Constitutional Carry Certainty

Back in 1988, when Florida became the first large state to enact shall-issue concealed carry, there was a great deal of uncertainty about the outcome. But their post-passage lack of bloodshed led to all but a handful of backwards thinking states (talking to you California) to pass similar legislation.

The same thing might be happening with permitless carry (a.k.a. constitutional carry), where the whole concealed carry licensing process is jettisoned.

I got curious about the criminological realities of permitless carry when a Gun Facts fan emailed to ask what we knew about the subject, which was nearly nothing. The reason is that aside from one outlier state, this is a new phenomenon and statistics are limited at best. But curiosity is a demon, and we had to take a peek. After a little number crunching, our extremely preliminary investigation concludes that permitless carry at very least causes no mayhem.

The State of the States

Aside from Vermont, who simply never outlawed the practice of concealed carrying of firearms, only a handful of states (as of this writing) have enacted permitless carry. Eleven states to be precise, though the nature of one state’s law (Arkansas) is in dispute. Of these, only three states – Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming – have had permitless carry long enough for a reasonable before/after evaluation of what the effects might be.

Though this gives us a glimmer of an insight, I’ll wait until we have at least five viable, contemporary models, and at least one from a high population state, before making any solid evaluations. What we can say for certain is that:

Problems Abound

We encounter a small spate of problems with analyzing the three states where permitless carry has been enacted and has been in force long enough to measure violence with any statistical trend accuracy:

  • Two of the states (Alaska, Wyoming) have very low population densities. Lack of human adversarial encounter reduces the odds for violence.
  • One state (Wyoming) has such low violence rates that the CDC refuses to report estimates for fear of statistical instability.
  • One of the states is on the Mexican border and has reported immigration related violence.
  • One state (Alaska) is geographically isolated from the others, and thus makes certain “border analysis” impossible.

But, we do have trending data and can compare the states against the whole of the United States.

NOTE: Two of the states allowed for reviewing crime statistics ±5 years of data, except for Wyoming which only allowed for ±4 years.

We compared the permitless carry states against all other United States. Since all other permitless carry states enacted their laws after the last available year of data from the CDC, it is a reasonably pure comparison, save the Pacific Island Outlier, Hawaii, which has a few peculiar aspects to gun policy.

We only had time to measure firearm homicides as the key variable. It would be interesting to contrast rape, assault and other forms of incivility, but until the Gun Facts project enrolls enough Sustaining Donors (hint, hint, hint) we must keep this analysis brief.

No Statistically Meaningful Covariance

From a pure numbers standpoint, two of the three permitless carry states showed no covariance with national numbers (meaning that their firearm homicide rates did not move in unison with the rest of the country). A secondary test (R Squared) showed the national and state numbers did not model to one another. The two states were the very low population density states, so this is a large part of the explanation.

arizona constitutional carry firearm homicides vs. surrounding statesThe third showed more correlation (0.79) and a significant “coefficient of determination” (R Squared, 0.63). At worst this means Arizona trends moderately with the rest of the country despite of permitless carry.

The charts are a bit more insightful. In Arizona, firearm homicides had been on the decline before permitless carry was enacted, approaching levels with all non-permitless states (permits required or, functionally speaking, no carry allowed) neighboring states, sans California (excluded for a variety of reasons). But the decline continued after passage and the rate of firearm homicides is still lower than any previous year.

arizona constitutional carry firearm homicides vs. united statesOn a national level, the situation presents itself more vividly, with Arizona’s firearm homicide rate dropping and staying below the rest of the country.

Alaska has a somewhat volatile firearm homicide rate, which makes review a bit more tedious. When we add a moving average trendline though, we see that firearm homicide rates after passage of permitless carry were not much different, and at the end of the period were lower than before passage.

We did not chart Wyoming because 70% of the years in question had firearm homicide rates so low the CDC would not report the aggregate rates since doing so would be statistically fragile. The same applies to Vermont.

alaska constitutional carry firearm homicides vs. united statesAt the point, with limited data, we can safely say that passing permitless carry laws does not make firearm homicide rates increase, and may have a small but meaningful downward pressure on them.

Constitutional Carry Conclusion

We may be seeing history repeat itself. When Florida said they were going to facilitate “shall issue” concealed carry permits, the gun control industry cried that the streets would run red with blood. Didn’t happen. With states now realizing that bad actors don’t get concealed carry permits, and that good actors don’t misuse guns, states are experimenting with bypassing bureaucracy and allowing the good actors to carry without paperwork. The gun control industry is crying that the streets will run red with blood … except that so far they aren’t.


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