in the car if they hadn’t had guns?

    4) Pearl, Mississippi: Woodham knew cops would arrive before too long, so he was all business, no play. No talk of Jesus, just shooting and reloading, shooting and reloading. He shot until he heard sirens, and then ran to his car. His plan, authorities subsequently learned, was to drive to nearby Pearl Junior High School and shoot more kids before police could show up.

  29. #29 Tim Lambert
    March 9, 2005

    Even though they were available in September 2004, Lott’s spreadsheet omits the numbers for 2003, when the robbery rate fell. I have a spreadsheet with all the numbers here

    And check out this example of Lott cherry picking Australian crime statistics.

  30. #30 Ian Gould
    March 9, 2005

    Gregg,

    You might also want to have a further look through the archives of this site, if so you’ll find Tim’s statement, which I agree with, that the 1995 gun law changes in Australia were probably nor justified on a cost-benefit analysis basis.

    You might also find my comment in one of the threads discussing the NAS panel to the effect that since there appears to be no good evidence that concealed-carry laws either significantly reduce or significantly increase crime rates then you might as well pass them on the fundamental basis that people should only be prohibited from undertaking an activity if there’s clear evidence their actions harm others.

    I am not ideologically committed to an anti-gun position, I am committed to an anti-iies and fraud position which is why I am deeply skeptical of all claims made by Mary Rosh, I mean John Lott.

  31. #31 Carleton Wu
    March 9, 2005

    Kevin,
    Your fourth point, about the Mississippi shootings, is from a unknown, partisan, secondary source. There is no reference to the court documents, police reports, etc. Which isn’t to say that the author is making it up; perhaps they’re repeating information that they’ve read elsewhere.
    So, it could be true, but your evidence gets us no closer to knowing that. Unless you’re in the habit of relying on such flimsy evidence as this- in which case I suspect that you only rely on such evidence when it confirms your preconceptions.

  32. #32 Tim Lambert
    March 9, 2005

    Kevin H,

    1. Here is what Lott wrote in “The Bias Against Guns”

    There are plenty of crimes stopped by armed off-duty or retired police. For example, a 2001 public school shooting at Santana High School near San Diego, California, was stopped by an off-duty police officer. Officer Robert Clark just happened to be registering his daughter at the school. He saw the chaos unfolding and was able instantly to run over and force the killer to take cover, preventing him from doing more harm.

    No mention at all of the uniformed police that were there.

    3. If you go through the stories, you will find no disagreement about whether the killer was out of ammo.
    Five stories say that gun was empty. None of them say that he wasn’t out of ammo. None of them say that he had ammo in the car. Some stories report that ammunition was found at his house, so if there had been ammo in the car it would have been reported. You ask how they would have stopped him without guns. The answer is by tackling him, which is what they actually did do.

    4. I did a Factiva search of all the stories about Woodham and this story about him planning to go on to Pearl Junior High did not appear in any story until 1999, well after his trial. If authorities had learned this it would have been mentioned at his trial and would have been reported at the time. The articles that did mention it were opinion pieces, rather than news stories. I say that story is bogus.

  33. #33 Xrlq
    March 13, 2005

    Reality check. Wilson’s defensive gun use got him killed. He did not, despite Lott’s claim, stop the killer.

    No, but he sure as hell did inconvenience him.

  34. #34 Carl Jarrett
    March 14, 2005

    Wilson’s gun use was an offensive rather than defensive. He was not being attacked by Arroyo nor was he being threatened by him. Wilson jumped into the situation unprepared for what he was facing. Arroyo was not particularly inconvenienced by Wilson’s attempt and Wilson was not stopped by his actions.