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Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns and Violent Crime: Crime Control Through Gun Decontrol?

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 2 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 363-396
Tomislav V. Kovandzic; Thomas B. Marvell
Todd R. Clear
Date Published
July 2003
34 pages
This paper examines the impact of Florida’s 1987 Right-To-Carry (RTC) law for 58 counties from 1980 to 2000 and the impact of gun permit rate growth on crime rates for the same counties.
In the past two decades, many states have enacted a radically new policy to address violence problems by making it easier for citizens to carry concealed handguns in public, commonly referred to as “shall-issue” or “right-to-carry” (RTC) concealed firearms laws. Those requesting a permit to carry a concealed weapon must satisfy certain objective criteria. By the end of 2001 more than half the States had adopted RTC laws. One of the first States to institute a RTC law was Florida in 1987. This study evaluated Florida’s RTC law which is said to play a key role in the RTC debate. Panel data for 58 Florida counties from 1980 to 2000 were used to examine the effects on violent crime from increases in the number of people with concealed-carry permits. Study results found no credible statistical evidence that permit rate growth leads to substantial reductions in violent crime, most notably homicide. This is likely due to one of three reasons: (1) few people wanted to obtain concealed-handgun permits; (2) the law might have had little impact on rates of gun carrying among perspective victims; and (3) non-criminal gun carrying actually did increase, but the crime-increasing effects of a few violent people getting permits balanced out the crime-decreasing effects of many nonviolent people getting permits. Policy implications are discussed and are dependent somewhat on how much weight one attaches to robbery and auto theft results. The present study offers little support for the view that RTC laws have any net negative effect on the rate of any major category of violence. References