Study Disputes ‘More Guns, Less Crime’ Theory

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Since the 1970’s, the National Rifle Association and other firearm advocates have successfully fought to make armed self defense increasingly acceptable in everyday life. The NRA and its allies have preached the theory that people enhance public safety by carrying guns to defend themselves. It was popularized in economist John Lott’s 1998 book “More Guns, Less Crime.” A new analysis of nearly 40 years of crime data contends that the theory is wrong. In a working paper published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School concluded that states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry, The Trace reports.

While other studies have challenged Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula. “For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said the paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.” The researchers looked at crime data from 1977 to 2014, both nationally and in 33 states that implemented “Shall Issue” concealed-carry laws during that period. Because lowering the bar for concealed-carry licenses gradually leads more people to get those licenses and because more guns in public is supposed to reduce crimes, then we should expect states to see less crime as “Shall Issue” laws kick in. The Stanford team found the opposite: “Ten years after the adoption of [right-to-carry] laws,” they write, “violent crime is estimated to be 13-15 percent higher than it would have been without the … law.”

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