December 19, 2012

John Lott has been doing great work on CNN of late. He’s the author of “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws.” Though the title speaks for itself, Lott has elaborated a bit on-air on the work’s thesis: Policymakers have many tools to deter crime, including stiffer prison sentences, but “you can also make it more difficult and risk to commit crimes by enabling victims to protect themselves,” says Lott.

Those views have seeded Lott’s recent slugfests with CNN hosts. Hours after the tragedy unfolded, Piers Morgan hosted Lott on his show, and the result was dramatic. Lott argued that the gun-control laws advocated by Morgan “have killed people.” The host lashed back: “Oh, what a bunch of nonsense.”

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien also lectured Lott on his specialty:

Sir, if you are trying to kill a large number of people in a massacre, that kind of gun is what you grab. If you are trying have the most damage that you could possibly inflict on people, it is that kind of semiautomatic rifle that you grab. So how you can say that people have fewer, fewer laws and not more … it boggles the mind, honestly. And I think that if you were to come here and talk to the people in this town, they’d be stunned by you.  

Whether you’re extremely skeptical of John Lott and his theories or you view his contentions more sympathetically, there’s one point upon which both sides can agree: His clashes with CNN personalities have brought the network a great deal of clicks.

Yet Lott is a FoxNews.com contributor. He’s even got an archive on the site. The digital record shows that Lott has done a bit of quick-reaction commentary of late.

The day after Bob Costas deplored U.S. gun culture on the Dec. 2 “Sunday Night Football” broadcast, Lott was all over it, penning a counter-Costas tract: “The question is the net effect of guns, and what Costas ignores is that guns save a lot more lives than they cost each year.”
Ten days after the July 20 shooting in Aurora, Colo., Lott warned that emerging gun-control proposals “will do nothing to stop mass shooting attacks.”

While Lott has been given ample opportunity on CNN to air his views on the Newtown massacre, he hasn’t yet spoken up on the matter on FoxNews.com. His last column surfaced Dec. 6, a second critique of Costas’s call for a new look at guns. He has written a column on the implications of Newtown — for U.S. News & World Report.

Much chatter among media critics has centered on how Fox News has approached the issue of gun control since Friday. Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine has reported that a weekend producer at the network banned discussion of gun control, though the directive was by no means airtight. The Daily Caller scoffed at Sherman’s reporting, citing various iterations of gun-control discussion on the air.

Lott’s low profile on FoxNews.com suggests that the network and its Web site are indeed treading carefully on gun control matters — from both sides of the issue. If Fox had wanted to rev up its base against calls for heightened gun control that have followed the tragedy, after all, it had a pretty good go-to guy on hand.

So this dedicated gun advocate is available for booking, though he sounds a bit worn down by his treatment on CNN. In reference to the network’s hosts, Lott says: “The thing that’s most disappointing to me is that they don’t engage the argument,” he says. “They just want to talk over you or just raise the volume.”

In two studio appearances with Morgan — one in July, after the Aurora shootings, and one after Newtown — Lott reports that the host shook hands with him prior to the segment, but not after. In other words, Morgan’s dismissive comments on-air aren’t an act. “I can see he feels strongly about this stuff and he feels that I am a horrible person but it comes across that he feels that way,” says Lott. “I believe that he’s very sincere.”

The treatment from Morgan, at least, is better than what he gets from viewers after a spin on CNN. One wrote to him, “YOU’RE AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!” Many other such missives don’t comply with The Post’s family-friendly standards.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.