Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham again cherry picks research and misstates what those studies show

Oct 23, 2015 | Featured

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The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham has another new post on gun control (earlier ones here), where he is claiming that most people are wrong to believe that permitted concealed handguns make them safer.  In this case, Ingraham is responding to a new Gallup poll that finds that by a 56-to-41 percent margin Americans believe that more people legally carrying permitted concealed handguns would make them safer.

Summary: Ingraham’s piece selectively picks eight studies on right-to-carry laws and crime rates: six find no effect on crime and two claim to find a bad effect.  Of the two that claim to find a bad effect one is inaccurately described (for homicides it provided no evidence of a bad effect and some statistically significant evidence of a benefit) and the other paper is unpublished with severe flaws.  Of the peer reviewed studies that Ingraham references no evidence of a statistically significant bad effect from right-to-carry laws is offered.  With the exception of part of Lott’s research, he ignores all the national studies that find benefits from the law.

I have reached out to Ingraham both by email and telephone to discuss these points, but have not received a response from him.

Details: Much of the discussion here focuses on the research by John Lott, but Ingraham has again cherry-picked research to give a very selective view of peer-reviewed research on concealed carry.  Table 2 in this paper from the University of Maryland Law Review in 2012 has a survey that shows most research show a benefit from concealed carry, but there are other more recent papers that find a benefit (see papers here towards the end of this list).  As with other gun control advocates, Ingraham wants to imply that it is just Lott’s research versus various critics, but this ignores that most of the peer-reviewed academic research using national data supports his and David Mustard’s original research.  In a similar vein in claiming that Lott’s research was “completely discredited,” Ingraham completely ignores our responses here and here to those assertions.

— “Lott, for his part, still stands by his idea, although he has nuanced it a bit. He’s recently argued that studies critical of right-to-carry laws have failed to properly account for state-level differences in how difficult it is to acquire a handgun permit.”

The paper that Lott wrote looked at 4 studies.  In direct contrast to Ingraham’s claim about me responding to studies “critical of right-to carry laws”: two of those papers that Lott discussed found a benefit from right-to-carry laws, one claimed no effect, and one claimed increased crime.  The point of Lott’s was that those papers (even the two that found a benefit) were biased towards not finding a benefit.  If Ingraham had looked at the new paper closely or my research from 2000 on, he would also know that the term “recently” is incorrect.  Lott has been trying to account for the change in permits since the second edition of “More Guns, Less Crime” in 2000.

— “But as Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes recently point out at The Trace, even more recent research from Texas A&M looked at the number of permits issued, not just the passage of various laws. Philips found ‘no significant effect of concealed handgun license increases on changes in crime rates… this research suggests that the rate at which CHLs are issued and crime rates are independent of one another—crime does not drive CHLs; CHLs do not drive crime.'”

In a previous post on this website we mentioned numerous problems with the Texas A&M study, we mentioned several problems.  One included (emphasis added):

No explanation is offered for why these authors exclude other states or years?  County level permit data are easily available for Illinois and Wisconsin because no permits were issued over this entire period of time.  Oregon, Tennessee, North Carolina, and other states have county level data over this period of time.   This is important because the test that they are preforming compares these states relative to one another during the period that they all have right-to-carry concealed handgun laws.  When authors throw out data there had better be a good explanation for why they are doing it, but no explanation is offered here.

On other studies:

— “Changes in gun ownership are significantly positively related to changes in the homicide rate” (Ludwig, 2002)

If Ingraham had read the paper he cites here, he would have not only noticed that the paper was done by Mark Duggan, but, more importantly, Ingraham doesn’t mention the part of the paper that deals with concealed handgun laws (the purpose of his piece).  In Table 12 of Duggan’s paper, out of the 6 results that are reported on murder rates, 5 out of 6 estimates show a drop in murder rates after adoption of the law (three of these are statistically significant).  The sixth estimate was essentially zero.  None of the estimates show a significant bad effect.

If one looks more broadly at all the violent crime categories (22 of the 36 estimates imply a drop in crime rates, with 15 of those coefficients showing a statistically significant negative effect, and only one coefficient show a statistically positive effect on crime rates).

Chapter 10 in Lott’s “More Guns, Less Crime” explains why Duggan gets the biased results that he did. In particular, that he looks at only before and after averages.  As to the part of the Duggan paper that Ingraham does cite, these results are also questionable as Duggan uses only the sales of one gun magazine to proxy for gun ownership.  Research using the sales of the other six largest gun magazines get the opposite result.  The magazine that Duggan used was unique because it was the only magazine that had to make large self purchases to guarantee those who bought ads a certain level of circulation.

Ingraham cites a list of seven papers, but he ignores that the debate among published research has been long recognized as one between those who say that there is no benefit and those who say that there is a benefit.  Listing some papers that show no impact from the law doesn’t change what has already been discussed.

— “Right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates” of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder. (Aneja et al 2014)

This website has long had a detailed discussion of the problems with this unpublished paper.  Research shown here as also provided a detailed discussion.

More discussion will be added later.

Ingraham has this tweet up pushing his claims.  Presumably he is trying to discredit the research by linking it up to the NRA doing “an amazing job selling” it rather than thinking that the academic debate has has some influence here.  Unfortunately, Ingraham ignores most of the academic research, and, as noted above, he doesn’t respond the critiques that have made of the research he cites.

Christopher Ingraham Tweet on MGLC



  1. Jeff Stanley

    I think the job you’re doing insisting on scientific integrity is as important as what you’ve uncovered regarding guns and crime, if not more so. History has already shown that once science becomes the lap dog of the politicos, there is literally no action by government that they won’t use it to justify.

  2. Jerry the Geek

    Why do evaluations on CHL (Concealed Handgun License; Oregon’s name for Concealed Carry License) effectiveness always seem to focus on “Murder Rates”?

    Back when Oregon finally accepted “Shall Issue” processing of application, it got a lot of press in Portland.

    A lady friend in mine lived in a Portland suburb, and took the bus to the city-center building where she worked. One morning she was at the Park-And-Ride lot waiting for her bus when a trio of aggressive thugs approached her.

    They began with verbal harassment, and were circling around her when she put her hand in her coat pocket. (Frigid Oregon Winter morning … her hands were cold, and she was frightened.)

    Immediately the leader of the thugs backed off. “Hey, you’ve got a gun in that pocket, don’t you? Don’t be scared, lady, we’re just teasing you.”

    And they left.

    She didn’t have a gun in her pocket. But the simple fact that it was now legal for her to have a gun, coupled with the increased possibility that she HAD a gun, backed the aggressive trio right off.

    So no crime was committed. She remains convinced that the counter-intimidation factor which she unthinkingly introduced into the confrontation completely changed her life … she didn’t know what they had planned, but it was no good.

    Since no crime was committed, no police report was filed. This kind of encounter likely occurs daily around the country.

    But because “opposition to aggression” isn’t something that shows up on statistics, anti-gun folks don’t consider it at ALL when evaluating the value of CHL.

    I think you’re doing great work. Bought the book, read it a couple of times, and if anything you have understated the GREAT benefit of our newly won “permission” to exercise our rights.

    Statistics are like a map: they don’t show what’s REALLY out there. And when it comes to crime in the streets, that’s an ugly picture.

  3. The Hunter

    Absolutely dead on, Jerry the Geek. Willing to bet every citizen who has chosen to carry can tell a story or two like that. Problem is, of course, that anecdotal stories are tough to study statistically. If anyone ever does figure out a way to track those sort of situations, you can bet that Dr Lott will either be an author or a reviewer when the paper is published.

    Dr Lott and his peers in academia have done the world a great service in giving us hard data to understand the deterrent effect of civilian concealed carry. One by one he and the other honest, skeptical, and hard working criminologists, economists, and statisticians have examined each and every objection or outlying study in EITHER direction. A classic example of how objective research SHOULD be done.

    Dr Lott is not the ONLY scholar speaking out on this subject, either. Just one of the most effective and prominent. Rather refreshing to see an honest man successfully stand up to the propagandists and INSIST they stick with the facts.

    Who was it who observed “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” ? Kudos to Dr Lott for making sure EVERYONE has the facts available if they care to actually examine them.

  4. Joe Common

    I think that there is more “Gun Fear” than statistics can ever justify. Every anti-gun group has to fabricate or adjust numbers to suit their needs. The truth is that they are afraid of guns, are largely urbane and are used to excessive crime and what guns can do. It won’t make them turn in their drivers licenses though. Nor will it make them stay down off ladders, stop visiting doctors, live without electricity, or stop using the worst examples of legal gun owners as their standard. Both sides are locked into the fear of some future failure, or prospective evil. Everyone knows that, as a society, in America, that we cannot continue to live like our economy will never fail and that our government will always be in our best interest. Fear on both sides of that has caused the gun debate to be deadlocked. Personally, I fear the calamity that guns will cause in such a failure, but I fear not being armed in the face of it a lot more.
    I can easily say that I have one for protection, but not a selfish protection. I’ll protect those I love and those who are close, even some of those anti gun types. They’ll need it. There is absolutely no way on earth to flip a switch and make all the guns just disappear. You can however, since we have free speech, create an atmosphere of compounded fear using any means possible to display that big wish. Likewise I can write a useless comment on the subject in an article section designated for that purpose. If I had a penny for every word on the subject, I’d only used the proceeds to buy more ammunition. Right now, since there is nothing else to waste my time on, I’d like to thank the providers of this happy space for being able to pass some time. Oh heck, I forgot to mention the second amendment! There is a reason it’s number two. It’s so we can make sure there’s a number one still. It’s not there so we can have squirrel pie. As I see it, the guys who came up with it knew that greed wasn’t going away, nor the lust for power. Isn’t it great that Mrs. Clinton can stand up and boldly say that she will do away with it, all the while being surrounded by guns to keep her safe from them? Why would anyone ever want a gun? Just let her have her way. She’ll protect us all. If I drink enough, the kind of enough to trust that statement, I won’t have to pay taxes next year.


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