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3.8.b - "The Lott/Mustard study is just gun industry propaganda! How can anybody believe that concealed carry reduces violent crime?"


This article is from the talk.politics.guns Official Pro-Gun FAQ, by Ken Barnes (kebarnes@cc.memphis.edu) with numerous contributions by others.

3.8.b - "The Lott/Mustard study is just gun industry propaganda! How can anybody believe that concealed carry reduces violent crime?"

See Lott, John R., and Mustard, David B., "Crime, Deterrence,
and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," J. of Legal Studies,
vol.26, n.1, pp.1-68 (Jan. 1997)

In summary: In the most comprehensive study yet conducted on the
effects of the recent concealed carry reform laws in the U.S., two
economists at the University of Chicago examined county level and
statewide data for the entire United States from 1977 to 1992,
obtained from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report (UCR) program. Their
conclusions that concealed carry reform laws have had a measurable
effect in reducing violent crime rates, have prompted a barrage of
criticism in the press by anti-gun activists, but the response of
their academic colleagues has been much more cautious.
Lott and Mustard found that county-level violent crime rates
declined by 4.90% in states where concealed-carry laws went into
effect, and that for specific categories of violent crime, the
benefits associated with concealed-carry laws were even greater.
County-level murder rates declined 7.65% in concealed-carry states,
rapes declined 5.27%, and aggravated assaults declined by 7.01%.
Based upon the numbers of violent crimes reported in 1992 in
counties without concealed-carry reform laws, Lott and Mustard
conclude that "at least 1,414 murders and over 4,177 rapes would
have been avoided" in 1992 if states which lacked these laws
instead had them in effect. The rate of robbery, while it was
observed to decline in those counties where statewide concealed-
carry laws went into effect, did not register such a dramatic
change, dropping only 2.21%. Considering this decline in absolute
terms, as above, concealed-carry reform would have meant 11,898
fewer robberies in 1992. Aggravated assaults in 1992 would have
declined by 60,363 incidents, according to the same analysis.
Property crimes, however, increased 2.69% in counties where
statewide concealed-carry went into effect, with the largest jump
occurring in auto theft, which increased 7.14%. Lott and Mustard
argue that this finding supports "the notion that criminals respond
to incentives" and "criminals respond substantially to the threat
of being shot by instead substituting into less risky crimes" where
contact with a potentially armed victim is less likely. Even with
this increase in property crime, Lott and Mustard estimate a net
economic gain from allowing concealed handguns of over $5.74 billion
in 1992 dollars, using methods similar to those of a 1996 National
Institute of Justice study which attempted to estimate economic
losses due to crime.
The changes in crime rates associated with concealed-carry reform
laws were not evenly distributed geographically or demographically,
according to the authors. Counties with larger populations showed
larger effects, both greater declines in violent crime, and greater
increases in property crime. When county-level data are aggregated,
such as when considering state-level crime rates, low-crime rural
counties and high-crime urban areas are lumped together, tending to
average out their differences. Indeed, state-level analysis of the
data set used by Lott and Mustard reflects_decreases_in property
crime associated with concealed-carry laws across the country instead
of increases! In the state-level analysis, violent crime rates
declined 10.11% (rather than 4.9% as seen the county-level analysis),
murder rates declined 8.62%, rape rates declined 6.07%, aggravated
assault declined 10.9%, and robbery declined 14.21%. Property crime
rates, which are observed to increase in the county-level analysis
show a decline of 4.19% when analysis is done with state-level data
aggregation. Auto theft, rather than showing an increase, declines
very slightly in the state-level analysis, down 0.88%.
Counties with larger populations are more likely to have had
restrictive carry laws than low population counties, and so it is
in these counties where the presumed benefits of liberalizing
concealed-carry will be seen most strongly. "The implication for
existing studies is that simply using state level data rather than
county data will bias the results against finding any impact from
passing right-to-carry provisions," the authors note. In order to
better understand the changes brought by the concealed-carry reform
laws, differences between the counties in arrest and conviction rates
for various crimes, sentence lengths, and rates of issuance of carry
permits before and after the laws also need to be controlled for,
though such complete data were only available for a small subset of
counties in the Lott/Mustard study. Data for counties in Arizona,
Oregon and Pennsylvania showed that counties with higher arrest rates
had lower crime rates, and the Pennsylvania data show a strong
correlation between issuance of concealed handgun permits and
decreased violent crime. The Oregon data did show decreases in
violent crime correlated with concealed carry permits, but the
effects were not nearly so dramatic. The Arizona law had changed
too recently for any such correlation to be noticed. The authors
suggest that the differences observed between Oregon and Pennsylvania
may be attributable to Oregon having passed a 15-day "waiting period"
law at the same time.
Despite the fact that comparatively few women have acquired carry
permits, the county-level data for states issuing CCW permits show
correlations with reductions in rape rates which are comparable to
the reductions observed in other categories of violent crime. This
suggests, Lott and Mustard argue, "that rapists are particularly
susceptible to this form of deterrence," and that "providing a woman
with a gun has a much bigger effect on her ability to defend herself"
than does providing a gun to a man. The benefits to other women
("positive externalities," in the terms used by economists), from a
woman carrying a handgun are apparently "large relative to the gain
produced by an additional man carrying a concealed handgun."
Lott and Mustard also considered the question of whether increased
concealed carry might result in a greater number of gun accidents.
Adopting concealed carry was not found to have a statistically
significant effect on gun accidents.
At the time of the release of the Lott/Mustard study, a smear
originating with Josh Sugarmann's Washington-based anti-gun group,
the Violence Policy Center, was picked up uncritically by several
news organizations, including the Associated Press. In a press
release/editorial letter signed by VPC's Kristen Rand, the claim
was made that Dr. Lott's research had been "in essence, funded by
the firearms industry." The tortured logic used to reach this
conclusion was this: since Dr. Lott is the John M. Olin Visiting
Law and Economics Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School,
and because the endowment for that position was provided by the
John M. Olin Foundation, established by the estate of the late
John M. Olin (who died in 1982), and who while he was alive was
part of the family that owns Olin Corporation, one of whose
subsidiary businesses makes Winchester ammunition, therefore...
"argumentum ad hominem." While Dr. Lott is the current occupant
of that faculty position, he was not at the University of Chicago
when it was created, nor is he the first professor to be the Olin
fellow, nor does the Olin Foundation have any control over who
gets appointed to the position (which is decided by a faculty
committee), nor does the Olin Foundation (or anybody else) have
input into the research topics chosen. Neither is such a fellowship
unique to the University of Chicago, since the Olin Foundation
has endowed chairs at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, the
University of Virginia, and others. Dr. Lott's salary is paid by
the University of Chicago Law School. After further investigation,
the Associated Press printed a retraction of the smear, and other
news organizations soon followed suit (so to speak).
The data set used in the study, which Lott and Mustard have
freely released, is currently being analyzed by other researchers,
and academic criticism will hopefully soon take the place of
political mudslinging.


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