Errors in the New York Times: Gail Collins’ “Meet Deadeye Donald” May 20, 2016

25 May , 2016  

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The CPRC frequently writes letters to the editor at the New York Times to correct their errors, though unlike many newspapers the Times never acknowledges or corrects even the most egregious errors.  Here are some of the errors in a piece over the weekend by Gail Collins.  But her errors cut to the core of the her claims.

Dear Letters Editor:

Gail Collins ridicules Donald Trump’s claim that “Americans use guns to defend themselves against violent crime more than a million times a year” (“Meet Deadeye Donald,” May 20, 2016). She asserts that this claim is just “based on one phone survey conducted in 1992.”  Actually, 19 surveys have been conducted, with the most recent in 2002.  Three show about 800,000 defensive gun uses a year.  All of the other estimates are in excess of a million, and several are as high as 3.5 million.
Collins worries that permit holders will shoot bystanders when trying to stop mass public shootings. But this has never happened. Permit holders have stopped dozens of mass public shootings without once hurting a single bystander.  And these are just cases where police or prosecutors have stated the permit holders’ actions saved lives.
Clinton clearly wants to overturn both the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court decisions, which struck down complete bans on guns.  Despite Collins’ assurances, a Clinton administration will indeed make gun bans possible again.
John R Lott, Jr.
Crime Prevention Research Center
Swarthmore, PA 19081
(484) 802-5373
Sources for my letter
Evidence that more than one survey has been conducted on defensive gun use and that there are surveys after 1992.
A review of 14 surveys is provided in a paper by Gary Kleck, and Marc Gertz, “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun,” Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, Fall 1995 (  There is one survey by the authors and 13 other surveys by various well known polling organizations or academics.   

For a 2 million estimate see D. Hemenway, D. Azrel, and M. Miller, “Gun Use in the United States: Results from two national surveys,” Injury Prevention (2000): 263-7. These authors estimate that there were on average 1 percent of adults in 1996 and 1999 who used a gun defensively. For a 2.5 million estimate see Tomislav Kovandzic, Gary Kleck, and Marc Gertz, “Defensive Gun Use: Vengeful vigilante imagery versus reality: results from the National Self-Defense Survey,” Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 26 (1998): 251-8. This survey was conducted during 1993.

The National Study of Private Ownership of Firearms implies as many as 4.7 million defensive gun uses in 1994, though an estimate of 1.5 million is viewed by the authors as more reasonable.  Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, “Defensive Gun Uses: New Evidence from a National Survey,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, vol. 14 (1998): 111-131.

For another 2 million estimate see a 2002 survey by myself in my book The Bias Against Guns.
Dozens of cases of Mass Public Shootings that were stopped by permit holders — none involved the permit holder shooting a bystander
Supreme Court Decisions that Clinton wants to overturn and evidence that the decisions only dealt with bans on owning guns in the home.
Audio of Hillary Clinton telling donors that she would do everything that she can to overturn Supreme Court decisions in Heller and McDonald.
McDonald decision so that you can see that it focused only on gun ban
Heller decision so that you can see that it focused only on gun ban


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