Widgets Magazine

Higher crime rates found in states with right-to-carry laws

In a recent paper, Stanford law professor John Donohue found that states that adopted right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws were reported to have a 13 to 15 percent higher crime rate over a period of 10 years than states that opted to not adopt those laws.

Donohue worked with Stanford research fellows Abhay Aneja and Kyle D. Weber on the paper, which is titled “Right-to-Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State-Level Synthetic Controls Analysis.” The paper is based on his study of a 2004 report of the National Research Council on Firearms and Violence. This report originally proved that violent crime was higher after the passage of RTC laws; however, the experts on the panel were ultimately unable to conclude that the sole act of carrying weapons had an impact on violent crime.

With this problem in mind, Donohue employed a new statistical method called “synthetic control” which compares RTC adopting states to non-adopting states. This algorithm combines crime patterns from non-adopting states to create models of states–“synthetic states”–which can then be used to predict the crime rates of that state. After performing this process on the 33 RTC states, which include Texas, Utah and Washington, Donohue discovered that on average, RTC states had almost a 15 percent difference in violent crime rates than synthetic states.

“There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce overall violent crime,” Donohue stated in the paper.

Donohue then applied the synthetic control approach to four other statistical models: the DAW model, the Brennan Center model, the Lott and Mustard (LM) model and the Moody and Marvell (MM) model. According to the paper, in all four cases, RTC laws were shown to increase overall violent crime when allowed to run with the most complete sets of data.

However, with the increase of violent crimes comes the concern of incarceration rates. Donohue noticed an upward trend amongst RTC states and incarceration rates–not only were incarceration rates higher, but the hiring of law enforcement personnel was also greater. Donohue found that “the average RTC state would have to double its prison population to counteract the RTC-induced increase in violent crime.”

“RTC states were not simply experiencing higher crime because they decided to lock up fewer criminals and hire fewer police,” he said to Stanford News. “Our synthetic controls estimates may be understating the increase in violent crime.”

Donohue’s paper will likely be included in the debate over RTC laws for California after the National Rifle Association sued the state over gun control laws. The paper may give people a different perspective with which to look at the debate.

“One needs to consider both the costs and benefits of any treatment or policy,” Donohue said. “If the net effect of more gun carrying is that violent crime is elevated, then RTC laws seem much less appealing.”


Contact Emily Sun at sunemily.y ‘at’ gmail.com.