In an article that claims the famous researcher John Lott is partly responsible for mass murder, the author let slip an interesting bit of information. John Lott was a Democrat before he conducted his well known research on guns control laws and their effect on crime rates.
Outside of the Baylor auditorium, Lott told me about his journey to becoming the most prominent and most hated gun researcher: His interest in guns, he said, started when he was an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Students asked him about his thoughts on gun control, and so Lott started researching. He wasn’t a gun expert then, just an economist. But he noticed that, despite the volume of gun research, there were few well-designed studies with large sample sizes. Around the same time, Lott had become disillusioned with the Clinton administration. He said he had been a Democrat, but found himself starting to align with more-conservative belief systems. He felt that the response to the research he’d started doing on guns encouraged his political transformation. It appeared to Lott that the liberal establishment had gotten everything wrong, and that, in their rush to prove their progressive fantasies, they had ignored the facts.
I contacted Lott about the allegation that he had been a Democrat. Because the Pacific Standard author, Peter Moskowitz, was wrong in many of his allegations, I wanted to confirm this. Lott wrote that “The PS piece was very inaccurate and dishonest.”
Lott also wrote that he was, in fact, a registered Democrat until 1993. We can credit Moskowitz with getting that right. Lott’s seminal research on the effect of concealed carry laws on violent crime was published in 1996 at the University of Chicago.
It’s not uncommon for researchers — those who are honest — to change their views once they have done actual research on a subject. Lott went so far as to change his political affiliation. James Wright and Peter Rossi changed their views on gun control. Gary Kleck changed his views on the effectiveness of armed self defense.
Most criminologists and economists now agree with Lott’s conclusions. I don’t know of any researcher who has switched the other way. Most of the articles that claim Lott’s research is inaccurate appear in historically anti-gun health policy journals.
That is a significant argument that the side that wishes to disarm the population is wrong.
People are prone to reach conclusions that reinforce their preconceived notions. It’s known as confirmation bias. It takes a significant effort — and a genuinely open mind — to look at data objectively and accept their implications, if they disagree with what you already believe.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.