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'Stand Your Ground' Laws

March 17, 2017, at Star Tribune

By John R. Lott, Jr.


A March 10 letter writer responding to my March 9 commentary about “Stand Your Ground” laws claims that my research on gun control has been ”discredited” by the National Research Council, even suggesting that I engaged in fraud.

The 2004 National Research Council report merely concluded (p. 121): “It is impossible to draw strong conclusions from the existing literature on the causal impact of these [right-to-carry] laws.” The NRC reached this same nonconclusion for each of the 30 gun-control regulations that it examined: namely, that more research was needed.

Only on right-to-carry did the panel fail to reach a consensus of no conclusion. James Q. Wilson, considered possibly “the most influential criminal justice scholar of the 20th century,” concluded (p. 271): “I find that the evidence presented by Lott and his supporters suggests that [right-to-carry] laws do in fact help drive down the murder rate.” Wilson pointed to the panel’s own estimates, all of which showed that right-to-carry laws reduce murder rates.

The March 10 letter writer claims that one of my surveys “vanished completely without any evidence.” However, respondents have come forward to say that they took the survey. I have also provided tax returns showing payments to research assistants.

On July 3, 1997, I experienced a hard disk crash in which I lost data for many research papers. I had been collaborating with 10 different researchers around the country, and I subsequently spent years working with them to replace the lost data. The letter writer is referring to a specific survey that represented only one paragraph in one book, and in 2002 it was replicated with similar results. That data is available on the website of my nonprofit research organization (

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