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The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy

January 6, 2015 Comments off

The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy
Source: Social Science Research Network

For over a decade, there has been a spirited academic debate over the impact on crime of laws that grant citizens the presumptive right to carry concealed handguns in public – so-called right-to-carry (RTC) laws. In 2004, the National Research Council (NRC) offered a critical evaluation of the “More Guns, Less Crime” hypothesis using county-level crime data for the period 1977-2000. 15 of the 16 academic members of the NRC panel essentially concluded that the existing research was inadequate to conclude that RTC laws increased or decreased crime. One member of the panel thought the NRC’s panel data regressions showed that RTC laws decreased murder, but the other 15 responded by saying that “the scientific evidence does not support” that position.

We evaluate the NRC evidence, and improve and expand on the report’s county data analysis by analyzing an additional six years of county data as well as state panel data for the period 1979-2010. We also present evidence using both a more plausible version of the Lott and Mustard specification, as well as our own preferred specification (which, unlike the Lott and Mustard model presented in the NRC report, does control for rates of incarceration and police). While we have considerable sympathy with the NRC’s majority view about the difficulty of drawing conclusions from simple panel data models and re-affirm its finding that the conclusion of the dissenting panel member that RTC laws reduce murder has no statistical support, we disagree with the NRC report’s judgment on one methodological point: the NRC report states that cluster adjustments to correct for serial correlation are not needed in these panel data regressions, but our randomization tests show that without such adjustments the Type 1 error soars to 22-73 percent.

Our paper highlights some important questions to consider when using panel data methods to resolve questions of law and policy effectiveness. We buttress the NRC’s cautious conclusion regarding the effects of RTC laws by showing how sensitive the estimated impact of RTC laws is to different data periods, the use of state versus county data, particular specifications (especially the Lott-Mustard inclusion of 36 highly collinear demographic variables), and the decision to control for state trends.

Across the basic seven Index I crime categories, the strongest evidence of a statistically significant effect would be for aggravated assault, with 11 of 28 estimates suggesting that RTC laws increase this crime at the .10 confidence level. An omitted variable bias test on our preferred Table 8a results suggests that our estimated 8 percent increase in aggravated assaults from RTC laws may understate the true harmful impact of RTC laws on aggravated assault, which may explain why this finding is only significant at the .10 level in many of our models. Our analysis of the year-by-year impact of RTC laws also suggests that RTC laws increase aggravated assaults. Our analysis of admittedly imperfect gun aggravated assaults provides suggestive evidence that RTC laws may be associated with large increases in this crime, perhaps increasing such gun assaults by almost 33 percent.

In addition to aggravated assault, the most plausible state models conducted over the entire 1979-2010 period provide evidence that RTC laws increase rape and robbery (but usually only at the .10 level). In contrast, for the period from 1999-2010 (which seeks to remove the confounding influence of the crack cocaine epidemic), the preferred state model (for those who accept the Wolfers proposition that one should not control for state trends) yields statistically significant evidence for only one crime – suggesting that RTC laws increase the rate of murder at the .05 significance level. It will be worth exploring whether other methodological approaches and/or additional years of data will confirm the results of this panel-data analysis and clarify some of the highly sensitive results and anomalies (such as the occasional estimates that RTC laws lead to higher rates of property crime) that have plagued this inquiry for over a decade.

The Epidemiology of Firearm Violence in the Twenty-First Century United States

December 22, 2014 Comments off

The Epidemiology of Firearm Violence in the Twenty-First Century United States (PDF)
Source: Annual Review of Public Health (forthcoming)

This brief review summarizes the basic epidemiology of firearm violence, a large and costly public health problem in the United States for which the mortality rate has remained unchanged for more than a decade. It presents findings for the present in light of recent trends. Risk for firearm violence varies substantially across demographic subsets of the population and between states in patterns that are quite different for suicide and homicide. Suicide is far more common than homicide and its rate is increasing; the homicide rate is decreasing. As with other important health problems, most cases of fatal firearm violence arise from large but low-risk subsets of the population; risk and burden of illness are not distributed symmetrically. Compared with other industrialized nations, the United States has uniquely high mortality rates from firearm violence.

Industry Trends: Guns & Ammunition and Tanks & Armored Vehicle Manufacturing

December 16, 2014 Comments off

Industry Trends: Guns & Ammunition and Tanks & Armored Vehicle Manufacturing
Source: IBISWorld

Based on data sourced from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), IBISWorld estimates, and the US Census, the Guns and Ammunition Manufacturing industry witnessed an overall increase in sales during the past five years, with industry revenue expected to have grown at an annualized rate of 3.2% to $13.0 billion by 2014. Supporting this growth was a sharp increase in security responsibilities by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. During the early years of this five-year period, these agencies benefited from the stimulus package enacted in 2009 which provided additional funds to law enforcement agencies. In total, more than $6.1 billion dollars of stimulus funds have been awarded for public safety purposes, some of which parlayed into gun and ammunition purchases. However, the Budget Control Act, which was passed in 2011 and is expected to cut $1.2 trillion from federal spending, has placed a financial strain on the budgets of many law enforcement agencies. These agencies represent a significant market for gun and ammunition manufacturers. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (ICAP), 64.0% of agencies responded that they undertook major cuts on buying equipment as a result of budget cuts. Against this backdrop, guns and ammunition manufacturers are expected to witness a decrease in total revenue generated from law enforcement agencies over the next few years.

See also: Industry Trends: Space Vehicle and Missile Manufacturing

More Than Six in 10 Americans Say Guns Make Homes Safer

December 2, 2014 Comments off

More Than Six in 10 Americans Say Guns Make Homes Safer
Source: Gallup

The percentage of Americans who believe having a gun in the house makes it a safer place to be (63%) has nearly doubled since 2000, when about one in three agreed with this. Three in 10 Americans say having a gun in the house makes it a more dangerous place.

No Second Amendment Cases for the Supreme Court’s 2014-2015 Term…Yet, CRS Legal Sidebar (October 23, 2014)

November 6, 2014 Comments off

No Second Amendment Cases for the Supreme Court’s 2014-2015 Term…Yet, CRS Legal Sidebar
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

As the Supreme Court begins its 2014-2015 Term, it appears that there will be no cases involving the Second Amendment on its docket. Commentators have observed that the Court appears to have become “gun shy” regarding this issue, given that it has not taken up a Second Amendment case since its landmark rulings in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010. During the summer, the Court denied review in at least two cases challenging state firearms laws. One would have questioned whether it is permissible under the Second Amendment for New York City to require residents to pay $340 for a three-year residential handgun license, which they are required to have under state law in order to lawfully possess a handgun. The second would have questioned whether it is permissible under the Second Amendment for New Jersey to require applicants wishing to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun to show a “justifiable need.”

Had the Court granted review in either of these cases, it would have further fine-tuned the scope of the Second Amendment, which thus far protects an individual right to possess a firearm and the use of that firearm “in defense of hearth and home.” Despite the lack of guidance from the Supreme Court, there has been much activity in the lower courts, with several notable decisions issued this summer.

PTSD Research Quarterly — Impact of Mass Shootings

October 28, 2014 Comments off

PTSD Research Quarterly — Impact of Mass Shootings (PDF)
Source: National Center for PTSD (VA)

Norris (2007) provided an excellent introduction to the literature on mass shootings. Our goal is to provide an update on this literature. Norris focused on individual, as well as broader community factors in examining responses to mass shootings. Our guide focuses solely on quantitative studies examining factors at the level of the individual that appear to be related to adjustment following a mass shooting.

Our definition of a mass shooting involves an individual (with few exceptions, a male), acting alone and with generally personal rather than political motivation, entering a densely populated space and shooting as many people as possible. In addition, while not required in the definition, the shooter typically takes, his or her, own life. Our guide to the literature proceeds chronologically, with an emphasis on studies that use longitudinal data.

Police Weapons in Selected Jurisdictions

October 15, 2014 Comments off

Police Weapons in Selected Jurisdictions
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report examines the weapons and equipment generally at the disposal of law enforcement officers in several countries around the world. It also provides, for each of these countries, a brief overview of the rules governing the use of weapons by law enforcement officers. Precise and reliable information on the weapons and equipment of some countries’ police forces was often difficult to find.

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