Politico

Controversial gun advocate hired by Justice Department last month


The Justice Department has hired an economist known for provocative research claiming that communities can reduce crime by allowing widespread gun ownership and implementing policies making it easier to carry a gun in public.

Last month, John Lott, 62, left a nonprofit group he founded seven years ago to take a job as a senior adviser for research and statistics at the Office of Justice Programs—a DOJ division that doles out $5 billion in grants each year.

Lott, who holds a doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles, is best known for his 1998 book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” and for a slew of reports, articles and op-eds advocating for lifting gun control laws.

Lott confirmed his move to DOJ but declined to comment further. “I took a job at the Department of Justice. I’m really not supposed to say more than that,” he said when reached by phone last week.

A Justice Department spokesperson confirmed Lott’s title Monday, but declined to answer further questions about his hiring. The spokesperson would not say whether Lott is serving as a political appointee or a career civil service position.

OJP, a relatively low-profile branch of the Justice Department, administers about $5 billion in grants each year to states, police departments and nonprofit groups. The office also conducts research into the causes of crime and gathers statistics on criminal justice topics.

A colleague at the Crime Prevention Research Center, the small organization Lot started in 2013, also confirmed Lott’s exit. The center features an unusual board of directors, including musician Ted Nugent, conservative talk show host Lars Larson and former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, best known for his fiery speech in favor of Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

“John Lott & the Crime Prevention Research Center is doing God’s work for a safer America!” Nugent wrote in a 2015 Facebook post. “NRA membership & support for CPRC is the ultimate suckerpunch to the gungrabbing punks.”

Lott’s role as president of CPRC was turned over earlier this month to Andrew Pollack, who emerged as a prominent pro-gun voice after his 18-year-old daughter Meadow was killed in the shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.

Pollack did not respond to requests for comment, but CPRC executive director Nikki Goeser said the group’s pro-gun advocacy will continue.

“Since Dr. Lott left the CPRC on October 12th, much about the CPRC will remain unchanged,” Goeser told POLITICO by email.

“Research projects that we have been conducting are continuing: on the percent of gun ownership across different countries as well as our regular reports on things such as the number of concealed handgun permits, keeping track of what would have been mass public shootings that were stopped by concealed handgun permit holders will continue, keeping track of states that allow people to carry handguns at state capitols will continue, and similarly for state rules on letting teachers carry guns,” she added.

In the days leading up to his hiring, Lott continued his steadfast advocacy for Trump, warning in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Joe Biden’s advocacy for civil liability for gun manufacturers would effectively make guns illegal.

Since Lott assumed his new government job, he has kept up his outspoken presence on social media sites, often trashing the media and espousing pro-Trump views.

In a post on Facebook and Twitter last week, Lott appeared to endorse the White House’s wildly exaggerated claim that one million Trump supporters showed up in Washington earlier this month for the so-called Million MAGA March.

“NPR is pretty much Pravda at this point. Trump supporters (a million plus people) are right-wing activists and hate groups and they echoed Trump’s false claims about vote fraud? Such editorializing (and lies) in a ‘news’ story,” Lott wrote.

Lott has been a go-to witness for Republican lawmakers for more than two decades, often appearing on Capitol Hill to express deep skepticism of gun control legislation.

Just last year, he testified at gun-violence-related hearings held by the House Appropriations Committee and the Joint Economic Committee.
While gun violence has been the primary focus of Lott’s work, he has also dabbled in research related to election fraud. In September 2017, he delivered a presentation to Trump’s short-lived election-integrity commission, urging use of the national gun background check database to verify voter rolls.

In recent days, Lott has insisted that the presidential election results were tainted by a huge wave of illegal ballots. “Massive vote fraud in Pennsylvania,” he declared on Facebook on Nov. 4.

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