The Impact of Right-to-Carry (RTC) Laws on Crime Rates: Comments on Aneja et al. (2014)
19 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2015 Last revised: 22 May 2020
Date Written: October 7, 2015
Aneja, Donohue, and Zhang (2014) recently released a report addressing efforts to estimate the impact of right-to-carry (RTC) laws on crime rates. These laws make it easier to acquire permits that allow their possessors to legally carry concealed weapons in public places. They address studies by Lott and Mustard that indicated there were crime-reducing effects, supposedly due to the deterrent effects of potential crime victims possessing guns, as well as reanalyses of Lott and Mustard’s data by a panel of the National Research Council (NRC).
While Aneja et al. generally agree with the NRC panel that the data do not permit firm conclusions about the impact of RTC laws, and even make their own contributions to the demonstration of the sensitivity of key estimates to a variety of methodological variations, the authors cannot resist repeatedly suggesting that the passage of RTC laws increases aggravated assaults and possibly other violent crime rates as well. The authors seem to want to eat their cake and have it too – that is, to accurately note how questionable estimates of RTC laws’ effects on crime are, yet still tell readers that the laws were a bad idea because they increased violent crime. This note primarily focuses on this aspect of the Aneja et al. report.
This paper serves as an object lesson of what can happen when scholars narrowly focus solely on statistical issues without regard to either theory or prior research, as if statistical estimates could interpret themselves. The authors were solely concerned with refuting the conclusions of Lott and Mustard by noting flaws in their data and statistical analyses, and doing the same to a lesser extent with regard to the NRC report, so they did their own reanalyses of data without reference to a large body of prior research that directly contradicted their premises.
Keywords: Gun control laws; Violence
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation