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More Guns, Less Crime? A New Study Debunks A Long-Held Assumption On Concealed Carry

It’s a mantra that’s often stated within conservative circles: more guns, less crime. But is it true?

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The idea that an increase in the number of people wielding guns in their public life — through legally doing so utilizing concealed carry, or “right to carry” (RTC) laws in their states — leads to a decrease in the total number of crimes overall, has been around since the late 1990s. It was promoted by a researcher named John Lott, who promoted the phrase himself within a paper he wrote in 1997 alongside researcher David Mustard.

Lott’s paper definitively concluded that “concealed handguns are the most cost-effective method of reducing crime thus far analyzed by economists,” according to the Washington Post.

Unfortunately, Lott’s findings didn’t hold up to scrutiny or peer review. Nevertheless, the phrase caught on, and conservative pundits, politicians, and everyday Americans wrongly believed that there was a direct correlation between increasing the number of guns in the hands of citizens and a lowering of crime in cities and neighborhoods across the country.

A new study may put that notion to rest.

A Stanford University study released this week, led by law professor John Donohue, took a look at states’ crime rates over the years 1981 and 2007. During that time, 33 states adopted concealed carry or RTC laws on their books.

“Conventional” wisdom dictates that the increase of these laws should have led to a drop in criminal activity. The study, according to reporting from Bloomberg, found that just the opposite held true.

“[V]iolent crime is substantially higher after 10 years than would have been the case had the RTC law not been adopted,” the study found, even after accounting for outside factors that may have skewed results.

It wasn’t a small increase, either: more than 10 years after the adoption of a concealed carry law, states saw between 13 to 15 percent increases in violent crime rates.

The costs associated with implementing such laws weren’t just crime related. As a result of concealed carry legislation being put into place, states “not only experienced higher rates of violent crime but they also had larger increases in incarceration and police than other states.”

In short, the common expression espoused by conservatives and gun enthusiasts over the years has it backward: more guns means more crime.



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