Debate Rages On as States Continue to Loosen Concealed Carry Laws

Today, a Mississippian with a valid concealed carry permit can bring a gun onto college campuses, in bars and in courthouses.

Similarly, Buckeye state residents with CCW permits can now bring firearms into restaurants, bars and taverns.

As of this summer, Wyoming residents (like those in Alaska, Vermont, and Arizona) no longer need permits to carry concealed weapons.

In Indiana, private businesses must allow employees to keep firearms in their vehicles in courthouses.

And, this past November, Wisconsin became the 49th state to legalize concealed carry.

What does this all amount to?  Well, it’s rather obvious, isn’t it?

Increasingly, states are recognizing that the fundamental right of self-defense extends beyond the home.

Or to put it another way, as University of Chicago professor Jens Ludwig did in an interview with USA Today, “When you look across the states, they are definitely moving in the direction of allowing concealed weapons in more locations.”

While many of us would agree this is a good thing, that an armed society is a polite society, there are those who suggest that the loosening of concealed carry laws poses a greater threat to public safety.

Is this true?  Are we putting ourselves in greater danger by allowing more people to carry concealed firearms?

The New York Times did a study on concealed permit holders in North Carolina (one of the few states that continues to track CCW data).

What it found was that of the 240,000 residents with a CCW permit, “More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, excluding traffic-related crimes, over the five-year period.”

The Times added that it gathered the data when “it compared databases of recent criminal court cases and licensees.”

“While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than 200 were convicted of felonies, including at least 10 who committed murder or manslaughter. All but two of the killers used a gun,” the Times article added.

What the times failed to do in its report was compare the crime rate of CCW holders to that of the national average for the general population.

In doing so, it would have noticed that, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, “In 2009 America’s crime rate was roughly the same as in 1968, with the homicide rate being at its lowest level since 1964. Overall, the national crime rate was 3466 crimes per 100,000 residents, down from 3680 crimes per 100,000 residents forty years earlier in 1969 (-9.4%).”

The key point is that one can argue that 1% of CCW permit holders commit crimes, which is considerably lower than the national average for the general population (3.6%).

Of course, there are some limitations with these kinds of rough comparisons; nevertheless, it would appear, at least statistically speaking, that CCW permit holders commit fewer crimes on average than the general population.

To some extent, the Times acknowledged the fact that, generally speaking, CCW permit-holders are not perpetrators of crime.

The article stated, “Researchers acknowledge that those who fit the demographic profile of a typical permit holder — middle-age white men — are not usually major drivers of violent crime.”

However, the Times reframed the question in terms of a cost-benefit analysis: Is more crime deterred by CCW permit-holders than is perpetrated by CCW permit-holders?

“The question becomes whether allowing more people to carry guns actually deters crime, as gun rights advocates contend, and whether that outweighs the risks posed by the minority who commit crimes.”

The Times concluded:

Gun rights advocates invariably point to the work of John R. Lott, an economist who concluded in the late 1990s that the laws had substantially reduced violent crime. Subsequent studies, however, have found serious flaws in his data and methodology.

A few independent researchers using different data have come to similar conclusions, but many other studies have found no net effect of concealed carry laws or have come to the opposite conclusion. Most notably, Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue, economists and law professors, concluded that the best available data and modeling showed that permissive right-to-carry laws, at a minimum, increased aggravated assaults. Their data also showed that robberies and homicides went up, but the findings were not statistically significant.

In the end, most researchers say the scattershot results are not unexpected, because the laws, in all likelihood, have not significantly increased the number of people carrying concealed weapons among those most likely to commit crimes or to be victimized.

Translation, if society continues to give CCW permits to law-abiding citizens there will not be an increase in crime.  Moreover, while it’s difficult to conclude that more CCW permit holders deter crime, it’s equally as difficult (if not more difficult) to conclude that more CCW permit holders would increase crime rates.

In the end, loosening concealed carry laws and giving people the freedom to protect themselves will not increase crime.

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