A shocking piece at the Washington Post's Wonkblog notes that research suggests that a whole bunch of random people carrying guns around doesn't, in fact, make us safer.
But, but, but … all the responsible gun owners keep saying that the concealed carry movement definitely makes us all much, much safer. Here’s why:
The theory has largely been fueled by a deeply contested 1997 paper by economists John Lott and David Mustard, who concluded that “concealed handguns are the most cost-effective method of reducing crime thus far analyzed by economists.” If states without concealed-carry laws had them back in 1992, Lott and Mustard calculated, they could have avoided that year hundreds of murders, thousands of rapes and tens of thousands of assaults.
"John Lott’s research was in my opinion very instrumental over decades in having more states pass laws to make it easier to get permits to carry concealed loaded guns, and to lessen the barriers for those permit holders to take guns in ever more places, whether it’s bars, or places of worship, or schools," says Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “It’s all based upon Lott’s scholarship that has been completely discredited.”
Hmmm. That last sentence there seems like bad news, given that every single state now has a right-to-carry law on the books.
So what does the new research tell us? Oh, this:
A more recent paper (“the best study on the topic” by Webster’s account), written by Stanford’s Abhay Aneja and John J. Donohue and Hopkins’ Alexandria Zhang, goes one step further. It methodically picks apart the existing literature — including Lott’s — and reaches a dramatically different conclusion:
Overall, the most consistent, albeit not uniform, finding to emerge from both the state and the county panel data models conducted over the entire 1977–2006 period with and without state trends and using three different models is that aggravated assault rises when [right-to-carry] laws are adopted.
In other words, let more people carry concealed guns, and assaults go up (Aneja et al. found no consistent impact on other kinds of crime).
I’m really looking forward to hearing what all the pro gun guys have to say about this latest study and the debunking of the shoddy research on which all their hopes and dreams rest. If I had to take one guess, they’ll completely ignore it.