Note: Interview of Dr. John R. Lott done before he left the CPRC.
This gun-control activist really didn’t like John R. Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. She got right in Lott’s face and began screaming. The thing is, we were in a congressional building. Lott had just finished testifying to a joint congressional committee. He was standing behind a long table facing the curving bench where the congressmen sit and was putting his papers in a briefcase after he had testified. The members of Congress and their staffs had mostly just left the room, but a lot of journalists, activists and spectators, as well as a few Capitol Hill police officers, were still in the large room.
Well, she wasn’t in his face, exactly, as John Lott is tall and she isn’t. She was looking up at him and wagging her right pointer finger as she berated him. Lott was trying to answer her calmly as he packed his briefcase, but she wouldn’t stop long enough to let him. When she screamed that she’d like “someone in his family to be the next victim of gun violence,” John Lott stopped cold. He glared down at her and demanded, “Are you threatening my family?”
This backed her up. She literally took two steps back in the congressional hearing room. She then said, “No. No I am not.” Evidently, it was just something she desired, that’s all.
A police officer then sort of moved between them and the activist gave up whatever she was trying to accomplish. She should have known that Lott can’t be bullied into silence. He can be cancelled, as Twitter, The Hill, The New York Times and more have done to him. But, even then, he doesn’t give up. He got his Twitter accounts back—though to do so, he had to apologize for telling the truth. Anti-gun groups have also targeted publications Lott has written for by getting their followers to bombard them with demands they not publish Lott and that they fire any editor who dares to have anything to do with him. Nevertheless, he keeps tweeting and submitting articles to these publications—now he simply keeps a tally of his rejection letters.
Lott finished packing up his briefcase, and I walked out of the congressional office building with him onto the streets of Washington, D.C. Lott often stoops a little, and always has this professorial unkempt look about him, but on this day he looked particularly haggard. I’ve known him a long time and was a little worried about him.
When I asked how he was, he said, “They didn’t give me enough time. How can I outline what policies might work in five minutes?”
Five minutes is often all someone gets when they testify before Congress. At this point, members of Congress can ask questions of the experts for five minutes each, which typically means that politicians use their five minutes to issue sound bites to the media or to grandstand. So there isn’t much time left for real discussion in a congressional hearing.
Lott also has trouble speaking in sound bites. He cites studies and data as he digs in like a professor, which he once was, and that takes time. So, as this important election is right on top of us, this is a good time to let him speak here. (For more from John Lott, go to crimeresearch.org.)
A1F: Why the new book, Gun Control Myths? What is left to be said?
Lott: With hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Michael Bloomberg and other gun-control advocates, there is an avalanche of new false claims in this election year. Many of these myths endanger peoples’ lives. Does the U.S. lead the rest of the world in mass public shootings? No. We are well below the world average, and many countries in Europe have higher per-capita rates of murders from these attacks than the U.S. Is the U.S. a particularly high-murder-rate country? No. And what murders we have are very heavily concentrated in very tiny areas because of drug gangs fighting over drug turf. The U.S. has a much lower violent-crime rate than most of Europe because people can protect themselves. Does gun ownership lead to more suicides? No. Will background checks on guns stop mass public shootings? No. Do most academics think that gun control will reduce murders or mass public shootings? No. There are three dozen myths getting extensive coverage in the media that cause a great deal of harm and make the push for more gun control possible.
A1F: How and why does the federal government keep giving money to groups that are opposed to our Second Amendment-protected freedom?
Lott: Three types of academics do research on firearms: criminologists, economists and public-health workers. Criminologists and economists are very skeptical of gun control. But public-health people, the same people who have taken the lead in the Covid-19 predictions, are more supportive of gun control, and they are the ones who get over 90% of the federal funding. If you listen to the Democrats, they talk about “gun violence” being a public-health problem because this then justifies providing funding for those who support the same policies they do.
A1F: How hard is it for you to get funding to do real studies on homicide rates, how gun ownership affects crime and so much more?
Lott: The Crime Prevention Research Center depends on funding from individuals and a few smaller private foundations. When I was an academic at the University of Chicago, Wharton and Yale, I never asked for government funds. I paid for all my research out of my pocket. But gun-control activists get massive funding for their research. Michael Bloomberg spends hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, between 2015 and 2018, the federal government spent over $43 million, with over 90% of that going to mostly anti-gun public-health researchers. Basically, all the money that the federal government gives out has been going to gun-control activists.
A1F: How has “cancel culture” impacted you?
Lott: I had both my personal Twitter account and the account for the Crime Prevention Research Center shut down. Twitter got upset that I pointed out that the New Zealand mass public murderer last year was a left-wing environmentalist who hated minorities. He also called himself a socialist who hated capitalists. He hoped his attack would lead to more gun control in New Zealand and the United States. All those things were completely accurate, but Twitter shut down my account, even while other accounts that wrongly claimed the murderer was a right-winger faced no problems.
More recently, I found out that since January 2017, right after the election, Google has been “shadow-banning” our crimeresearch.org website, causing a huge drop in our traffic.
I have learned over and over again, for 20 years now, that gun-control activists want to silence those on the other side. When I had a piece in The New York Times two years ago, Bloomberg’s groups got 75,000 “angry” emails sent in within 24 hours. The gun-control groups also organized calls to people in the newsroom to ask them to put pressure on the opinion page editors who published my piece. Years earlier, they did the same thing to me at the Los Angeles Times. Similar attacks have occurred at other newspapers, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Hill. Rather than debating, the push has been to silence those with whom gun-control activists disagree. There is no similar push-back on the other side.
A1F: President Donald J. Trump, along with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have done a lot to fill vacancies on federal courts, but if Biden wins, will this be enough?
Lott: While Trump’s appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, have been respectful of our freedom, the high court has, nevertheless, passed on hearing a lot of Second Amendment cases recently. Ideally, President Trump still needs to replace one left-leaning justice so that the U.S. Supreme Court will step in and enforce its Second Amendment precedents.
A1F: Do you see Joe Biden as a moderate on guns?
Lott: Biden has promised to make Beto O’Rourke his gun-control czar. Like Biden, O’Rourke has supported gun confiscation, a national gun registry and licensing. Biden also headed up Barack Obama’s gun-control push.
A1F: If you were the mayor of Chicago, what would you do to lower the murder rate?
Lott: Democrats who control these cities use gun control as a scapegoat for their own failures. In Chicago, only 13% of murders result in arrest. If criminals have little to worry about when they commit crime, they will commit more crimes. The reason for that 13% rate is also very straightforward; for example, an agreement that the city made with the ACLU requires that all police officers have to spend 45 minutes to an hour filling out paperwork each time they talk to someone. This isn’t just the paperwork involved in arrests; this is the paperwork they have to do for just talking to people. That removes police from their job, and it also makes them reticent to go and talk to people.
I would get rid of the many “politically correct” regulations that make it difficult for the police to do their jobs. I would move the police to the city’s highest-crime parts, and I would hire more police. In addition, rather than attacking President Trump for wanting to provide law enforcement the resources they need, I would ask him for help.
A1F: Is the U.S. really more dangerous than other nations?
Lott: Every place in the world that has banned either all guns or all handguns has seen murder rates rise. You would think out of randomness you would see murder rates go down one time or see them stay the same, but they have gone up every time. It is simple: when you ban guns, it is the most law-abiding who turn them in. If you disarm the most law-abiding, you make it easier for criminals to commit crime. Stopping criminals from getting guns is about as easy as stopping criminals from buying illegal drugs. Drug dealers are often the source of both items.
This point applies to other types of gun-control laws. You have to be very careful that you aren’t just passing laws that primarily affect law-abiding citizens and not criminals.
A1F: Given the current rise in gun sales, do you think Democrats are miscalculating by going all-in to ban, severely restrict and even to confiscate Americans’ guns?Frank Miniter, “Shooting Straight with John R. Lott,” America’s 1st Freedom, October 26, 2020.
Lott: With police ordered to stand down during riots, and leftists pushing to cut police funding when they release large numbers of inmates from prison, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict an increase in crime. It used to be that gun-control activists would tell people not to defend themselves, but to let the police protect them. Not anymore. A lack of safety is part of the reason why millions of people are buying guns to protect themselves and their families. Gun-control activists, meanwhile, are trying to talk this away by blaming gun sales for increases in crime. It is a ridiculous argument, and I would like to believe that most people will see it as such. But if Biden wins, you will see a rash of new gun-control laws proposed by his administration.