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January 12, 2003

JOHN LOTT is being accused, of well, something. The complaint doesn't run to his published scholarly work, but to public statements he's made about a survey whose results were never published. Some people are now saying that he never conducted the survey at all. Here's an email from James Lindgren from a list that I also belong to, posted by vociferous Lott critic (and, if I recall correctly, erstwhile Bellesiles defender) Tim Lambert, that lays it out at some length.

I've been following this on that list for months (it goes back before that email) but haven't posted on it because (1) I thought it would violate list etiquette; and (2) I expected a response from Lott that would lay it all to rest.

But now -- as a recent email to the list from Eugene Volokh points out -- the story has broken out into the Blogosphere. Here's a post by Jim Henley, here's one by Julian Sanchez, and here's another by Marie Gryphon.

And no satisfactory response by Lott has been forthcoming. I don't know what to say about that. Lott's critics want, rather too obviously, for this to be another Bellesiles affair, though to my mind it is, even if the accusations pan out, something less than that, perhaps more akin to the Joseph Ellis scandal. And I can't help but feel that there's going to be a strained effort to turn every criticism of every bit of non-PC scholarship into a reverse-Bellesiles affair for a while, as the lame effort to draw a Lomborg-Bellesiles connection seems to demonstrate.

But if the charges against Lott are true -- and thus far, the evidence is suggestive, not anywhere near dispositive -- it's a serious matter indeed even if it's not of Bellesiles caliber. The only one who can really clear this up is John Lott,. If he fails to do so, well, under the facts of the matter it will be difficult for anyone else to prove anything, but many will choose to draw unflattering conclusions.

As I proofed the above I checked, and Clayton Cramer has a post on this, too. He reports that Lott has repeated the 1997 study now, and posts a letter from, and a summary of a phone call from, John Lott.

UPDATE: Tim Lambert, who has been the main figure driving this matter, has a page rounding up weblog coverage and also offering this observation:

Finally, I should comment on the overall significance of this question. Lott's 98% claim takes up just one sentence of his book. Whether or not it's true, it doesn't affect his main argument, which is about alleged benefits of concealed carry laws. I don't think any fuss would have been made if Lott hadn't repeated the claim numerous times on TV shows, on radio shows, and in opinion pieces.

Bearing in mind the source of this statement, to which I have added emphasis, I think that those who are too anxious to turn Lott into another Bellesiles should exercise caution.

ANOTHER UPDATE: As I plow through the built-up emails in my office account, it's obvious that Jim Lindgren is investigating this matter rather thoroughly. Stay tuned.

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