An article has just appeared which may prove to be one of the most significant contributions by public health research to the ongoing debate about gun violence. Not that there is much of a debate about the fact that guns kill 30,000+ yearly, injure at least 60,000 others, the total costs of which amount to more than $200 billion each year. But the response of the pro-gun gang to this state of affairs is to deny the negative effects of gun violence when compared to the positive role that guns play in keeping us safe from crime. And to bolster this rather disingenuous way of getting as far away from the evidence as possible, the gun gang invariably rolls out Kleck’s phony telephone survey which found that gun owners prevented millions of crimes each year, or they listen to John Lott on some red-meat radio station promoting his discredited thesis that ‘more guns equals less crime.’
Unfortunately, most of the research on whether gun ownership does or doesn’t prevent crime suffers from the admitted failure by public health researchers to construct a research model that can really explain to what degree a coincidence (i.e., concealed-carry licenses going up, crime rates going down) is actually a causality or not. What the research team which published this study did to sharpen the focus of this question was to look at county-level issuances of CCW in 4 states (Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas) and compare this date against county-level arrest data in the same 4 states for, and here’s the important point, ten years following the issuance of CCW, or what is also referred to as CHL.
Before getting to the results of this study, I should mention one very important distinction between the research team that was responsible for this work, as opposed to public health researchers who have been active in this particular field. For the most part, the work that has debunked the ‘more guns = less crime’ argument has come out of either elite, Ivy League institutions like Harvard or Yale, or has been the product of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. And since everybody knows that the anti-gun monster Bloomberg funded the Hopkins School of Public Health, everyone knows that their work is only published when it supports something that is anti-gun. And if you think I’m overstating the degree to which the pro-gun gang dismisses public health gun violence research through the shabbiest form of academic character assassination, take a look at what Gary Kleck recently said about criticisms of his work.
The group that researched and wrote the referenced article aren’t faculty from Hopkins, Stanford, Harvard or Yale. They are from the Department of Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M. Whoa! Texas A&M? A school located in the state where the previous Governor claims he carries a gun for self-protection against prairie dogs when he’s out for his morning jog? But Texas, on the other hand, is not only the state for guns, but next January the Lone Star State will roll back a 140-year old law and let its good citizens carry guns openly just about anywhere they choose.
That all being said, exactly what did this team of Texans discover about the relationship between concealed-carry and crime? They discovered that there’s no relationship at all. Between 1998 and 2010, the personal crime rate in Florida dropped by 9%, it was flat even in Michigan, and went up slightly in Texas and Pennsylvania. The property crime rate declined in Florida and Texas, murders increased slightly in Pennsylvania and the Sunshine State. The burglary rate in all 4 states decreased, even though a major portion of Lott’s book was devoted to ‘proving’ that non-personal crimes would increase after CCWs were issued because criminals were afraid that more citizens would have guns.
I’ll end this comment by quoting the researchers themselves: “Is CHL licensing in any way related to crime rates? The results of this research indicate that no such relationships exist.” As my grandmother would say, “and that’s that.”