We love Gun Facts readers. They ask some interesting questions.
The Mega Warning
Do not consider this to be rigorous analysis. There are a multitude of confounding variables, and the Gun Facts project does not have the funding to tackle an exhaustive review. But we can present a quick acid test.
The biggest variable is the type of concealed carry policy (“CCW” herein for brevity’s sake). There are currently three primary types:
- May-Issue: This is where local legislation allows local authorities to issue or not issue CCWs. California is the poster child for this, with a small number of county sheriffs having a “shall issue” policy, but most places issuing permits only to the well connected.
- Shall-Issue: This is where the government will issue any adult a CCW if they lack a criminal background. That being said, some states have few requirements and others require training, additional background checks, live-fire qualifications, permission from your first-grade teacher, the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time…
- Permitless: No permit required as long as you are not a prohibited person. Some in the pro-gun community call this “constitutional carry,” which may be an accurate description, but the Gun Facts project has to remain agnostic and thus use a neutral term.
The first two items would cause a serious headache for a full analysis. Not only would we have to weigh the rigors of the shall-issue states, but we would also need to evaluate the may-issue states for rates of actual issuance. For now, we’ll cringe and treat them as homogenous categories.
Violent Crime Rates
Recently someone emailed us and asked, “What are the crime stats in states with different types of concealed carry laws?” And, we were quite surprised to discover we had not done a recent cross-sectional review.
For homicides (guns or not-guns), we see statistically significant declines in homicide rates when CCWs are either given on demand or not required. Indeed, the homicide rate for Shall-Issue states is 13% lower than for May-Issue states, and 22% lower for states requiring no permits. The BIG gotcha here is that most of the May-Issue states in 2016 – California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York – are also home to cities with major street gang infestations. Hence, the homicide rates for May-Issue states may be skewed a little high.
We see even more impressive declines in robbery rates (the FBI defines robbery as “the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.” The uncertainty principle – well documented in criminology academia – may be the primary factor in Shall-Issue states (44% less frequent) and Permitless states (66% less). Since many robberies are outdoor events (muggings, carjackings, etc.) public carry can be a deterrent.
Rape, however, is primarily an indoor crime and typically between people who know one another. This is why those columns are dimmed on the chart – CCWs come into play in public settings, not private. It is intriguing that rates of rape are higher in more liberalized CCW states.
Finally, being armed in public appears to not materially change the rate in which people will try to beat you up (aggravated assault). It might change the outcomes, but not the rates of incidences.
Property Crime Rates
Property crimes are a bit tricky. Many, perhaps most, property crimes do not happen in public. In 2016, larceny-theft accounted for 71% of all property crimes, burglary 19% percent and motor vehicle theft 9.7%.
Of these three major categories, burglary is an indoor crime, much as rape is. We expected CCWs to not be a factor and were slightly surprised to see the rate of burglary increase 43% in Shall-Issue states and 44% in Permitless states. It has often been theorized in criminology circles that criminals, being opportunistic, adapt to specific types of crime given the local cost/benefit options. The theory states that if the odds of getting shot while performing muggings is high in your state, you might decide to become a breaking-and-entering specialist. Burglary rates appear to conform to this theory.
Motor vehicle theft – “theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle” – includes all forms, from hotwiring to carjacking. Hence, predicting how CCWs might affect the rate of motor vehicle thefts is mainly guesswork without a better breakdown of the numbers. In Shall-issue states, the rate is basically unchanged from May-Issue states. The rate drops 25% for Permitless states, but so many of the Permitless states in 2016 had low population densities, and auto theft tends to be a more urban affliction (about three times more frequent in major metro areas than suburban).
Larceny – “the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another” – is the most frequent property crime, but has no statistical variation between CCW type states. This makes sense given that most larceny is based on stealth, stealing when nobody is looking. Thus, having a gun on you when you bicycle is swiped while you are inside the store makes no difference.
Caveats and Conclusions
Again, this little review is not robust, multivariate, statistically detailed research. But it gives us a rough, ballpark understanding that public carry appears to deter two major categories of violent crime … though not much else.