*Editor's Note: Read John Lott's response to this article here.
For those few of us in the mainstream media who openly support Second Amendment rights, research scholar John Lott has been -- or rather, had been -- an absolute godsend.
Armed with top-notch credentials (including stints at Stanford, Rice, UCLA, Wharton, Cornell, the University of Chicago and Yale), Lott took on the entrenched anti-gun bias of the ivory tower with seemingly meticulous scholarship.
His best-selling 1998 book, More Guns, Less Crime, provided analysis of FBI crime data that showed a groundbreaking correlation between concealed-weapons laws and reduced violent crime rates. I met Lott briefly after a seminar at the University of Washington in Seattle several years ago and was deeply impressed by his intellectual rigor. Lott responded directly and extensively to critics' arguments. He made his data accessible to many other researchers. But as he prepares to release a new book, Bias Against Guns, next month, Lott must grapple with an emerging controversy -- brought to the public eye by the blogosphere -- that goes to the heart of his academic integrity.
The most disturbing charge, first raised by retired University of California, Santa Barbara professor Otis Dudley Duncan and pursued by Australian computer programmer Tim Lambert, is that Lott fabricated a study claiming that 98 percent of defensive gun uses involved mere brandishing, as opposed to shooting. When Lott cited the statistic peripherally on page three of his book, he attributed it to "national surveys." In the second edition, he changed the citation to "a national survey that I conducted."
He has also incorrectly attributed the figure to newspaper polls and Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck. Last fall, Northwestern University law professor James Lindgren volunteered to investigate the claimed existence of Lott's 1997 telephone survey of 2,424 people. "I thought it would be exceedingly simple to establish" that the research had been done, Lindgren wrote in his report (posted online here).
It was not simple.