The Effect Of Concealed Carry On Crime

Ohio has had a concealed carry law for years.  More than 250,000 Ohioans have concealed carry permits, and the number of people applying for permits to carry firearms continues to rise.  The logical question is:  how has the law worked?

DSC04115The answer to that question is surprisingly unclear.  It’s hard to find any studies about the effect of Ohio’s concealed carry laws on the commission of violent crimes.  If you simply look at crime statistics since 2004, when Ohio first passed a concealed carry law, the number of violent crimes increased during the first few years and then declined; in 2012 there were about 4,000 fewer violent crimes than in 2004.  But is there any cause-and-effect relationship between thousands of Ohioans walking around with guns and violent crimes?  Gun proponents believe the numbers are connected, but how do you determine whether a drop in crime is attributable to gun laws, or more effective police work, or increased use of security systems, or other ongoing efforts to combat crime?  Much of the debate seems to be based on anecdotal evidence of incidents where a person with a gun foiled a robbery or an abduction, and simple but-for causation arguments that reason that criminals must be thinking twice before committing crimes in the midst of an armed citizenry.

On the other hand, opponents of concealed carry raised public safety concerns about shootouts on public streets and innocent passersby being cut down in hails of bullets launched by quick-draw vigilantes.  After nearly 10 years, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of that, either.  Ohioans who want to carry guns have gotten their training and their permits and seem to be complying with all legal requirements.  They’re apparently comforted by their ability to carry guns.  Some business owners even advertise that they’ve got a gun behind the counter, as shown in the above sign I saw last year in the front window of an establishment in Vermilion, Ohio.  If you believe that criminals will avoid confrontations with guns, why not advertise that you have one to maximize the likelihood of that anticipated effect — even if it might scare off a few skittish patrons?

Ohio’s concealed carry law was, and still is, a big political issue.  Isn’t it about time some neutral body did a study to try to determine how the statute has actually worked, and whether it has had the effects that proponents and opponents forecast?

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