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.

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Jun 5, 2014