Re: Lott update

[On Sep 27 2002 I posted this to firearmsregprof and emailed it to Lott.]

Peter Boucher, replying to this post, writes:

I don't have a copy of Point Blank handy, but I seem to recall the 98% figure either explicitly in the text of that book, or directly derivable from the figures in the book.

Yes, as I noted at the beginning of the discussion, the 98% figure could have come from a misreading of "Point Blank". However, the problem with this theory is that Lott has specifically denied it. He says that the figure comes from his survey. It also seems far too much of a coincidence for him to believe (mistakenly) in 1996 that the figure was 98% and then conduct a survey in 1997 that comes up with exactly the same number.

I found a few example of others who had reached the same conclusion by doing a google: "Of the 2.4 million times citizens use their guns to defend themselves every year, 92% merely brandish their gun or fire a warning shot to scare off their attackers. Less than 8% of the time, a citizen will kill or wound his/her attacker. (5) ... (5) Kleck, interview with Schulman, op. cit."

Arrgh! another misreading of Kleck. The 92% includes shots fired at the attacker. Also this assumes that defensive gun use is 100% effective -- just because the defender brandishes a gun, it doesn't mean that the attacker automatically flees.

Anyway, the "vast majority" claim seems to be supported by Kleck-Gertz from 1995.

OK, maybe Lott felt that the 76% of DG users in Kleck-Gertz that said they didn't fire their weapon was big enough that he considered it a "vast majority". Now here's the problem:

In 1996, based on Kleck's survey, Lott believes the figure is 76%. In 1997 he conducts his own, smaller, survey which comes up with 98%. Quite a remarkable difference. Later in 1997 he summarizes the situation in MGLC. I can think of several ways you might describe this: "Surveys give widely varying estimates for the percentage of defenders that fire their weapons, ranging from 2% to 24%." Or, maybe if there is some reason, so far not revealed by Lott, that he thinks his survey supercedes Kleck's he could could write this: "A survey conducted by Gary Kleck found that 24% of defenders shoot, but I survey I conducted shows that the figure is 2% and I believe that figure is more accurate because <insert super-secret reason>".

What Lott in fact wrote was "If national surveys are correct, 98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack." (MGLC p3) and "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." (Gun Locks: Bound to Misfire). And on at least three dozen other occasions he presented the 98% figure without ever mentioning that there might be any doubt over its accuracy.

Nowhere did he even mention the existence of this survey of his until 2000 in the 2nd edition of MGLC. And even then he wrote "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." Still no mention of the wildly divergent Kleck estimate.


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compiled by Otis Dudley Duncan and Tim Lambert revised 23 Oct 2005 by Tim Lambert Note: With the exception of academic publications, some tapes and some found by LexisNexis search, these were found on the Internet. The web is, of course, not perfectly reliable, and items appearing there…
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