The Wall Street Journal ran a lead letter that extensively discussed the Crime Prevention Research Center’s work. The letter appeared as follows:
Regarding James P. O’Neill and Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s “Don’t Mess With New York’s Gun Laws” (op-ed, March 24): The authors say that “more than 230 concealed-carry permit holders in various states have been convicted of . . . murders.” There are some 14.5 million permits in the U.S. John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), writes “Combining the data for Florida and Texas data, we find that permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors and felonies at less than a sixth the rate for police officers . . . the data are similar in other states.”
Messrs. O’Neill and Vance say that since 1990 murders in New York City “fell by 84% and shootings by 81%.” That’s very admirable. But is there any proof at all that this was due to the restriction of concealed-carry permits? Weren’t today’s restrictive gun laws around—and demonstrably ineffective—all through the phenomenal rise in New York’s murder rate in the late 1980s?
In fact, “since 2007, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared from 4.6 million to over 12.8 million, and murder rates have fallen from 5.6 killings per 100,000 people to just 4.2, about a 25% drop” according to a report from the CPRC.
Concealed-carry permit holders are people who have undergone background checks, submitted photographs and fingerprints and in most cases received required training in weapons. They are much less, not more, likely than most people to commit crimes with guns. A person who has obtained a gun illegally is far more likely to use it illegally—no permit required.
San Jose, Calif.
This is the letter that the CPRC had sent to the WSJ, though they didn’t use our piece. Our letter was long and we had suggested some cuts that would make it much shorter.
Dear Letters Editor:
New York City police commissioner O’Neil and district attorney Vance used fatally flawed data from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) to make their case regarding concealed handgun permit holders (“Don’t Mess With New York’s Gun Laws,” March 23).
According to the VPC, over the last 10 years, 235 concealed-carry permit holders have been convicted of murder. But their count is wrong, since some of their cases don’t involve permit holders. Those that do are often double-counted. The VPC counts both state records and news stories on convictions, despite both covering the same cases.
They misread many news articles. For example, one news story states that a killer, Humberto Delgado, was charged with carrying a concealed firearm. The VPC assumes this means he had a concealed handgun permit. But the exact opposite is true, since carrying a gun would not have been a crime if he had a permit.
There are over 15 million permit holders in the US. These numbers only make sense when you put them in terms of rates.
The VPC claims that Texas permit holders have caused the most trouble. But comparing data from Police Quarterly with Texas police data on permit holders, permit holders are even much more law-abiding than even police officers. They were one-tenth as likely to be convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, and one-seventh as likely to be found guilty of a firearms violation.
And there is no discussion of the benefits. Besides the overwhelming academic research, with little effort, I have collected 106 news stories from last year where civilians legally carrying guns in public fired shots saving both civilians and police.
It is equally absurd to attribute New York City’s crime rate drop after 1990 to strict gun control laws. During the 90s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani massively increased the New York City police force. The increase experienced from 1990 to 2000 was 151% greater than the average increase in the next 20 largest cities. There were also significant, positive changes in hiring, training, and policies.
If gun control advocates were more confident in their arguments, they wouldn’t have to make up data about permit holders or take credit for improvements that were actually the work of our police officers.
John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D.
Crime Prevention Research Center