Correcting the record on David Hemenway’s claim that academics support gun control

May 2, 2015 | Featured

Letter to the editor in the Wisconsin State Journal

David Hemenway wrote an op-ed that was originally published in the Los Angeles Times and then picked up in many other newspapers.  The Los Angeles Times was unwilling to publish a letter that the CPRC sent in, but the Wisconsin State Journal did publish the letter in their Sunday, May 3rd paper.

Survey in gun column was incomplete

David Hemenway’s guest column last Sunday, “Scientists reach consensus on guns,” claimed a consensus on gun research based on a survey he conducted. But he conveniently fails to mention that another similar survey of peer-reviewed researchers was released two months ago.

That survey found the exact opposite. Gary Mauser, a professor who specializes in polling at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, conducted it for the Crime Prevention Research Center. Mauser surveyed 53 economists who published in the area over the last 15 years. Among the questions: an overwhelming number — 83 percent — noted guns are more likely to be used in self-defense than in crime. Further, 74 percent said concealed handgun laws reduce murder rates and 69 percent said guns in the home don’t cause more suicides. Also, 83 percent said gun-free zones attract criminals.

Hemenway fails to note that the people he surveyed only had to mention “firearms” in their research. They didn’t have to actually conduct empirical work on guns. There were also problems in the recording of his responses. For instance, I was supposedly one of the researchers surveyed. Yet, my responses weren’t recorded. When I emailed Hemenway about this technical problem, my emails were ignored.

— John R. Lott, Jr., president, Crime Prevention Research Center, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

More information on our survey is available here (the original survey), here (an op-ed at Fox News by John Lott (note that unlike Hemenway, Lott doesn’t hide the other poll)), and here (some news coverage in the Washington Times where David Hemenway was interviewed about our survey).  For a comparison of our survey results for criminologists and economists see here (media coverage of it here, herehere, and here).

Question to readers: given that Hemenway was obviously familiar with Professor Mauser’s survey of academics that was released in February (after all he was interviewed in a news story about the survey and had earlier been sent a copy of it in February), why didn’t Hemenway address it at all?  Why not explain why his survey that included people who hadn’t done empirical research on guns was superior and superseded that survey?

In addition, there were other mistakes in Henenway’s op-ed.  For example, while he claims that 150 people answered the survey, some responses are as low as 85 or 96.  The numbers are less than 122 for all but two.  The 150 responses was true for only one question, but he makes it look like that was true for all of them.  The big difference between the CPRC surveys and those by Hemenway is that the CPRC surveys are limited to academics who have published peer-reviewed empirical research, to be included in the Hemenway surveys academics merely had to mention the terms “firearms” or “guns.”

The comments on our letter to the Wisconsin State Journal are available here.

UPDATE: A survey by Mauser and Lott on Criminologists that combines the earlier work on economists is available here.



  1. Jose Tengoderechos

    Why does the Media keep reporting false research. In medical school I was taught criteria to follow in regards to good versus poorly done research. Back then (i was naive) I always questioned my professors why we had to determine if a paper was of good quality type research or not. It is so sad that we CANNOT trust publishers anymore. We must Question all we read, see, and hear.

    So sad.


    • Pete G

      I trust no one to speak of.
      If you say, “trust me!” We are then done!
      If you are a PHD I consider you less than normal. Too much brain washing. Too arrogant. To Narcissistic.

  2. alexander

    Just like Hitler’s propaganda machine outdid itself toward the end of the war and no one would trust it, similarly the Soviet public knew that if Tass published it, it must be a lie. Now, the American public is also learning that if mainstream US Media publishes it, it is a lie. Welcome, comrades!

  3. Chris Raphael

    Excuse me a sample size of “53 economists?” Good quality research there.

    • johnrlott

      This was a survey of all the economists who have published in this area over a 15 year period of time. The important issue here is the response rate, and the rate here for economists was quite high, much higher than other surveys.

  4. Michael B.

    I don’t know why my post was deleted, but all it said was that Gary Mauser works for the Canadian gun lobby and all of his “research” is produced to reinforce their political positions.

    “I am Gary Mauser, Professor Emeritus, of Simon Fraser University in Canada. I represent the National Firearms Association.”

    He has a clear conflict of interest and his research needs to be ignored. Please delete this posting.

    • johnrlott

      We can hundreds of SPAM comments posted every data so if you put it up, it is possible that your comment was accidentally eliminated. In any case, it seems as if you are reading more into the quote than is there. He gave testimony one time for a firearms group. Academics give testimony all the time as experts.

      • Pete G

        The problem with most academics is they have no connection with reality. They know everything they know by being taught by those who taught and over and over and over until the distortion is so extreme they cannot see the real world and their self importance is astounding to witness.
        In my profession I am self taught. I have been quite successful at it and have taught teenagers to do it.. Yet if I search for a job in the field the requirement is master with some work toward PHD and preferably having a PHD Yet I am constantly helping the superior human beings, “PHD’s” get their job done. Academia gone crazy!

  5. Timothy Newton

    I just want someone to clearly answer to me why Chicago has very strict gun control laws but also it has a very high muder rate by guns? Please stop the quibbling over SURVEY results and discuss CURRENT FACTS that cannot be changed, denied or misinterpreted. Discussing current facts will help the average American better grasp the point of the conversations. And since there are over 315 million Americans – 150 people cannot possibly conceive the mindset of such a large group of people. Welcome to “Realville”.

    • Pete G

      Very well said and very true. Look what it has done to Australia! Holy crap! Don’t the superior species “PHD” even see beyond their arrogant noses? Stupid question. I’m constantly thrown into a room full of them. What a boring lame brained bunch of self serving superiority complex jerks.


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