Smoking Gun? Linking Gun Ownership to Crime Victimization and Neighborhood Crime

59 Pages Posted: 19 May 2020

Date Written: April 29, 2020


The link between gun ownership and crime is the focus of a number of important papers, but only recently has this literature started to converge that guns have at best no effect and more likely increase homicides. For scientific evidence to influence policymakers, this literature needs to provide a fuller picture of the dynamics of gun ownership and crime victimization beyond homicides. My project incorporates individual data on concealed handgun permit (CHP) owners and detailed offender and victim data to explore the determinants of gun ownership as well as the impact of guns on individual victimization and neighborhood crime. In order to estimate causal impacts of new gun owners on neighborhood crime, I use a shift share instrument that leverages national shocks to demand for guns from the inauguration of Obama and shooting of US Representative Gabriel Gifford and existing variation in a neighborhood's share of likely future gun-owners (republicans). Results consistently support a 2.5% increase in neighborhood crime for each additional CHP issued with effects driven by two main mechanisms: guns stolen in the commission of a property crime and thus moving a legal gun into the illegal gun market as well as escalation in violent crimes with a larger share of victims being seriously injured. Furthermore, results show that being a republican, white, middle age and a violent crime victim has a substantial impact on new gun ownership and that nearby crime pushes future gun owners to move away from the neighborhood. I estimate that each additional CHP generates a social cost of crime of $43 per person.

Keywords: Guns; Neighborhood Crime; Concealed Handgun Permits

JEL Classification: K42; R23

Suggested Citation

Billings, Stephen B., Smoking Gun? Linking Gun Ownership to Crime Victimization and Neighborhood Crime (April 29, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Stephen B. Billings (Contact Author)

University of Colorado - Boulder ( email )

Leeds School of Business
Koelbel Building
Boulder, CO US 80309
United States

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