A new study has been making the rounds on mainstream media outlets, and while it may sound familiar, its claim is more radical than any previous anti-gun study to date: an increase in concealed carry permits leads directly to an increase in violent crime.
But John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and former chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission, isn’t as convinced as the journalists over at Newsweek.
Lott argues in a recent op-ed for Fox News that the study, led by Stanford Law School economist John J. Donohue III, cherry picks states like Hawaii in an effort to predict what violent crime rates in other states would have been without concealed carry permits.
“This new study picks out just two to four states, and in many cases effectively just uses Hawaii to compare with right-to-carry states,” Lott notes. “In the cases of Idaho and Minnesota, over 96 percent of the comparison is just with Hawaii. For Mississippi, Nebraska, and Utah, Hawaii counts for between 72 percent and 83 percent of the comparison.”
The study argues that even though violent crime rates have dropped nationwide, those rates would have dropped more if states had not legalized the carrying of concealed weapons. Using states like Hawaii as points of comparison, Donohue, et al, argue that allowing more guns to be carried in public can escalate tense situations and encourage gun theft by criminals.
Lott’s contention is that the study’s authors relied far too much on states like Hawaii to predict what other states crime rates would have been without concealed carry permits. Violent crime depends on a huge variety of factors, and each state faces unique cultural, geographic, and demographic challenges. Hawaii may have reduced its crime rates more than Nebraska, but that fact may have nothing to do with the presence of guns in public.
To counter the fact that concealed carry permit holders are far less likely to commit crimes than the general population, Donohue, et al, hypothesize that police simply “underestimate criminality by permit holders.”
Lott dismantles this claim by noting that permit holders in Michigan, for example, accounted for 0.053 percent of violent crime in the state in 2015. For Donohue’s claim to be true, police would have to be missing 99.4 percent of cases where permit holders have committed violent crimes.
In Louisiana, police would have to miss 99.5 percent of crimes committed by permit holders. In Oklahoma, police would have to miss 99.93 percent, in Tennessee 99.98 percent, and in Texas 99.54 percent.
Obviously, police aren’t making these kinds of errors.
Donohue’s study suffers from the same weakness as many other concealed carry studies: it cannot directly tie concealed carry permit holders to crimes. It can look at crime rates and rates of concealed carry permits, but it cannot link the two together because violent crime depends on a wide array of factors.
That’s why, as Lott notes, “No other study by an economist, criminologist, or law professor has claimed that US violent crime rose after right-to-carry laws were adopted.”