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Shooting Down the More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis

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  • Ian Ayres
  • John J. Donohue III

Abstract

John Lott and David Mustard have used regression analysis to argue forcefully that 'shall-issue' laws (which give citizens an unimpeded right to secure permits for concealed weapons) reduce violent crime. While certain facially plausible statistical models appear to generate this conclusion, more refined analyses of more recent state and county data undermine the more guns, less crime hypothesis. The most robust finding on the state data is that certain property crimes rise with passage of shall- issue laws, although the absence of any clear theory as to why this would be the case tends to undercut any strong conclusions. Estimating more statistically preferred disaggregated models on more complete county data, we show that in most states shall- issue laws have been associated with more crime and that the apparent stimulus to crime tends to be especially strong for those states that adopted in the last decade. While there are substantial concerns about model reliability and robustness, we present estimates based on disaggregated county data models that on net the passage of the law in 24 jurisdictions has increased the annual cost of crime slightly -- somewhere on the order of half a billion dollars. We also provide an illustration of how our jurisdiction-specific regression model has the capacity to generate more nuanced assessments concerning which states might profit from or be harmed by a particular legal intervention.

Suggested Citation

  • Ian Ayres & John J. Donohue III, 2002. "Shooting Down the More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 9336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9336 Note: LE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. T. Randolph Beard, 1990. "Bankruptcy and Care Choice," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, pages 626-634.
    2. Shavell, S., 1986. "The judgment proof problem," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 45-58, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 163-190, Winter.
    2. Carlisle E. Moody & Thomas B. Marvell, 2008. "The Debate on Right-to-Carry Concealed Weapons Laws," Working Papers 71, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
    3. Matthew J. Baker & Niklas J. Westelius, 2013. "Crime, expectations, and the deterrence hypothesis," Chapters,in: Research Handbook on Economic Models of Law, chapter 12, pages 235-280 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Donohue III, John J. & Wolfers, Justin, 2006. "Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate," IZA Discussion Papers 1949, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2011. "Econometric Estimates of Deterrence of the Death Penalty: Facts or Ideology?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 448-478, August.
    6. Angela K. Dills & Jeffrey A. Miron & Garrett Summers, 2010. "What Do Economists Know about Crime?," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 269-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Mialon, Hugo M. & Wiseman, Thomas, 2005. "The impact of gun laws: A model of crime and self-defense," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 170-175, August.
    8. Kovandzic, Tomislav & Schaffer, Mark E & Kleck, Gary, 2008. "Estimating the Causal Effect of Gun Prevalence on Homicide Rates: A Local Average Treatment Effect Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 3589, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Carlisle E. Moody & Thomas B. Marvell & Paul R. Zimmerman & Fasil Alemante, 2014. "The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws on Crime: An Exercise in Replication," Review of Economics & Finance, Better Advances Press, Canada, vol. 4, pages 33-43, Feburary.
    10. Zimmerman, Paul R., 2010. "Deterrence from self-protection measures in the ‘market model’ of crime: dynamic panel data estimates from employment in private security occupations," MPRA Paper 26187, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Travaglini, Guido, 2010. "Supervised Principal Components and Factor Instrumental Variables. An Application to Violent CrimeTrends in the US, 1982-2005," MPRA Paper 22077, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. H. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin, 2003. "Guns, Drugs and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from a Panel of Siblings and Twins," NBER Working Papers 9824, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Zimmerman, Paul R., 2014. "The deterrence of crime through private security efforts: Theory and evidence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 66-75.

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    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General

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