A Lott of misinformation
The recent column by John Lott about the National Research Council's project and report on improving scientific information and data on firearms ["Mountain of evidence shows gun control doesn't work," commentary, Jan. 8] contained significant errors. The NRC is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. In composing the committee, the NRC ensured that all areas of relevant scientific expertise for the task were represented. In addition, committee members reported a wide diversity of experiences with guns. The draft membership was posted on the Web for public comment, and it was made final only after a careful review of public comments and an internal process to vet any potential conflicts of interest.
The committee's report underwent an extensive review and evaluation by 11 nationally recognized experts whose names were not known to the committee until the report was published. Because of the rigor of our process, the Research Council has achieved a reputation for objectivity and integrity.
Lott's column gave the clear impression that the study was about gun control. It was not. The study was about the quality of the data and research on firearms injury and violence. These data and studies are frequently used by both sides in the debate on gun control. It was the committee's task to make judgments about the quality of this scientific knowledge. The committee was not asked and does not offer any conclusions or comments on gun control policy.
The column states that the panel ignored most of the studies that find a benefit in crime reduction from right-to-carry laws. The report contains an entire chapter and three appendixes that address the rather large literature on these laws. The report cites both studies that do find positive effects and studies that do not find positive effects. On the basis of the very mixed evidence, the panel concluded that there was no basis for a conclusion that the passage of right-to-carry laws either increases or decreases crime.
Firearms violence is a serious problem in the United States. The committee's call for better data and research reflects that thoroughly documented fact.
E. William Colglazier, executive officer,
National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council,
My comments on Lott's column are here.