The effect of concealed handgun laws on crime: beyond the dummy variables

Department of Economics, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322-2240, USA
International Review of Law and Economics (Impact Factor: 0.44). 02/2003; 23(2):199-216. DOI: 10.1016/S0144-8188(03)00027-9
Source: RePEc

ABSTRACT So far 33 states have adopted right-to-carry concealed handgun laws. The advocates argue these laws have a deterrent effect on crime, while the opponents believe they facilitate crime by increasing gun availability. Although both sides assume that these laws affect behavior, no attempt has yet been made to model such effects using crime theory. Consequently, the empirical evidence on such effects lack a theoretical basis; for example, a highly publicized study by Lott and Mustard (1997) inappropriately models the effect of the law through a dummy variable (a binary-valued regressor). We extend the economic model of crime to formulate a theoretical basis for empirical examination of the issue. We show that using a dummy variable leads to misspecification, and use an alternative procedure to estimate the effect of concealed handgun laws in 1992 for states which had not yet adopted such laws. Our results show that the expected effect of the law on crime varies across the counties and states and depends on county-specific characteristics in a meaningful way. Such effects appear to be much smaller and more mixed than Lott and Mustard suggest, and are not crime-reducing in most cases.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Does the death penalty save lives? A surge of recent interest in this question has yielded a series of papers purporting to show robust and precise estimates of a substantial deterrent effect of capital punishment. We assess the various approaches that have been used in this literature, testing the robustness of these inferences. Specifically, we start by assessing the time series evidence, comparing the history of executions and homicides in the United States and Canada, and within the United States, between executing and non-executing states. We analyze the effects of the judicial experiments provided by the Furman and Gregg decisions and assess the relationship between execution and homicide rates in state panel data since 1934. We then revisit the existing instrumental variables approaches and assess two recent state-specific execution moratoria. In each case we find that previous inferences of large deterrent effects based upon specific samples, functional forms, control variables, comparison groups, or IV strategies are extremely fragile and even small changes in specifications yield dramatically different results. The fundamental difficulty is that the death penalty - at least as it has been implemented in the United States - is applied so rarely that the number of homicides that it can plausibly have caused or deterred cannot be reliably disentangled from the large year-to-year changes in the homicide rate caused by other factors. As such, short samples and particular specifications may yield large but spurious correlations. We conclude that existing estimates appear to reflect a small and unrepresentative sample of the estimates that arise from alternative approaches. Sampling from the broader universe of plausible approaches suggests not just "reasonable doubt" about whether there is any deterrent effect of the death penalty, but profound uncertainty - even about its sign.
    Stanford Law Review 02/2006; · 4.32 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The interaction between offenders and potential victims has so far received relatively little attention in the literature on the economics of crime. The main objective of this paper is twofold: to extend the “market for offenses model” to deal with both “product” and “factor” markets, and to apply it to the case where guns are used for crime commission by offenders and for self-protection by potential victims. Our analysis offers new insights about the association between crime and guns and the limits it imposes on the efficacy of law enforcement and regulatory policies aimed to control both crime and guns.
    Journal of Policy Modeling 08/2010; 32(5):670-689. · 0.64 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We elucidate, connect, and synthesize the literature that employs economics to study the individual rights and freedoms protected by the constitutional amendments comprising the Bill of Rights, especially as they relate to crime. Economics is uniquely suited to studying decisions involving tradeoffs, and each of the amendments requires tradeoffs. Emphasizing these tradeoffs allows us to discuss the constitutional rights in terms of "more or less," as opposed to taking an absolutist approach. We find that the economic literature on the amendments of the Bill of Rights is vibrant and growing, and that viewing the amendments within the framework of economics is highly useful. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.
    American Law and Economics Review 01/2008; 10(1):1-60. · 1.14 Impact Factor

Full-text (3 Sources)

Available from
Jun 5, 2014