Expert Blows Up Left’s Favorite Narrative on Guns After Tense U.S. Senate Exchange

Dec 4, 2023 | Media Coverage

Fox News interviewed Dr. John Lott extensively regarding an exchange between Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) and Yale School of Public Health Dean Megan Ranney.

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Democrats have long claimed red states are more dangerous than blue states

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Republican senator and Yale School of Public Health dean recently sparred on gun crime, and one expert told Fox News Digital it was an example of how the left frames data in a way that misleadingly makes it seem like Republican-controlled areas are most plagued by crime. 

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“Why do you think that Chicago has become America’s largest outdoor shooting range?” Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy asked Dr. Megan Ranney of the Yale School of Public Health at a hearing Monday.

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Ranney responded by comparing Chicago to three red states and claiming Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri “actually have higher firearm death rates.”

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“What about Chicago?” Kennedy asked.

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“I think there’s easy access to firearms combined with environmental conditions, lack of great education,” Ranney responded. “There have actually been studies that when you green vacant lots and repair abandoned buildings in urban neighborhoods you see decreases in gunshots and violence as well as in stress and depression in the neighborhoods around them.”

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“No disrespect, doc, but that sounds a lot like a word salad to me,” Kennedy responded.

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The exchange generated backlash on social media from conservatives who pointed out that the “gun homicide” rate in Chicago is much higher than those states per 100,000 people. Additionally, some took issue with Ranney’s seemingly random selection of three red states while pointing out crime statistics are most useful at the local level, where crime is handled. . .

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“Why do you pick just a couple of states to compare?” John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, posted on X. “Is that how public health researchers do research? Why don’t you look at local crime rates where policing policies are determined and where DAs and judges are almost always selected?”

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Democrats have routinely pointed to studies in recent years that claim red states have higher murder rates and more crime than blue states. Critics of those studies have pointed out that red states, including Louisiana, where cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge have been run by Democrats for decades, are driving up crime statistics.

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Anybody knows that law enforcement is overwhelmingly a local issue,” Lott told Fox News Digital. “How much money you spend on police, what the police policies are going to be are decided locally. District attorneys are almost always elected locally. Judges are almost always elected locally. Who gets arrested, who gets charged, how you prosecute the cases and the judges that makes the decisions on sentencing are all local decisions.” . . .

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Lott explained that many public health experts have ignored that 2021 data shows blue states had higher murder rates than red states and have stuck with 2020 data that showed the opposite.

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“You can look at either all counties or counties over 100,000, or I could give you one for counties, over 200,000 or whatever and you see that the Biden counties had significantly higher murder rates. And, even in 2020, the reason why the Trump states had a higher murder rate that year was because the Biden counties had really high murder rates relative to the Republican counties,” Lott said. “So, I don’t know how anybody with a straight face can get away with not recognizing that law enforcement and punishing criminals generally is overwhelmingly decided locally.”

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Lott also pointed out that Ranney used the term “firearm death rates,” which includes other factors besides homicides, including suicides and accidents with a firearm.

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“That’s what public health officials do all the time. They focus on just firearm deaths,” Lott said. He added that while firearm-related suicides sometimes decline when guns are banned, overall suicide numbers remain the same as people “switch to other ways” of committing suicide. 

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“To me, it’s just sloppy statistical work by these public health people,” Lott added. “It’s pretty clear that people like Megan want to go and ban gun ownership. And I guess the only thing I would point out is that every place in the world, every single place in the world that has banned either all guns or all handguns has seen an increase in murders or homicides and really no change in terms of suicides and total suicides.” . . .
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Lott told Fox News Digital that Ranney chose to mention the states she did as part of a political agenda.

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“She’s supposed to be an academic, and I just think it shows political bias to selectively pick a couple of states,” said Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws.”

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“I mean, I could just pick the states with the very lowest crime rates, and they tend to be very Republican ones. Rather than selectively picking some portion of a sample, you try to look at the whole sample that’s available rather than cherry-picking some stuff.

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Andrew Mark Miller, “Gun crime expert blasts red state ‘cherry-picking’ by Yale professor in Senate hearing: ‘Political bias’,” Fox News, November 30, 2023.

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