The University of Chicago News Office
August 6, 1996 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
(773) 702-4195

Right to Carry Laws

A new study by a law researcher at the University of Chicago shows that when states pass “right to carry” laws for concealed weapons, criminals respond to the possibility that their victims may be armed by committing more property crimes and fewer violent crimes against people.

Author John Lott, a John M. Olin Fellow in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago Law School, will present his results Thursday at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

“Criminals respond substantially to the threat of being shot by instead substituting into less risky crimes,” Lott says.

Lott conducted the research with David B. Mustard, a graduate student in the Department of Economics. Together, they studied county-level crime statistics from around the United States, both in counties that had “right to carry” laws and in those that did not. They found that when state concealed handgun laws went into effect in a county, murders fell by an average of 8.5 percent, and rapes and aggravated assaults fell by, on average, 5 percent and 7 percent, respectively. The reductions were larger in more populated counties and smaller in smaller counties. The researchers also did not find any significant evidence of changes in accidental gun deaths.

“The net effect of allowing concealed handguns is clearly to save lives," writes Lott. “Allowing citizens without criminal records or histories of significant mental illness to carry concealed handguns deters violent crimes and appears to produce an extremely small and statistically insignificant change in accidental deaths.”

The study contradicts much previous research, which has claimed that concealed-weapon laws increase crime rates.
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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