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Right-to-Carry Concealed Weapon Laws and Homicide in Large U.S. Counties: The Effect on Weapon Types, Victim Characteristics, and Victim-Offender Relationships

NCJ Number
Journal of Law and Economics Volume: 44 Dated: October 2001 Pages: 747-770
David E. Olson; Michael D. Maltz
Date Published
October 2001
24 pages
This article revisits recent findings on the effect of right-to-carry concealed weapons laws on the crime rates in the jurisdictions that enacted such legislation.
Gun-related violence has been a major crime issue in recent years. Since 1988, more than 50 percent of homicides nationwide involved a firearm. Some argue that the availability of firearms in our Nation has led to widespread violence, while others assert that allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns will reduce murder rates and other crimes of violence through a deterrence effect. The purpose of the current study was to more closely examine findings from a 1997 study by John Lott and David Mustard on the effects of allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. The original study was conducted as a “natural experiment” in States that had enacted laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. Their results indicated that violent crime was reduced, with a substitution toward property crimes, in jurisdictions that adopted the concealed weapon law. However, their findings corresponded with a time period in which the homicide rate was greatly reduced in many cities and States that did not change their concealed weapon legislation. As such, Lott and Mustard’s findings were questioned as possibly being spurious, caused by problems with data collection or methods. The current study changed one aspect of Lott and Mustard’s homicide analysis: disaggregating homicide data by weapon type, victim characteristics, and victim-offender relationship. This type of analysis produced dramatically different results than those found by Lott and Mustard. Specifically, while the results confirmed Lott and Mustard’s findings that firearm homicides decreased in jurisdictions allowing concealed weapons, the current findings indicate an increase in nonfirearm homicides in these jurisdictions. The differences in findings are most likely due to different sources of data. The current findings underscore the importance of disaggregating data at the jurisdictional level. Tables, bibliography