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Charles Schumer Insinuates, William Simon Rebuts

Wall Street Journal Letters

(Letters are excerpted from this URL.)

    September 4, 1996:

Gun-Control Thesis Is a Shot in the Dark

John R. Lott Jr.'s thesis--that concealed weapons laws reduce crime rates ("More Guns, Less Violent Crime," Rule of Law, Aug. 28)--flies in the face of common sense and a body of scholarly research. The bottom line: Crime is going down despite concealed weapons laws, not because of them.

America is winning the war against crime because of a balanced program of common-sense anti-crime measures. The 1994 crime law, which I sponsored, included longer prison sentences and more police on the streets. States have strengthened penalties for a wide range of crimes. Congress and the states have also enacted gun-control measures, like the Brady Law and the assault-weapons ban.

Prof. Lott basically dismisses it all. In a perverse bit of argumentation, he contends that the Brady Law is "associated with more aggravated assaults and rapes." The dry facts may come from his data, but any connection between the two is wild interpretation. Does Prof. Lott really mean that the Brady Law caused more rapes? Or does "associated" simply mean the two happened at the same time, perhaps by coincidence? Common sense provides a clear answer, even if the statistics do not.

In that spirit, I'd like to point out one other "association." The Associated Press reports that Prof. Lott's fellowship at the University of Chicago is funded by the Olin Foundation, which is "associated with the Olin Corporation," one of the nation's largest gun manufacturers. Maybe that's a coincidence, too. But it's also a fact.

Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.)

    September 9, 1996:

An Insult to Our Foundation

As president of the John M. Olin Foundation, I take great umbrage at Rep. Charles Schumer's scurrilous charge (Letters to the Editor, Sept. 4) that our foundation underwrites bogus research to advance the interests of companies that manufacture guns and ammunition. He asserts (falsely) that the John M. Olin Foundation is "associated" with the Olin Corp. and (falsely again) that the Olin Corp. is one of the nation's largest gun manufacturers. Mr. Schumer then suggests on the basis of these premises that Prof. John Lott's article on gun control legislation (editorial page, Aug. 28) must have been fabricated because his research fellowship at the University of Chicago was funded by the John M. Olin Foundation.

This is an outrageous slander against our foundation, the Olin Corp., and the scholarly integrity of Prof. Lott. Mr. Schumer would have known that his charges were false if he had taken a little time to check his facts before rushing into print. Others have taken the trouble to do so. For example, Stephen Chapman of the Chicago Tribune looked into the charges surrounding Mr. Lott's study, and published an informative story in the Aug. 15 issue of that paper, which concluded that, in conducting his research, Prof. Lott was not influenced either by the John M. Olin Foundation or by the Olin Corp. Anyone wishing to comment on this controversy ought first to consult Mr. Chapman's article and, more importantly, should follow his example of sifting the facts before reaching a conclusion.

For readers of the Journal, here are the key facts:

The John M. Olin Foundation, of which I have been president for nearly 20 years, is an independent foundation whose purpose is to support individuals and institutions working to strengthen the free enterprise system. We support academic programs at the finest institutions in the nation, including the University of Chicago, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, the University of Virginia, and many others. We do not tell scholars what to write or what to say.

The foundation was created by the personal fortune of the late John M. Olin, and is not associated with the Olin Corp. The Olin Corp. has never sought to influence our deliberations. Our trustees have never taken into account the corporate interests of the Olin Corp. or any other company when reviewing grant proposals. We are as independent of the Olin Corp. as the Ford Foundation is of the Ford Motor Co.

The John M. Olin Foundation has supported for many years a program in law and economics at the University of Chicago Law School. This program is administered and directed by a committee of faculty members in the law school. This committee, after reviewing many applications in a very competitive process, awarded a research fellowship to Mr. Lott. We at the foundation had no knowledge of who applied for these fellowships, nor did we ever suggest that Mr. Lott should be awarded one of them. We did not commission his study, nor, indeed, did we even know of it until last month, when Mr. Lott presented his findings at a conference sponsored by a Washington think tank.

As a general rule, criticism of research studies should be based on factual grounds rather than on careless and irresponsible charges about the motives of the researcher. Mr. Lott's study should be evaluated on its own merits without imputing motives to him that do not exist. I urge Mr. Schumer to check his facts more carefully in the future.

Finally, it was incorrectly reported in the Journal (Sept. 5) that the John M. Olin Foundation is "headed by members of the family that founded the Olin Corp." This is untrue. The trustees and officers of the foundation have been selected by virtue of their devotion to John Olin's principles, not by virtue of family connections. Of our seven board members, only one is a member of the Olin family. None of our officers is a member of the Olin family--neither myself as president, nor our secretary-treasurer, nor our executive director.

William E. Simon
John M. Olin Foundation Inc.
New York

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