The Final Bullet in the Body of the More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis

10 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2003

See all articles by John J. Donohue

John J. Donohue

Stanford Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2003


In 1997, John Lott and David Mustard launched what has come to be one of the most remarkable tales in the history of public policy evaluation when they announced that laws permitting citizens to carry concealed handguns - so-called right-to-carry (RTC) laws - caused crime to fall. Hailed as heroes by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its supporters, while derided as scoundrels by their staunchest critics, Lott and Mustard precipitated a scholarly and political odyssey that can teach us much about the techniques and limitations of sophisticated empirical research and the divergent norms of the scholarly and political realms. The bottom line is that recent work by Kovandzic and Marvell confirms the growing consensus that the best evidence does not support the thesis that adoption of RTC laws reduces crime. Nonetheless, this now discredited thesis continues to influence public policy as John Lott continues to try to persuade state legislators that RTC laws will lower violent crime despite the great weight of the evidence to the contrary.

Keywords: Right-to-Carry (RTC) laws, crime rate, gun laws

Suggested Citation

Donohue, John J., The Final Bullet in the Body of the More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis (July 2003). Available at SSRN: or

John J. Donohue (Contact Author)

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