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provided no evidence of a bad effect and some statistically significant evidence of a benefit) and the other paper is unpublished with severe flaws.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.