John Lott and the National Research Council’s Report.–

I was away when the story broke about the National Research Council releasing its report on the effects of gun laws on violence, though I saw Stuart Benjamin’s nice post on it when I returned. The focus of Stuart’s comments were the report’s criticisms of John Lott’s work, though he also mentioned my role in investigating whether a 1997 study that Lott says he did was ever actually done. As those of you who have been following this might remember, I thought that Ayres and Donohue did an excellent job of data analysis on the issue of the effect of carry laws on crime rates.

I read through much of the report, including particularly chapter 6 that is critical of Lott’s work, the dissent to part of that chapter by James Q. Wilson, and the majority response to that dissent.

From the portions that I have read, I found the report sober, impressive, and fair, though there are substantial parts of this literature that I am unfamiliar with. As to Lott’s work, I actually thought that the Council’s report was too generous to his research in spots. In particular, I thought that it failed to point out just how much Lott’s results are driven by poorly executed demographic controls, a point that Ayres and Donohue make effectively in their Stanford exchange. While the Council’s report raises a lot of questions about Lott’s use of control variables in general, particularly in its Appendix D, the Report does not seem to focus on the degree to these questionable demographic controls determine some of Lott’s results.

As usual, Tim Lambert has the most thorough coverage on the report.

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