Tuesday, April 18, 2006


A scholar known for his work on guns and crime filed a defamation lawsuit Monday against University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, co-author of the best-seller "Freakonomics." John Lott Jr. of Virginia, a former U. of C. visiting professor, alleges that Levitt defamed him in the book by claiming that other scholars had tried and failed to confirm Lott's conclusion that allowing people to carry concealed weapons reduces crime. Publishers Weekly ranked "Freakonomics" eighth this week for non-fiction hardcover books. According to Levitt's book: "When other scholars have tried to replicate [Lott's] results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime."

But according to Lott's lawsuit: "In fact, every time that an economist or other researcher has replicated Lott's research, he or she has confirmed Lott's conclusion." By suggesting that Lott's results could not be replicated, Levitt is "alleging that Lott falsified his results," the lawsuit says. Lott is seeking a court order to block further sales of "Freakonomics" until the offending statements are retracted and changed. He is also seeking unspecified money damages. Lott acknowledged in the suit that some scholars have disagreed with his conclusions. But he said those researchers used "different data or methods to analyze the relationship between gun-control laws and crime" and made no attempt to "replicate" Lott's work.

The lawsuit alleges that Levitt and his publisher, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., made the statements with reckless disregard for whether they were true and that the book damaged Lott's reputation. Neither Levitt nor HarperCollins officials could be reached Monday.

According to the lawsuit, Levitt also defamed Lott in an e-mail that Levitt sent to an economist in Texas last May. The e-mail described work that Lott published in an academic journal in 2001. It falsely stated that Lott's work had not been peer-reviewed and that Lott had blocked scholars with opposing views from appearing in the same issue of the journal, the lawsuit said.

Lott's books include "More Guns, Less Crime: Analyzing Crime and Gun Control Laws," published in 1998. Levitt won the John Bates Clark Medal for economists younger than 40 from the American Economic Association in 2003.


Note the following statement from the "Chronicle of Higher Education":

"In the years since Mr. Lott's first publication, at least six scholars have published studies that tend to confirm his findings, while at least four other studies have tended to cast doubt on his findings."

I would say Levitt is in trouble at that rate.

Business owner shoots robber: "An Anniston business owner is in the clear after shooting a robbery suspect in self-defense. The robbers attempted to shakedown a pawnshop. Now, three are in jail and one's got a gunshot wound to remember it by. The owner of the 202 Pawn Shop says four people charged in the attempted robbery worked as a team, trying to distract him while one stole some jewelry and ran out. Investigators say the bandits jumped into a car. The store owner, who didn't want to give his name, ran after them armed with a pistol and ready for action. "He pulled up like he was gonna run over me and at that point I pulled down on him," said the owner. One jumped out and ran into a dead-end alley behind the building. "He couldn't get out so it was between me and him, you know, hit brick wall or me, and he tried to come through me and when he did that's when he pushed me back like, that's when I fired, pistol went off and evidently shot him in the foot," said the owner. By that time, deputies had arrived along with paramedics.... Amerson says Alabama law already covers such a situation. "That man had a right to use his weapon in self-protection and he did so and from everything we can see he faces no legal liability for that," said Amerson."

TX: Man cleared of assault linked to shootout: "A 20-year-old Longview man has been cleared of an aggravated assault charge in connection with a shooting last year after prosecutors argued he fired a gun in self-defense. Travale Henson had been indicted in connection with a May 14 shooting with Keethan Harnage outside a birthday party on Avalon Street. A bullet from Harnage's gun left 15-year-old Sierra Foster of Longview dead. Prosecutors argued in a motion to dismiss that an investigation proved Henson fired two shots at Harnage in self-defense after Harnage 'began firing wildly' at him. Judge David Brabham of the 188th District Court signed the order to dismiss April 5."

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