• Violence, Gun Carrying, Gun Control, Deterrence, Self-Defense

Research Summary:

“Right-to-Carry” (RTC) concealed-handgun laws mandate that authorities issue concealed handgun permits to qualified applicants. The supposition by those supporting the laws is that allowing private citizens to carry concealed handguns in public can reduce violent crime by deterring prospective criminals afraid of encountering armed civilians. Critics of the laws argue that violent altercations are more likely to turn deadly when more people carry guns. Whether the laws cause violent crime to increase or to decrease has become an important public policy question, as most states have now adopted such legislation. The present study evaluates Florida's 1987 RTC law, which prior research suggests plays a key role in the RTC debate. Specifically, we use panel data for 58 Florida counties from 1980 to 2000 to examine the effects on violent crime from increases in the number of people with concealed-carry permits, rather than before-after dummy and time-trend variables used in prior research. We also address many of the methodological problems encountered in earlier RTC studies. We present numerous model specifications, and we find little evidence that increases in the number of citizens with concealed-handgun permits reduce or increase rates of violent crime.

Policy Implications:

The main policy implication of this research is that there appears to be little gained in the way of crime prevention by converting restrictive gun carrying laws to “shall-issue” laws, although the laws might still prove beneficial by (1) eliminating arbitrary decisions on gun permit applications, (2) encouraging gun safety, (3) making permit holders feel safer when out in public, (4) providing permit holders with a more effective means of self-defense, and (5) reducing the costs to police departments of enforcing laws prohibiting unlicensed gun carrying.