3 thoughts on “Interview with John Lott”

  1. I like seeing John Lott’s arguments and I like this article but I am tiring of him saying this:

    “So do background checks catch many criminals? The answer is: No. Almost everybody the system catches is a “false positive” — somebody who actually has a right to own a gun.

    For gun purchases, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dropped over 94 percent of “initial denials” after just the first preliminary review.”

    He equates the fact that ATF/USAO drops 94% of the cases reviewed for referral from further consideration to being the same as those 94% were not prohibited under current law. This is flawed logic. The ATF and USAO don’t publish their guidelines for referral and without better data no one can estimate the false positive rate of initial denials in NICS.

    1. I would agree with you there. Especially given that those most likely to challenge a NICS denial will tend to be those who were unjustly denied. But that said, I’d be willing to wager the system does generate an awful lot of false positives. A lot of people won’t bother with challenging.

  2. I also would be willing to wager that the NICS system produces a lot of false positives, I just don’t buy the 94% rate. Here is what I know as fact based on the 2010 data at: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/239272.pdf

    In Table A on page 11 we see 72,659 denials and 3,491 successful appeals. That is a minumum 4.8% false positive rate. As you pointed out there are people who won’t bother challenging.

    In Table C on page 12 there were 1,923 cases where the person was denied but FBI/ATF thought they possesed a firearm and proceeded to retrieve it. in 509 of those it turned out the person really wasn’t prohibited. That is a 26.5% failure/false positive rate.

    Finally in Table D on page 13 there were 4,184 denials that were turned over to an ATF field office. Of those 480 were not persued further because it turned out the person was not prohibited. That is a 11.5% failure/false positive rate.

    While none of these proves the overall false positive rate, we know at a minimum it is the first number of 4.8%. That is 1 out of 20 denials are false positives. That number and the others shown seem pretty high to me and indicate that the data in NICS and the FBI/ATF/USAO system that uses it has a lot of rooom for improvement.

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