A new study finds concealed-carry laws lead to a boost in gun crime by between 29% and 32%, mostly by triggering a surge in gun theft.
The study comes on the heels of a Supreme Court ruling that struck down New York’s attempt to limit the ability to carry a gun outside their homes. That ruling was seen as particularly significant as other states have sought to restrict concealed-carry permits.
The study, authored by John Donohue, Samuel Cai and Matthew Bondy of Standard Law School, and Philip Cook of Duke University, looked at data from 47 cities between 1979 and 2019. In particular, the study, circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research, uses differential timing in the adoption of right-to-carry to look at the effects on crime, using FBI and Justice Department data.
The most significant impact is that right to carry laws elevate gun theft by roughly 35% — “introducing tens of thousands of guns into the hands of criminals or illegal gun markets each year.” The study notes that other countries, such as Israel, impose jail sentences for negligent gun practices such as leaving firearms in unlocked cars precisely because of the ill effects of stolen guns.
Having guns increases the probability of success to robbery by criminals, but only 40% of robberies are committed with one, suggesting that firearms are scarce, and their availability important. Violent crime, robbery and aggravated assault rise by between 11% and 15%, with the firearm component rising by roughly twice that level, the study says.
They also find the laws are associated with a 13% drop in the rates that police clear violent crime. The authors speculate that processing complaints about the increased gun theft, as well as less willingness to confront possibly armed citizens, may contribute to the reduction in police effectiveness. They cite another study finding the adoption of carry laws caused a 13% rise in officer-involved shooting, possibly because of the perceived risk of coming under fire in the line of duty.
The authors say they were unable to directly measure the deterrence effect of increased firearm carry on crime, but any effect, is small compared to the criminogenic effect. Concealed-carry laws, they note, were associated with a large increase in robberies — precisely the crime for which there is meant to be the largest potential for deterrence outside the home.
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