For over a decade, there has been a spirited academic debate over the impact on crime of laws that grant citizens the presumptive right to carry concealed handguns in public – so-called right-to-carry (RTC) laws.
In 2004, the National Research Council (NRC) offered a critical evaluation of the “More Guns, Less Crime” hypothesis using county-level crime data for the period 1977-2000. 15 of the 16 academic members of the NRC panel essentially concluded that the existing research was inadequate to conclude that RTC laws increased or decreased crime. One member of the panel thought the NRC's panel data regressions showed that RTC laws decreased murder, but the other 15 responded by saying that “the scientific evidence does not support” that position.
We evaluate the NRC evidence, and improve and expand on the report’s county data analysis by analyzing an additional six years of county data as well as state panel data for the period 1979-2010. . . . the conclusion of the dissenting panel member that RTC laws reduce murder has no statistical support[.]. . . Across the basic seven Index I crime categories . . . RTC laws increase [aggravated assault] at the .10 confidence level. . . . [O]ur estimated 8 percent increase in aggravated assaults from RTC laws may understate the true harmful impact of RTC laws on aggravated assault, which may explain why this finding is only significant at the .10 level in many of our models. . . . Our analysis of admittedly imperfect gun aggravated assaults provides suggestive evidence that RTC laws may be associated with large increases in this crime, perhaps increasing such gun assaults by almost 33 percent. In addition to aggravated assault, . . .RTC laws increase rape and robbery (but usually only at the .10 level). . . . RTC laws increase the rate of murder at the .05 significance level.From Abhay Aneja, John J. Donohue III, and Alexandria Zhang, The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy (2014).