States that have enacted right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws have experienced higher rates of violent crime than states that did not adopt those laws, according to a Stanford scholar.
Examining decades of crime data, Stanford Law Professor John Donohue’s analysis shows that violent crime in RTC states was estimated to be 13 to 15 percent higher – over a period of 10 years – than it would have been had the state not adopted the law.
The working paper, released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, challenges the effectiveness of RTC laws and could have a significant impact on pending litigation between the National Rifle Association and the state of California.
Arkansas has had a right to carry law (on a journey) for two decades and a concealed carry permit law for a decade. It expanded the right just this year to allow guns to be carried in more places, including bars, college campuses and government buildings including the Capitol.
The Stanford summary of the research by Donahue, who’s done this type of work for years, has a few points sure to trigger howling from the Trent Garners and Charlie Collinses of the world.
“There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce overall violent crime,” Donohue stated in the paper.
To put the significance of a 15-percent increase in violent crime in perspective, the paper notes that “the average RTC state would have to double its prison population to counteract the RTC-induced increase in violent crime.”
The increase in crime came despite increased rates of incarceration and law officer employment.
Guns CAN have benefits, Donohue acknowledged, but “conflicting effects almost must be considered.”
RTC proponents often overlook how often gun-carrying leads to lost and stolen guns, which are then in the hands of criminals.
Moreover, one can incur all of the costs of buying and carrying a gun, only to find that a criminal attack is too sudden to effectively employ the gun defensively. Donohue cites a 2013 report from the National Crime Victimization Survey that showed in 99.2 percent of the violent attacks in the United States, no gun is ever used defensively – despite the nearly 300 million guns in circulation in the country today.
For most Americans, said Donohue, carrying a gun to avoid a criminal attack is similar to thinking that having a weekly brain scan will save your life, without considering the potential hazardous effects.
And Donohue doesn’t mention the regular news of accidental shootings in households with guns, often by and of children.
Donohue’s paper shows Arkansas at about the median in
The study notes, among others, the obvious impact of how a permit might put a gun in the hands of someone who wouldn’t otherwise have one and then use it. (George Zimmerman, for example.) Defenders of concealed carry point to a small return of permits by violators. Says Donohue:
First, official withdrawals clearly understate criminality by permit holders. For example, convictions for violent crime are far smaller than acts of violent crime, so many permit holders would never face official withdrawal of their permits even if they committed a violent criminal act that would warrant such termination.
Moreover, official withdrawals will be unnecessary when the offending permit holder is killed. In the nightmare case for RTC, two Michigan permit holding drivers pulled over to battle over a tail-gating dispute in September of 2013 and each shot and killed the other. Again, without permits this would likely have not been a double homicide, but note that no official action to terminate permits would ever be recorded in a case like this
Donohue argues that the “culture of
If you are an angry young man, with somewhat of a paranoid streak, and you haven’t yet been convicted of a crime or adjudicated to be a mental defective, it is likely that the ability to carry a gun will both be more attractive and more likely in a RTC state. That such individuals will, therefore, be more likely to be aggressive once armed and hence more likely to stimulate violence by others should not be surprising.
Furthermore, more armed people means an ever growing source of guns for criminals. And the presumption that many people are armed may make legal challenges less likely. It certainly makes matters harder for police, who have more to fear in a traffic stop. That, in turn, can lead to terrible consequences, such as the police slaying of a permitted Minnesota driver who was apparently reaching for his wallet, not his gun.