Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Thoughts on the gun debate part 4

So, quick re-cap. We know from the last several posts that banning handguns in England did nothing to effect the English murder rate, that the murder rate in the US has fallen since around 1990, that the suicide rate hasn't surged, and that in nations with strict gun control suicides still happen, sometimes at even higher rates than the US.

The other question that seems reasonable is about who has guns, where they are found and how they are used.  Specifically, I'm talking about concealed carry license holders.  Different states have different rules about concealed carry ranging from Vermont's "We don't need no stinking rules" to Hawaii's "We have the ability to issue a license, but that doesn't mean we're going to do it."

Still, there's a large group of states that have what is called "shall issue" carry.  In 1986, only a tiny handful of states had "shall issue" laws where anyone who qualified for a permit automatically got one.

by 2011, that situation had changed substantially. All but one state had some form of CCL law and the vast majority were "shall issue" with four states requiring no permit. (the ones in green.)  

Note that some of these shall issue states include large cities, some with high crime rates.  Again, while the rules vary somewhat from state-to-state, the laws are comparable enough that a Florida license is accepted in thirty-seven other states.

During the time from 1986 to 1990 the US murder rate rose from 7.9 to 9.8 per 100K, then from 1990 to 2011 fell by more than half from 9.8 to 4.8 (see the graph from the second of this series.)

Many states do not publish their CCL statistics, but enough do for us to know that the number of CCL licenses grew during the period from a few hundred thousand to well over 8 million in 2012.  John Lott found that during the period from 1990 to 2008 only 23 murders were committed by CCL holders, a rate of approximately  0.03 per 100K per year or about 1/250th the rate of the US population as a whole.

Since committing a felony is, in every case, cause to lose your license, a study of the reasons people lose their CCL's is interesting, and results in the conclusion that CCL holders commit felonies -- which may well be non-violent felonies like fraud -- at less than 1/70th the rate of non CCL holders.

Apparently, people who are willing to go through a detailed background check, be finger printed, have their photo taken, and in most cases submit to hours of training and passing a range test for the ability to hit what they shoot at, are more peaceable than people who do not do that, even if they walk around carrying guns.

In each state, as CCL laws have been passed, anti-gun legislators have predicted "blood on the streets." In exactly zero cases has that happened. Many states allow restaurant carry in establishments where alcohol is served (although obviously, a CCL holder who is carrying is not allowed to drink alcohol.) Again, as those laws have been debated the anti-gun crowd has predicted bar fights escalating into gun fights, saying over and over "guns and booze don't mix."  Never-the-less, in exactly no cases has this happened.  In my research, I am unable to find even a single case where one or more CCL holder has gotten involved in a bar fight which escalated into the use of guns.  (Note that I'm not saying that one doesn't exist, but I haven't found one yet.)

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that CCL holders almost universally are taught that "every bullet comes with a lawyer attached" and that their training is focused on how seldom a CCL holder should actually use a gun. The criteria is glaringly simple: You may draw to prevent or minimize death or severe bodily harm of yourself or others in your immediate area.

Conclusions, and policy proposals in the next post.
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