The impact of concealed weapons on crime is a largely ignored element of the gun control debate. In More Guns, Less Crime, John Lott laid out the statistical effect of restrictive vs. non-restrictive concealed weapons carry policies on crime. Specifically he focused on violent crime. Despite numerous attempts to discredit it, not one study has found a statistically significant different result. That result is in non-restrictive cities, counties and states we see about a 4% reduction in the rate of violent crime.
The Pro-Gun Control Lobby has put a number of arguments forward in search of data to subvert the findings of the study. They were unable to find any statistical problems with study that would have resulted in a different outcome. Since the original release, John Lott has reworked his data multiple times, and more pointedly any time that a valid critique of statistical methods was presented over the last 18 years. The results have not significantly changed.
The real question is, how much more of a decrease in crime can we expect by an increase in concealed weapons carry in the population? Certainly the percentage of the population that carries guns has an impact on the violent crime rate, but it also has an impact on the accident or non-violent crime rates as well. At some point we will start to see diminishing returns. Most likely with some percentage of the population armed; the accidents (which are likely to increase with more gun handling) will start to diminish the effectiveness of arming more people. Regardless, of what the limits are, what we know is that less restrictive concealed weapons carry laws are associated with less violent crime. The question is, how does that occur?
The answer is a textbook case of the economic theory of substitution. A good example of this is bread. Let’s assume there are only two choices on the market for bread. White bread and wheat bread, which are evenly priced, and the demand in the market is 50/50. If we raise the price of wheat bread by some amount we can expect the demand for wheat bread to decrease, and the demand for its only comparable substitute to increase. Applied to criminal behavior it looks like this.
People choose to be criminals because the likely hood of being shot is very low. As the likely hood of being shot increases, people will choose to substitute criminal behavior for behavior less likely to get them shot. Adding more concealed weapons carry holders to the mix of unarmed citizen’s forces people to make that choice. Reducing them makes that choice more favorable. In the extreme, if there were a 100% chance of being shot, we would have no crime. The percentage of increase or decrease is based on the elasticity of demand, which is not really germane to the concept we are trying to relate.
Clearly human behavior is more complicated. The opportunity for substitute behavior is the gun control lobbies against this simple argument. Billy didn’t have a choice except to be a thug due to the fact that Billy grew up in a neighborhood with a bad school. The answer by default is we should improve all the schools so Billy’s little brother will not have to be a thug and eventually we will reduce crime. That works to some extent as increasing complimentary options certainly affects the substitution theory and the choices people make.
My problem with that line of reasoning exclusively is that it leaves us stuck with Billy’s thuggery. It’s too late for Billy, so we just have to deal with him is the logical extension of that argument. That argument effectively means that some of you will pay the price of societies burden of responsibility for failing to provide Billy with better options by being a victim of Billy’s thuggery. Personally, I would rather see Billy shot than force any other member of society to suffer his inability to civilly compete in modern society.
Economic theory is an amazing predictor of human behavior. The more you study it, the more you see its tentacles reach deeper and wider across many fields of study. To me the theoretical question is not, should people carry guns, but how many people should carry guns to achieve the ideal balance of crime reduction while maintaining an acceptable accident rate? From a practical perspective, acting on that theory, even if we know the ideal number would once again saddle a portion of the population with victimhood.
In response to a lack analytical support for restrictions, the Pro-Gun Control lobby has resorted to shock value in an attempt to push what is largely an emotion-based argument. Before you write this off as a one sided argument, take a look at the wholesale fabrication of conclusions produced by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 18 months ago.
In a White paper from October 2012, titled “Concealed Carry Permit Holders do Not Make Us Safer, and Likely Increase Aggravated Assaults”. They make the following statement to support their claim:
“So-called right to carry (RTC) laws allow individuals who are not legally proscribed from possessing firearms to carry concealed weapons in public, either by making it easy to get a permit to do so, or by not requiring such permits at all. Arguments for RTC laws are premised on the idea that everyone who is eligible to legally own a firearm is law-abiding, and is at low risk for committing a violent crime. Research cited above concerning weak standards for legal firearm ownership calls this into question. A recent review of concealed carry permit holders in North Carolina examined criminal offending in the group over a five-year period. During that period, more than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of crimes (excluding traffic violations), including more than 200 felonies and 10 murders or manslaughters. An additional 900 had been convicted of a drunk driving offense, an offense commonly associated with substance abuse.”
The volume of crimes seems significant on the surface, but as we all know volume is meaningless with out its corresponding rates in the population. When we convert these crime incidents to rates of Concealed Carry Holder Crime we see a different result. North Carolina reported 228,072 concealed weapons carry permit holders in 2005. What we find is the Crime Conviction rate is 0.213%, murder rate is .001% and the rate of drunk driving convictions is 0.096%. Converting these to rates per 100,000 to compare to the corresponding conviction rates in the general public, we find the following rates of crime per 100,000 residents:
North Carolina Crime Rate per 100,000 residents in 2005
Concealed Carry Holders General Public
Crime: 213 4622
Murder: 1 6.8
Drunk Driving: 96 330
Regardless of what you think of the arguments for and against gun control, this level of incompetence, or out right deception on the part of John Hopkins University is a stain on the reputation of the institution. This type of slipshod approach and outright fabrications are common in a number of published studies supporting reducing or eliminating concealed weapons. These are the types of reports that stop any productive conversation on the topic of reducing violence. When the base of your argument is founded on a study that a fourth grader with calculator and Internet connection can debunk, you have relegated yourself to a very low level of trustworthiness.
The bottom line on increasing concealed weapons carry is that it reduces violent crime. That is not a guess or a theory like the methodology behind why it occurs. The fact is we don’t really know why it occurs, but we do, thanks to John Lott, know exactly what occurs when concealed carry laws are made less restrictive. Crime is reduced. Arguing that they make us somehow less safe is simply a preposterous conclusion based on an emotional argument that guns CAUSE violence.
If you are going to argue for or against something, know the facts. I hope that helps!
– Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry received his operational training and experience from the U.S. Government, 22 years of which were spent in the Marine Corps where he served in the Reconnaissance, Infantry and Intelligence fields. During his active service, he spent more then seven years deployed overseas in combat, operational and training assignments. After the military, Pat worked as a contractor and as the Director of Operations at a private paramilitary company, specializing in training special operations forces and providing protective services to select private clients. His education consists of an MBA from the University of Southern California (USC), and a BS from San Diego State University with an emphasis in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology and a minor in Psychology. He holds an extensive list of security and training related certifications from a variety of government and nationally recognized entities. He currently sits on the advisory committee at USC’s Master of Veterans Business Program, and is an active member of Infraguard and the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS). He has been a guest speaker at ASIS, the San Diego Industrial Security Awareness Council and other private organizations on physical security, travel security, and competitive intelligence collection counter-measures.
First Published at Aegis Academy