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Right-to-carry law

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In the United States, a right-to-carry law (sometimes abbreviated RTC law, also known as a shall-issue law) is one that requires that governments issue concealed carry handgun permits to any applicant who meets the necessary criteria. Specifically, under such a law, a permit must be given to any applicant if they are an adult, have no significant criminal record, no history of mental illness, and successfully complete a course in firearms safety training (if required by law).[1]


Among peer-reviewed publications, the debate has been between the two-thirds of the studies that find right-to-carry laws reduce crime and one-third that claim there is no statistically significant effect.

In 1997, John Lott and David Mustard published an influential study analyzing data from all 3,054 United States counties in The Journal of Legal Studies. The study concluded that right-to-carry laws deterred violent crime, "without increasing accidental deaths". In the study, Lott and Mustard also stated that right-to-carry concealed handgun laws were "the most cost-effective method of reducing crime thus far analyzed by economists."[2]

More than two dozen peer-reviewed other studies published over the two decades after the original Lott and Mustard research found that right-to-carry laws reduced violent crime rates.[3] For example, one study by Florenz Plassmann and Nicolas Tideman in the Journal of Law and Economics found that right-to-carry laws "appear to have statistically significant deterrent effects on the numbers of reported murders, rapes, and robberies."[4] A paper in the American Economic Review by John Lott and Stephen Bronars found: "these results imply that concealed handguns deter criminals and that the largest reductions in violent crime will be obtained when all the states adopt these laws."[5] A 2014 paper, in the Review of Economics and Finance found: "The evidence shows that RTC laws are socially beneficial."[6]

There have been other critical studies which re-analyzed Lott and Mustard's data. In 1998, a study by Dan Black and Dan Nagin removed all counties with fewer than 100,000 people as well as Florida, and when they did that they concluded that there was "no basis for drawing confident conclusions about the impact of right-to-carry laws on violent crime."[7] Though in another article in the same journal, Lott pointed out that when the Black and Nagin had thrown out the data for over 87 percent of the counties in the United States and even then their results still showed overall violent crime rates declined and that they had fallen in two violent crime categories.[8] Also in 1998, a study in the American Economic Review found that the effects of concealed handgun laws on crime rates were much smaller than estimated by Lott and Mustard, and that these effects were not negative with respect to all types of crime. For example, the study found that such laws reduced murder only by, at most, a small amount, and that many states' robbery rates increased after these laws were passed.[9][10]

In 2004, a report by the National Research Council concluded that there was insufficient evidence to conclude whether there was a cause-and-effect relationship between RTC laws and crime rates.[1] The NRC report studied over 100 different types of gun control regulations and concluded that none of these laws had a statistically significant effect on crime or suicide and only called for more research. Out of all the regulations studied, only right-to-carry laws drew a dissent, with pre-eminent criminologist James Q. Wilson pointing out that all of the NRC's own regression estimates showing that right-to-carry laws reduced murder rates. Up to that point in time, Wilson had been known as a strong gun control advocated, but Wilson’s dissent was not only rare, he was also forceful: “In view of the confirmation of the findings that shall-issue laws drive down the murder rate, it is hard for me to understand why these claims are called ‘fragile.’”[11] The NRC committee that authored the report responded to Wilson's dissent, though not responding directly to his focus regarding murder, stating, "While it is true that most of the reported estimates are negative, several are positive and many are statistically insignificant...The rest of the committee and Wilson agree that fragility does not prove that the results of any specific paper are incorrect. However, some of the published results must be incorrect because they are inconsistent with one another. The important question, therefore, is whether the correct results can be identified. The rest of the committee thinks that they cannot. Contrary to Wilson’s claim, the committee did assess the existing body of empirical literature on right-to-carry laws."[12]

A further unpublished study by Stanford University Law Professor John Donohue, released in June 2017, found that right-to-carry laws are actually associated with higher aggregate crime rates.[13] Donohue looked at data from 2000 to 2014, a fourteen-year period during which 11 states introduced right-to-carry laws, and found that violent crime levels were actually 13-15% higher than they would have been without the right-to-carry law. The claims have been criticized,[14] and Donohue responded to those critiques with further responses to them.[15]

An October 2017 Boston University study found that states with shall-issue laws had higher rates of overall, handgun, and firearm homicides.[16] According to Carl Moody at the College of William & Mary and John Lott, the authors did not account for serial correlation in their regressions and when that was accounted for their results disappeared.[17]

In contrast to Lott's 1998, 2000, and 2010 editions of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press) that looked at how changes in concealed handgun permits across the across the entire country for all 3,140 counties and 50 states and DC changed crime rates,[18] a study by researchers at Texas A&M selectively looked at 500 counties in four shall-issue states, Texas, Michigan, Florida, and Pennsylvania found no significant increases or decreases in violent crime in changes to concealed-carry permit rates amongst the counties.[19][20] No explanation is offered for why the authors used the permit data from only those four states. In addition, unlike Lott, the authors at Texas A&M have been unwilling to allow anyone to look at their data.[21]


  1. ^ a b National Research Council Committee on Law and Justice (2004). Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. National Academy of Sciences. pp. 120–151. 
  2. ^ Lott, Jr., John R.; Mustard, David B. (January 1997). "Crime, Deterrence, and Right‐to‐Carry Concealed Handguns". The Journal of Legal Studies. 26 (1): 1–68. doi:10.1086/467988. 
  3. ^ Right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime?/
  4. ^ Plassmann, Florenz; Tideman, T. Nicolaus (October 2001). "Does the Right to Carry Concealed Handguns Deter Countable Crimes? Only a Count Analysis Can Say". The Journal of Law & Economics. 44 (S2): 771. doi:10.1086/323311. 
  5. ^ Lott, John; Bronars, Stephen (May 1998). "Criminal Deterrence, Geographic Spillovers, and the Right to Carry Concealed Handguns". American Economic Review. 88 (2): 475–479. 
  6. ^ Moody, Carlisle; Marvell, Thomas; Zimmerman, Paul; Alemante, Fasil (2014). "The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws on Crime: An Exercise in Replication". Review of Economics & Finance. 
  7. ^ Black, Dan A.; Nagin, Daniel S. (January 1998). "Do Right-to-Carry Laws Deter Violent Crime?". The Journal of Legal Studies. 27 (1): 209. doi:10.1086/468019. 
  8. ^ Lott, John (January 1998). "The Concealed Handgun Debate". The Journal of Legal Studies. 27 (1): 221–243. doi:10.1086/468019. 
  9. ^ Dezhbakhsh, Hashem (May 1998). "Lives Saved or Lives Lost? The Effects of Concealed Handgun Laws on Crime". The American Economic Review. 88 (2): 468–474. JSTOR 116969. 
  10. ^ Rubin, Paul H; Dezhbakhsh, Hashem (June 2003). "The effect of concealed handgun laws on crime: beyond the dummy variables". International Review of Law and Economics. 23 (2): 199–216. doi:10.1016/S0144-8188(03)00027-9. 
  11. ^ Wilson, James Q. (2005). "FIREARMS AND VIOLENCE: A CRITICAL REVIEW, Appendix A: Dissent". 
  12. ^ "Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review, Appendix B: Committee Response to Wilson's Dissent". National Research Council. 2005. 
  13. ^ Donohue, John (2017-06-23). "Right-to-Carry Laws Make Violent Crime Rates Worse, Law Professor Finds". Retrieved 2017-06-26. 
  14. ^ The flawed and misleading Donohue, Aneja, & Weber Study claiming right-to-carry laws increase violent crime|last=Crime Prevention Research Center|date=2017-07-09/
  15. ^ Responding to John Donohue’s responses to our evaluation of his new study|last=Crime Prevention Research Center|date=2017-07-12/
  16. ^ Siegel, Michael; Xuan, Ziming; Ross, Craig S.; Galea, Sandro; Kalesan, Bindu; Fleegler, Eric; Goss, Kristin A. (2017-10-19). "Easiness of Legal Access to Concealed Firearm Permits and Homicide Rates in the United States". American Journal of Public Health: e1–e7. doi:10.2105/ajph.2017.304057. ISSN 0090-0036. 
  17. ^ Problems with Siegel et al, American Journal of Public Health, “Easiness of Legal Access to Concealed Firearm Permits and Homicide Rates in the United States”|last=Crime Prevention Research Center|date=2017-03-08/
  18. ^ Lott, John (2010). "More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press) 3rd edition". 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Problems with a new study from Journal of Criminology claiming that permitted concealed handguns have no effect on violent crime|date=2017-03-08/