Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Pattern Of Deceit Is Deeper Than Times Wants To Admit

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Pattern Of Deceit Is Deeper Than Times Wants To Admit

by John R. Lott, Jr.*
for Investors Business Daily

The New York Times has suffered a major black eye with revelations that one of its reporters made up events, facts, or engaged in plagiarizism some 50 times. Yet, the Times has won praise for owning up to this problem, and in doing so may seem to have put the controversy behind it.

Unfortunately, this pattern of reporting goes much deeper than the Times admits. As an example, take the major 20,000 word series on "rampage killings" the Times published during 2000.

The paper declared that the evidence they compiled "confirmed the public perception that they appear to be increasing." Indeed, the Times found that exactly 100 such attacks took place during the 50 years from 1949-to 1999, 51 of which occurred after the beginning of 1995. Their conclusion: "the nation needs tighter gun laws for everyone."

Observed A Flaw

Having done a lot of work on this topic (together with Bill Landes at the University of Chicago), I immediately noticed that the Times noted virtually all the cases during the second half of the 1990s, but omitted most of the cases prior to that.

While a side bar to one of the articles briefly cautions that the series "does not include every attack," the omissions are so extremely skewed as to produce a nine-fold increase between the 1949-to-1994 and 1995-to-1999 periods.

The Times claimed that from 1977 to 1994 there was an annual average of only 2.6 attacks where at least one person was killed in a public multiple victim attack (not including robberies or political killings). Yet, what we found was an average of 17 per year.

Instead of the sudden surge starting in 1995, the actual national data we compiled shows lots of ups and downs, but with no generally rising or falling pattern. For instance, 1996 had an unusually large number of attacks, though the level began to recede in 1997.

I telephoned the article`s main author, Ford Fessenden, who after initial claims that they had been extremely careful admitted that the staff working on the project had primarily concentrated on cases in the more recent years. They had only gotten the easily obtainable cases from earlier years. I noted that it was strange that anyone would think that there were exactly 100 such attacks over the 50 years, and he indicated that 100 simply seemed like a convenient number to stop at.

Distorted Claim

How the data was collected also affected other less dramatic findings. The Times claimed that attacks had increased modestly in the late 1980s and that this increase coincided with the period during which the "production of semi-automatic pistols overtook the production of revolvers."

But again, there was no such increase in the late 1980s. If anything, just the opposite was generally occurring, when one examined all the cases during this earlier period, even though there was a significant variation from year-to year in the rate of attacks. The number of public shootings per 10 million people had actually been falling prior to that, declining from 1 in 1985 to .9 in 1990 to .5 in 1995.

Fessenden noted that he was familiar with our research but that they had never made an attempt to compare the two data sets. He then asked how long it had taken us to get together all the cases. When I told him a couple of thousand hours he said that there was "no way" they could have devoted that much time to the project.

Unfortunately, the Times never ran a correction and never published any letters noting that the huge increase in these crimes that undoubtedly scared many people was merely a figment of how the data was collected.

The policy prescriptions put forward by the Times simply assumed that tighter gun laws would save lives. Fox Butterfield, another reporter who wrote part of the Times` series, told me that no formal statistical tests were done because some academics had advised him that there was "no way that (they) would get any statistically significant results," and that the Times never checked to see whether that was true.

But more importantly Butterfield`s answer also creates other disturbing problems for the Times study. Why would the newspaper, or any institution doing research, assert benefits to gun laws if they seriously doubted that their data would confirm their claims?

Scare Tactic

However, as the Times knew, Bill Landes and I had examined all the different gun control laws advocated by the Times and come to the opposite conclusion. All the gun laws discussed by the paper (such as waiting periods, background checks, and one-gun-a-month restrictions) turned out not to have any significant effect on public shootings. We found only one policy that effectively does this: the passage of right-to-carry laws. A policy that the Times never even discussed.

Unfortunately, much of the public policy debate is driven by lopsided coverage of gun use. The New York Times series played to the worst sensationalism by trying to scare people into thinking that there was an exploding crisis of "rampage killings."


This article frist appeared in
Investors Business Daily
on Thursday, May 22, 2003, p. A16

*John Lott, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of the newly released The Bias Against Guns, which examines this evidence on multiple victim killings.
TRENDING NOW

News  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Federal Court Upholds Decision to Block California’s Magazine Ban

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit issued a ruling in the case of Duncan v. Becerra on Tuesday upholding a lower court’s decision to suspend enforcement of California’s restriction on the possession of magazines ...

Federal Appellate Court Upholds Decision to Block California’s Magazine Surrender Requirement

News  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Federal Appellate Court Upholds Decision to Block California’s Magazine Surrender Requirement

Last summer, we reported on the welcome news that a federal court had blocked California’s plan to require owners of “large capacity” magazines to surrender or otherwise rid themselves of their formerly-lawful property. As the judge in ...

Anti-gun Propaganda Infiltrates History Channel’s Navy SEAL Drama “Six”

News  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Anti-gun Propaganda Infiltrates History Channel’s Navy SEAL Drama “Six”

With shows like “Tales of the Gun” and “Mail Call” with R. Lee Ermey, the History Channel has often served as a place where gun owners can enjoy entertainment free from the anti-gun political messaging ...

Moms Demand Action Reportedly Told Candidate Not to Talk about Support for Gun Ban

News  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Moms Demand Action Reportedly Told Candidate Not to Talk about Support for Gun Ban

Another chapter in the lengthy tale of gun control duplicity was written last week. On July 10, The Washington Free Beacon published a report of a video of Democratic nominee for New York’s rural upstate 21st congressional district Tedra ...

Washington: Seattle City Council Passes Ordinance Making Firearms Unavailable for Self-Defense

Monday, July 16, 2018

Washington: Seattle City Council Passes Ordinance Making Firearms Unavailable for Self-Defense

On July 9th, the Seattle City Council passed a mandatory firearm storage ordinance to restrict the self-defense rights of Seattle residents.  The ordinance, if signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan, will impose a one-size-fits-all method of storing firearms as ...

Israel Set to Further Embrace Armed Citizenry to Promote Public Safety

News  

Gun Laws  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Israel Set to Further Embrace Armed Citizenry to Promote Public Safety

After a spate of terror attacks in 2015, Israel opted to loosen its firearms restrictions so that more citizens could help to defend themselves and their communities. According to a recent report from Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Ministry ...

Anti-gun Efforts to Expand U.N. Regulations to Ammunition Continue

News  

Friday, July 6, 2018

Anti-gun Efforts to Expand U.N. Regulations to Ammunition Continue

Shortly before 4:00am last Saturday morning, the two week long Third Review Conference (RevCon3) on the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All ...

Washington: NRA and SAF File Lawsuit Against City of Seattle

Friday, July 20, 2018

Washington: NRA and SAF File Lawsuit Against City of Seattle

On Friday, July 20th, the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan, and others, to invalidate the mandatory firearm storage ordinance that was recently passed by ...

Illinois: Governor Signs Two Gun Control Bills

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Illinois: Governor Signs Two Gun Control Bills

On July 17th, Governor Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 2354 and Senate Bill 3256 into law.

Gallup: Gun Control Not High on List of Problems

News  

Gun Laws  

Friday, July 20, 2018

Gallup: Gun Control Not High on List of Problems

Gallup’s July survey found that the number of Americans who cited guns or gun control as the most important problem facing America had returned to levels similar to before the shooting in Parkland, Fla. This month, ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.