Will National Concealed-Carry Reciprocity Increase Gun Violence?

What would be the result if the national concealed-carry bill being considered by the Senate actually passed and was signed into law? According to the pro-gun gang, this law will allow every American to use a gun for self-defense no matter where he or she goes. The gun-control gang, on the other hand (I’m trying to be as even-handed as possible but don’t expect me to keep it up) says that such a law will unleash a wave of untrained people carrying guns from states that require little or no pre-licensing training to states which require some kind of safety certification before someone can walk around with a gun. Let’s start with the pro-gun argument first.

CCW1             By now everyone is aware of the ‘fact’ that people with guns prevent millions of crimes from being committed each year. This argument first burst out of the brain of Gary Kleck in the early 90’s, and continues to pop up on various sites here and there. Although Kleck doesn’t necessarily go along any more with his own nonsense, the idea that more guns equal less crime is a gun-nut refrain which floats around about as frequently as the idea that Trump and the Russians had nothing to do with each other during the 2016 Presidential campaign. Last month, according to John Lott, armed citizens prevented a whole, big 22 criminal attacks from taking place, which is a whole, big nothing.

Unfortunately, the reverse argument used to support the idea that concealed-carry laws (CCW) will lead to more crime, isn’t a study of CCW at all.  It’s a critique of how Lott analyzed data in his book, More Guns, Less Crime, which isn’t a study of the impact of CCW, no matter what his critics say. The fact that a particular jurisdiction makes it easier to receive a CCW license, or abolishes the CCW licensing process altogether, doesn’t mean that more people are necessarily walking around with guns. And it certainly doesn’t mean they are walking around in neighborhoods where most crime actually occurs.

My friend John Lott has taken it upon himself to track the increase in CCW licenses issued over the last few years, but even he admits that “the main focus from a crime prevention point of view should be whether people actually do carry guns.” Unfortunatrly, neither he nor anyone else can provide data which confirms that more CCW means more people are actually walking around armed. The Pew gun survey found that 40% of gun owners kept a gun within ‘easy reach,’ but only 10% carried one around all the time.

What seems to provoke the greatest degree of concern among advocates opposed to national CCW reciprocity is that someone living in a state which requires little or no training will be able to take a weapon into another state where training is mandated, thus creating a safety risk that would not exist if issuing authorities continued to set the requirements for CCW within their own state.  Last year some of our public health research friends published a survey of gun training, noting that only 60% of gun owners underwent training of any kind, findings that were turned around and immediately ballyhooed by the GVP media, proclaiming that 4 out of 10 self-defense handgun owners received no training at all.

What nobody in either the research team or the GVP media bothered to point out is that the so-called training received by a majority of CCW-holders is about as effective in preparing them to actually use a gun in self-defense as a driving course prepares someone to pilot a rocket module to the moon. The good news is that less than 1% of victims of violent crime actually use a gun in self-defense; the point being that the entire argument over national CCW has little to do with either gun violence or violent crime. A debate about guns not based on reality? No, I don’t believe it.  Can’t be true.

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4 thoughts on “Will National Concealed-Carry Reciprocity Increase Gun Violence?

  1. That’s kind of where I come down on this. I had an e-discussion with Daniel Webster about this yesterday in the context of the John Donohue study out of Stanford (which I have not fully read and which, I think, is in peer-review). I think both sides are massively overplaying their hands. This discussion rapidly spins into one of religion, i.e., pro or anti gun religious belief.

    The pro-concealed carry faction’s comparison to driver’s licenses is partly faulty. Driving exams are hardly stressful and do not test a person’s ability to deal with an abnormal situation such as someone running a red light, driving towards you in the oncoming lane, a kid running into traffic, or having a blowout at 65 mph. They are rather sterile “turn left here, turn right there, parallel park the car” and the written test is hardly Einstein material. I did impress my examiner by successfully evading a motorist who pulled out in front of me as I took my road test, but I had taken a semester of Driver Ed in high school before that eventful day. States do recognize each other’s operator licenses in part because they are standardized and partly for other reasons such as interstate commerce, an implicit freedom to travel, and standardized MUTCD law.

    By contrast to the mundane kind of driving the various DMV’s test and my own CHL test, which was to draw safely from concealment and hit the target ~80% of the time out of 25 rds at short range while under no threat of immanent bodily harm from a dangerous adversary (I scored 100% with two guns, FWIW), there is presumably nothing calm about an actual DGU. One would best suggest that concealed carry reciprocity have higher standards because one will not be displaying a firearm the way one makes a right turn into Starbucks, but in a tense, life vs. death situation. Perhaps something like a 50 state acceptance of an IDPA certificate might work.

    I have a hard time taking Donohoe’s study without a grain of salt along with it. Predicting on such a broad scale according to “synthetic” assumptions of what might have happened comes with major caveats and further, doesn’t tell us why these states *might* have higher gun violence rates than they would otherwise. Its simply a statistical study. There are good hypotheses to test such as since gun violence is a low frequency event (parts per ten thousand) that small changes in policy or practice will make a difference, i.e., more guns being carried in a permissive state could mean more theft and more occasional arguments escalating into gunfire and perhaps intrinsically higher suicide rates being facilitated. Perhaps these states have more violent subcultures anyway; certainly that is true in New Mexico. But until one takes a granular look at WHY these rates are purportedly higher, we are guessing.

    Still, I don’t agree with the House bill for a couple reasons. One, it is an absurd stretch of Federal encroachment vs. a proper balance of Federalism. There is no legal basis for a single, Federal concealed carry standard based on precedent; the 2A says nothing about concealed carry. Two, I don’t agree with public carry (as opposed to what Heller gave us, which is the right to have a serviceable gun available in our homes) without some level of vetting and training. I don’t want to watch as someone shoots their (or my) ass off because they have no idea how to handle a gun.

  2. Noah Feldman wrote an excellent piece on this over at Bloomberg.
    As usual, this all has nothing to do with GVP or crime prevention.
    As to the result of the law if it passes… The same as with every other change in gun laws. You will need a synthetic study to find any.

    • The bill is DOA in the Senate.

      Nothing wrong with the concept of states rights in context. Constitution delegates many powers to the states, i.e., 10th Amendment. Some powers include licensing many professions, setting criminal laws and their violations, blue laws, etc.Where “state’s rights” has gotten a bad name is where states deny people fundamental Constitutional rights, hence 13th, 14th Amendment, etc. No court has stated that concealed carry is an enumerated right.

      A while ago Mike pointed to a set of papers on the long term history of self defense law and custom, going back to Norman England. Its an excellent set of papers. Here is the link to the full set as Mike linked to only the Darrell Miller paper.

      https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol80/iss2/

      But I think this whole reciprocity issue is beating a dead horse. At least until some paradigm shifts.

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