John Lott, in the National Review Online writes:
Nor does it really matter that the only academic research on the impact of trigger locks on crime finds that states that require guns be locked up and unloaded face a five-percent increase in murder and a 12 percent increase in rape. Criminals are more likely to attack people in their homes, and those attacks are more likely to be successful. Since the potential of armed victims deters criminals, storing a gun locked and unloaded actually encourages crime.
Lott falsely claims that his own paper with Whitley is the only academic research on the topic. But he knows this isn’t true. A peer reviewed article in JAMA by Cummings et al found:
Laws that make gun owners responsible for storing firearms in a manner that makes them inaccessible to children were in effect for at least 1 year in 12 states from 1990 through 1994. Among children younger than 15 years, unintentional shooting deaths were reduced by 23% (95% confidence interval, 6%-37%) during the years covered by these laws. This estimate was based on within-state comparisons adjusted for national trends in unintentional firearm-related mortality. Gun-related homicide and suicide showed modest declines, but these were not statistically significant.
Now Lott is well aware of the Cummings paper. In the working paper he linked, he used Cummings’ data in his analysis, but misrepresented the paper when he wrote that Cummings only considered accidental deaths. Then, in The Bias Against Guns he misrepresented the paper again when he wrote:
they did not use fixed year effects which would have allowed them to test whether the safe storage states were experiencing a drop relative to the rest of the country.
But Cummings did use fixed year effects. They wrote:
To control for national trends over time in firearm mortality rates, all states were included in the analysis, and 15 indicator variables were used to represent each calendar year. Categories of age, sex, and race were examined as potential confounders.
When I pointed this out, Lott responded with:
We had been unable to replicate their claimed results using fixed effects and the only way we could get something similar was without fixed effects. It really shouldn’t have been that difficult for us to confirm what they found since we were used their dates for the laws.
This is not credible. If you couldn’t replicate their findings, why not say so, instead of writing something (“they did not use fixed effects”) you knew to be false. And it doesn’t seem to have been that hard to replicate Cummings’ results — these researchers had no difficulties.
In the light of all this, is it plausible that Lott just forgot all about the Cummings study?
The NRO article describes Lott as “senior research scientist at the University of Maryland”. Which is true, but they don’t mention that he is now a research scientist in the Computer Science Department. At least one Maryland student is not impressed
Lott works here now. He is a Senior Research Scientist over in A.V. Williams. Who knows why we decided to pick him up, but I imagine it has something to do with his friend Jim Purtilo of our computer science department. Purtilo has a website where he defends Lott to the hilt; he warns readers to “be not only careful to check the assertions they find on the web, but also the quality and policies of the source as well.” Purtilo’s star example? The Wikipedia entry for Dr. John Lott.