Suing Gun Manufacturers: Hazardous to Our Health

Policy Reports | Crime | Government | Regulations

No. 223
Monday, March 01, 1999
by H. Sterling Burnett

Concealed Weapons and Crime

Figure III - Impact of Shall-Issue Concealed Carry Laws on Violent Crime

"Concealed carry laws reduce murder by 8.5 percent, rape by 5 percent and severe assault by 7 percent."

The overall rate of serious crime in the U.S. is at a 20-year low. The murder rate has fallen more than 30 percent since 1993 (20 percent in the past two years) and is now lower than in the 1970s.41 One reason for this drop in crime is liberalized concealed carry laws. Since 1987, 22 states have made it easier for private citizens to get concealed carry permits.42 A recent study by University of Chicago economist John Lott found that:43

  • Concealed carry laws reduce murder by 8.5 percent, rape by 5 percent and severe assault by 7 percent. [See Figure III.]
  • Had liberalized concealed carry laws prevailed throughout the country in any given year, there would have been 1,600 fewer murders, 4,200 fewer rapes and 60,000 fewer severe assaults.

But not every city or state has experienced the general decline in crime rates.

  • States like Illinois that forbid the concealed carrying of firearms have, on average, double the murder rate and a 20 percent higher rape rate than states with liberal concealed carry laws.
  • States that allow concealed carry but also allow local officials to decide whether individuals get concealed carry permits have issued relatively few permits and suffer a 30 percent higher murder rate and a 19 percent higher incidence of rape, on average, than states with more liberal laws.

While murder and other violent crime rates are declining in many cities, they are still on the rise in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania liberalized its concealed carry law in 1989, but Philadelphia demanded and received an exemption. The results are troubling.44

  • Philadelphia has the highest firearms murder rate of the 10 largest U.S. cities.
  • Shootings accounted for 80 percent of the more than 400 murders that occurred in Philadelphia in 1997.45
  • The city estimates that gun violence costs it approximately $50 million annually in additional policing and health care-related expenses.

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