Do Concealed Weapons Keep People Safer?

Today, all 50 U.S. states allow residents to carry concealed weapons in public, and eight states extend this right without requiring a special permit.

Laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons in public places (often called right-to-carry or RTC laws) were passed over the past several decades as gun advocates argued that they would promote safety. The perspective is based on the premise that everyday citizens who carry handguns will be able to fight back against armed criminals.

Economics researchers have been analyzing crime data to determine if this argument is true. A review of the data was published by the National Research Council in 2005. But the panel of experts concluded that the available data on right-to-carry laws was too weak to make any firm conclusions about whether allowing concealed weapons leads to a decrease in violent crime.

This year, researchers from the Stanford University Law School revisited the topic. They conducted a new analysis of evidence – which includes 14 additional years of crime data to answer the same question: Do laws allowing for concealed weapons lead to a decrease in violent crime? Their analysis is published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

They found the laws do not decrease violence. The authors conclude that right-to-carry laws are associated with higher rates of violent crime.  Their analysis indicates that violent crime is an estimated 13 to 15 percent higher in states with right-to-carry laws compared to states that do not allow concealed weapons.

“There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce violent crime,” the authors wrote. “Indeed, the weight of the evidence from the panel data estimates as well as the synthetic controls analysis best supports the view that the adoption of RTC laws substantially raises overall violent crime in the ten years after adoption.”

It is important to note that their paper uses a new form of statistical analysis that creates a “synthetic control,” an algorithm that combines crime patterns from several non-right-to-carry states – or during the time before states adopted RTC – to create an artificial or synthetic state.  The analysis then compared current crime data to crime data for the synthetic state without a right-to-carry law.

The take-home message from this recent analysis clearly shows that allowing residents to carry concealed weapons leads to an increase in the rate of violent crime.

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