Gun Ownership and Crime Rates

Published on: 22:50PM Jan 14, 2011

By Matt Bogard

Back in 2008 I made a post entitled 'Do Individuals Have a Right to Keep and Bear Arms' where I discussed the reasoning behind the 2nd amendment and how it applies to individual gun ownership. But, given that gun ownership is a fundamental civil right, what impact does it have on crime? 

This week Rachel Maddow presented some conflicting evidence on her show (which you can view here)

On the show, she presented the idea that gun owners, or epsecially concealed weapons carriers were engaging in fantasy if they had any thoughts that guns in the hands of law abiding citizens could save lives. 

She backed this up by cting some research (Firearms and Violence, A Critical Review) that found the connection between crime rates and gun ownership to be inconclusive. Then she showed the audience a list of states with high gun ownership rates and high crime rates vs. states with low gun ownership and low crime rates - and she seemed to treat it as if that was conclusive evidence.

I'm not sure how she can say 'if we look at all of the evidence, its inconclusive, but here is an unscientific comparison that shows that gun ownership = more crime'

We don't even know what she means by 'crime rates' in the admittedly blunt comparisons she gave.  More complicated studies look at various methods for actually measuring and indexing crime-for example see:

Does gun control reduce crime or does crime increase gun control?
Cato Journal, The, Wntr, 2006 by John C. Moorhouse, Brent Wanner

"Using a vector of demographic, economic, and law enforcement control variables, the empirical analysis presented here provides no support for the contention that gun control reduces crime rates. In none of the regressions for the 10 categories of crime rates in 1999 and the 10 for 2001 is the measure of gun control statistically significant. The article tests another hypothesis, namely, that lax gun control laws in neighboring states undermine the effectiveness of state gun laws. It finds no support for this hypothesis. The proxy for neighboring state gun control is never significant in any of the 20 regressions estimated"

 I'm getting mixed signals from the video.  There is a lot of evidence showing that concealed carry laws and gun ownership do in fact reduce crime, no fantasies. See for yourself. (most of these studies were cited in a working paper The Debate on Right-to-Carry Concealed Weapons Laws
Carlisle E. Moody,Thomas B. Marvell)

Evidence Related to Crime Reduction and Gun Ownership and/or Concealed Carry

The impact of gun laws: A model of crime and self-defense
H.M. Mialon, T. Wiseman / Economics Letters 88 (2005) 170–175

Guns, Crime, and Academics: Some Reflections on the Gun Control Debate
Jeffrey S Parker Journal of Law & Economics, 2001, vol. 44, issue 2, pages 715-23

Does gun control reduce crime or does crime increase gun control?
Cato Journal, The, Wntr, 2006 by John C. Moorhouse, Brent Wanner

J.R. Lott and D.B. Mustard, Crime, deterrence, and right-to-carry concealed handguns. Journal of Legal Studies 26, 1-68 (1997).

The concealed handgun debate. Journal of Legal Studies 27, 221-243 (1998).

W.A. Bartley and M.A. Cohen, The effect of concealed weapons laws--an extreme bound
analysis. Economic Inquiry 36, 258-265 (1998).

 S.G. Bronars and J.R. Lott, Criminal deterrence, geographic spillovers, and the right to
carry concealed handguns. American Economic Review 88, 475-479 (1998).

 B.L. Benson and B.D. Mast, Privately produced general deterrence. Journal of Law and
Economics 44, 725-746 (2001).

C.E. Moody, Testing for the effects of concealed weapons laws: Specification errors and
robustness. Journal of Law and Economics 44,799-813 (2001).

D.B. Mustard, The impact of gun laws on police deaths. Journal of Law and Economics
44,635-657 (2001).

D.E. Olsen and M.D. Maltz, Right-to-carry concealed weapons laws and homicide in large U.S. counties: the effect on weapons types, victim characteristics, and victim-offender relationships, Journal of Law and Economics 44,747-770 (2001).

F. Plassmann and T. N. Tideman, Does the right to carry concealed handguns deter countable crimes? only a count analysis can say Journal of Law and Economics, 44, pp. 771-798 (2001)

J.R. Lott. More guns, less crime : understanding crime and gun-control laws. Chicago, University of Chicago Press (1998, 2000).


F. Plassmann and J. Whitley, Confirming, ‘more guns, less crime.’ Stanford Law Review 54, 1313-1369 (2003).

J. R. Lott and W.M. Landis, Multiple victim public shootings, bombings and right-to- carry concealed handgun laws: contrasting private and public law enforcement. (1999, 2001) Published as Chapter 6 of J. R. Lott, The bias against guns. Washington, DC, Regnery (2003)