Issues of gun-control and gun-control laws have played and continue to play a crucial role in the discussion of crime rates and the possible reduction or escalation of crime rates in the United States. The issue of guns cleaves opinions into diametrically opposed positions with one side arguing in favor of stricter control laws for guns and the other side maintaining that a more liberal approach to gun-rights actually works to deter crime.
Specifically, those in favor of so-called “carry-and-conceal” laws argue that allowing citizens in good standing to carry concealed firearms works as a real deterrent to criminal behavior. One of America’s “leading econometricians and John Olin Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School,” John Lott, along with coauthor, David Mustard, “a graduate student in the university’s economics department” has produced what is considered the most pivotal study of “carry and conceal” laws and their impact on crime.
Lott and Mustard’s study was “one of the largest statistical studies of crime ever mounted. Taking every county in the country (there are 3,054, all told) and every crime category of which the U. S. Department of Justice keeps track, over every year for which such data were available (1977 through 1992), Lott and Mustard tried to model what happened when concealed-carry laws were relaxed,” and their conclusions proved anything but predictable, (Polsby 33).
Lott and Mustard concluded that a “strategic-pacification effect” existed where conceal-carry laws were loosened and they also determined that “confrontational crimes diminished in the presence of liberalized carry laws,” which also resulted in an increase in non-confrontational crimes like grand-theft-auto where the study claims to prove that criminals, faced with an armed citizenry, move to “safer” types of crimes, those which do not involve a high-percentage chance of confrontation with the intended victim, (Polsby 33).
The enactment of conceal-carry laws by state legislators, including Florida State legislators, is intended to capitalize on the productive and effective aspects of the deterrence factor, the “strategic pacification effect” identified in Lott and Mustard’s study. Conceal-carry laws immediately changed the crime statistical outlook by changing the effective work-load of officers:
“Prior to the enactment of these laws, which are by now on the books in 31 states altogether (most of which have adopted the laws since 1985), local law enforcement officials exercised considerable discretion in decisions to issue concealed handgun permits, with the burden of proving need falling on the applicant. (Shughart) However, conceal-carry laws removed the burden from officers, leaving them more able to pursue important crimes.
That use of concealed weapons by citizens in good-standing granted “universal” permission: “requiring concealed weapons permits to be granted to all individuals who pay the required fee and meet other minimal qualifications, including age restrictions, absence of a criminal record, and no history of mental illness,” (Shughart).
The overall promise of the “strategic pacification effect” as promised by the Lott and Mustard study grew larger,it seemed, by the hour as more and more states followed Florida’s example of moving toward relaxed carry-conceal laws. The hoped-for advantages were extensive and included “marked decreases in a wide range of violent crimes – murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault”; among Lott’s findings were statistical interest-points:
1) States with the largest increases in gun ownership also had the largest drops in violent crime 2) Urban minority communities with high crime rates “have the greatest reductions in violent crime when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns,” 3) Women especially benefit from carrying concealed handguns. Women with guns have a murder-prevention effect “3 to 4 times higher” than men with guns” among other statistical drops in criminal activity… (Mccain 8).