Statement on in response to Jim Lindgren's summary of my comments relating to John R. Lott's Work on Self-Defensive Uses of Guns

[Note: This was an attachement to a Nov 17 posting to firearmsregprof on Nov 17. My comments are in italics like this. TL]

by David B. Mustard

I take issue with two points of Jim Lindgren?s representation of my statements about John Lott?s 1997 survey, as posted on

Claim that I backed off my comments about what I knew about Lott's survey during a previous conversation with Frank Zimring

I did not back off my comments that I made to Frank in our first conversation (which I believe was about July 1, 2002) when he called me to ask some very specific questions about my involvement in John?s survey. For example, Frank asked questions like:

  • Did you co-author the survey with John?
  • Did John employ you to work on the survey?
  • Did you see the survey questions or the survey instrument?
  • Did you ever see any data from the survey?
  • Do you have data from the survey?
  • Have you replicated the survey?

My responses were concise, essentially answering ?no? to each of them, with perhaps a sentence or two to elaborate. At the end I summed it up by saying something like, ?In 1997 I had no direct knowledge of the survey, and up until this time I have had no direct knowledge of the survey? (this is not exact an quote, but I used language very much like this).

Frank called me back in the fall (I believe September) of 2002. We agreed about the vast majority of our conversation, such as:

  • He asked me a series of questions about my direct participation in the survey.
  • We agreed that I basically answered "no" to all of those questions with short responses for some or all of the questions.
  • The entire conversation was quite brief-we both estimated it at a couple of minutes. He called me while visiting my parents in Buffalo and the whole family was just about to leave the house, so I could not talk long.
  • Frank did not ask me any questions about the extent to which I talked to John Lott about whether Lott intended to do the survey or whether Lott completed the survey.

However, we disagreed about two things.

  1. Timing. Frank believed that the conversation was "last fall"-the fall of 2001. I believe that the conversation was about July 1, 2002. Frank originally called me at home in Athens. When I answered the phone my family was in the car and we were about to leave for the airport to visit my parents in Buffalo for July 4. This conversation was very brief. I told him that I was just about to drive to the airport and I gave him my parents' phone number. Frank called me in Buffalo a day or two later.
  2. In the fall 2002 conversation Frank accused me of changing my story and being inconsistent with our previous conversation. His concern was that after our July 2002 conversation I stated that John Lott and I had talked about Lott's planning to do a survey and his completion of the survey at various points in the past. I told Frank that I did not think there were any inconsistencies. I was completely puzzled as to how he could even perceive there to be inconsistencies because none of his questions in the July 2002 conversation asked about my previous conversations with John. Frank and I reviewed our previous conversation and agreed on points 1-4 above. I then asked him to identify the question(s) to which I gave what he perceived to be incorrect or inconsistent information. He said that it did not involve my answers to his questions, but in my summary comment. Frank appears to have thought that my summary statement indicated that I had never heard of the survey until that time, and that I had never talked to John about it. In contrast, I intended my summary statement to respond to Frank's direct questions of my personal direct involvement about the survey.

In sum, I did not back off anything that I said to Frank. Both of my conversations with Frank were consistent with each other-they were essentially about two different topics with almost no overlap in substance. The July 2002 discussion was focused narrowly on my direct involvement in the survey. The fall 2002 conversation discussed when and in what circumstances I had talked to John about the survey.

Claim that I backed off a previous assertion that I was fairly confident that I had heard about the survey in 1997

In my statement to Jim Lindgren I outlined the specifics of what I knew about the survey and when I knew it. I then wrote a statement (included below) that summarized my discussion with Jim and elaborated on some specific details.

To summarize from my conversation with Jim and my written statement, I knew the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. In the summer and fall of 1996, I had numerous conversations with John Lott about how he was going to extend the original paper (JLS January 1997); a survey to learn more about defensive uses was one of those extensions.
  2. John and I talked about the completed survey before I testified to the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee on 20 October 1999 about Maryland House Bill 736 to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons.
  3. John and I had talked about the survey multiple times before October 1999, because in our conversation at that time I clearly remember having knowledge and previous conversations about the survey.

In the above way I "anchored" what I am fully confident about. At that point I told Jim that although I remember earlier conversations with John Lott about the survey, I could not identify with 100% confidence a specific time by which John and I talked about the completed the survey. I did not think this was unusual-I could not remember specific days on which I have talked to dozens of co-authors and colleagues about their various projects. However, I do not doubt that I had those conversations with co-authors and colleagues. It is only in exceptional cases (like my traveling to Buffalo to visit my parents when Frank called) that I can with 100% confidence tie conversations to a specific date.

At that point I tried to estimate with Jim some probabilities of what I knew about the survey at various points of time. It appears as though this is the source of Jim's and my differences-the differences between 100% confident, highly probable, and probable.

To assign these probabilities I started backwards from the October 1999 date. I clearly remember that at that time John and I talked about the survey results in such a way that we had had previous conversations about the survey. Jim states of me, "He couldn't remember whether he heard about it weeks, months, or years earlier." I agree with his statement if you specify, "couldn't remember with 100% confidence"-which I very honestly could not do because I had no specific date. However, I thought it highly probable that the conversations had occurred over a period of many months. Specifically, it is "highly probable" that I knew about the survey by November 1998 when I gave a talk, (see my statement). I also believe that it is "highly probable" that I had talked to John about the completed survey before that talk.

As we moved earlier in time, the likelihood of my having had conversations with John about the completed survey decreased. Again, I cannot link a conversation with John to a specific date. However, I still believe it "likely" (from my statement) that I had talked to John about the completed survey in 1997. This level of confidence is consistent with my previously stated level of "fairly confident" that Jim's indicates and the level of confidence that I articulated to Jim in our conversation.

To summarize, I did not back off my claims of being "likely" or "fairly confident" that I heard about the survey in 1997.

[I don't think it provides any good evidence that helps Lott. That Mustard learned about the survey before October 1999 is to be expected. There are no confirmed references to the survey until May 1999, which is likely the time that he invented it. He told Otis Dudley Duncan about it on May 13, mentioned in a letter to the WSJ on May 25, and emailed me about it on June 23. Lott was trying to make his story about the survey plausible by making sure lots of people had heard about it. He didn't tell me that this survey was the source of his 98% number. If he had, I probably would have asked him for more details. (I first noticed the 98% claim in late 1998, but assumed it was just another bit of Lott's carelessness with facts.)

So Lott probably first told Mustard about the survey in May/June 1999 when he told everyone else. This is why Mustard remembers hearing about it before October 1999. ]

Statement on John R. Lott's Survey Work on Self-Defensive Uses of Guns


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