Do Concealed Guns Protect Us From Crime?


I started my previous blog with a promise to debunk some of the myths created by the NRA and its cronies to ward off the evils of gun control. So let’s continue by looking at one of the biggest myths of all, namely, the idea that we can all be better protected against crime if we all own and carry guns.  The idea of the “armed citizen” as being our first and most important defense against crime and criminals has been promoted endlessly and tirelessly by the NRA and is repeated verbatim by all of their allies and cronies.

One of the major cronies is a sometime academic named John R. Mott who floats around the right-wing talk circus promoting a book called More Guns Less Crime.  Although his data has been criticized for either not supporting what he says or not existing at all, I’m going to ignore the slings and arrows being thrown back and forth between him and his critics and just look at the underlying assumptions about the argument itself.

Lott begins by making the argument that there’s a trade-off between the safety of a locked gun versus the usefulness of a gun that is loaded and ready to fire.  He states: “gun locks require that guns be unloaded, and a locked, unloaded gun does not offer ready protection from intruders.” (Page 10.) Did he really say that?  Has he ever even held a gun?  If John Lott would like, he can walk into my gun shop, we will go downstairs to the range, I’ll put a Masterlock on a loaded gun and then I’ll take the lock off the gun and John can pull the trigger. There will be a very loud noise and he better have the gun pointed in a safe direction.


But let’s continue and here’s the bottom line.  There has yet to be a single study by any pro-gun NRA crony like Lott who has been able to establish a definitive link between ownership of guns and crime rates.  Notice I didn’t say between more guns and less crime, or less guns and more crime.  I said a ‘definitive’ link as in cause-and-effect link.  Coincidence?  Plenty.  Causality?  None.

Let’s go back to the recent DOJ report that showed a “continued” decline in gun homicides over the last twenty years.  This is the report that was lauded by the NRA and its mouthpieces like Lott as “proving” that more guns meant less crime.  And what was their proof?  The fact that in 1990 there were only a handful of states that issued concealed-carry permits and now more than 30 states were granting concealed-carry on a “shall-issue” basis.

Except there are some small problems.  First, as I pointed out in a post published  on May 13 (“Can’t Anyone in the Gun Industry Read?”) the decline in gun homicides occurred between 1994 and 2000, well before most states liberalized their concealed-carry rules.   And more to the point, while some states like California and New York saw a significant decline in gun violence during this six-year period, other states, like Texas and Arizona, experienced increased gun homicides.  Why?  Nobody knows why.  And nobody has yet to ask why.

Then there’s another sticky little problem for people who John Lott who take a coincidence and turn it into an explanation.  The fact that someone walks around with a concealed-carry permit doesn’t mean they walk around with a concealed gun.  Know what?  I haven’t seen anyone who has said that statement anywhere.  In my state, Massachusetts, for example, you cannot buy or own a gun unless you have a permit issued by the state.  The permit is called the LTC which, if you haven’t guessed it yet, means License To Carry. That’s right.  The same license that is required to buy or own a gun is the same license that allows you to carry a concealed handgun on your person.  Does that mean that everyone in Massachusetts who has a gun license is packing?  Nobody knows.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I’m willing to bet you that the same guy who thinks you can’t put a lock on a loaded gun also believes that residents of Massachusetts are better protected from criminals because they have a License To Carry, whether they even own a gun or not. That’s what happens when you do research not to discover the truth, but to promote a pre-ordained idea. Oh well…

9 thoughts on “Do Concealed Guns Protect Us From Crime?

  1. I legally carry a concealed handgun in Texas, and I and my family are safer because of it. A lot of people have figured that out lately. My local shooting range is crowded with people getting a permit every weekend.


    • A lot of people have figured out what? That walking around with a gun makes them “feel” safer? Or that they are actually safer? Perhaps you’d like to figure out how to test your feelings. Thanks for your comment.

    • I’m not interested in winning anything. I’m interested in some reasonable degree of factual information being used by either side in the gun debate. Thanks for your comment.

  2. You seem to ignore the probable effect of the ownership and Concealed Carry permits in various places on the criminal element. When you answer your own question regarding whether a licensed person is “packing” with “Nobody knows.”, you miss the point that criminals don’t know, and that fact often alters their behavior. If this is true, then people ARE better protected when more people have LTC’s, whether they are packing or not.

    So, lets look at that issue. From clear back in the 80’s when carjackers in Florida targeted rental cars, because the people had likely disembarked from planes, and therefore were unlikely to be armed, to more recent drastic increases in violent crimes such as home invasions in countries that curtailed firearms ownership, we see a clear relationship between firearm ownership and criminal activity, and it is an inverse relationship. There are so many examples that you could research and I do not wish to fill pages here, so I leave it to you.

    I have a feeling that you will maintain that they are all coincidences, because that’s what happens when you want to promote a pre-ordained idea.

    • I flew in to Miami International at least 20 times during the late 80s and I recall the spate of carjackings very well, because every time I came in I rented a car. What caused many of the carjackings was the fact, admitted by the police, that the streets leading away from the airport were local streets, badly lit, and often frequented by call girls who would stand on the sidewalk and lure drivers to slow down. They solved the problem, by the way, by removing rental signs and license plates from all the cars, as well as stepping up street patrols by the vice squad. It wasn’t the lack of guns being carried by travelers, it was the environment in which the carjackings took place.
      And this is a perfect example of why coincidence doesn’t really tell you anything. Crime is very complicated, its is usually multi-causal and just because two plus two adds up to four doesn’t mean that you’ve figured out the real connection. By the way, I make it very clear in the post that both sides in the gun debate are guilty of using coincidence to substitute for cause-and-effect. I just picked on Lott because, more than many, his so-called “scientific” research really isn’t scientific at all, all his data notwithstanding.

  3. Question: given the lack of evidence between gun control laws and changes in crime (see NAS 2004 and CDC 2005), is there an empirical justification for tightening gun laws? And even if the change in concealed carry laws are coincidental to the decrease in crime, they don’t seem to increase crime, so why change them?

    Also, I am fairly certain that Lott is referring to the chain style locks, and I would consider keeping a gun loaded with a trigger lock unsafe since the crossbar is going to possibly impact the trigger, especially if you have to do it in a hurry. Quick access safes are a different matter of course.

    • I agree with you that there is no one-to-one relationship between gun control laws and crime rates. I have made this point explicitly in more than one post. But just because we don’t see a decrease in crime when we pass a gun control law, there’s no reason to assert, a la Lott, that if you pass a gun control law that crime will go up! And he has been saying this every chance he gets without any more evidence than if I were to assert the contrary – which I wouldn’t.
      As to the gun lock statement, his book is in its 3rd edition. I can’t be the first person to point this out. And he even footnotes the statement and his source is an article in the Washington Times from 1997 covering a speech that Charlton Heston gave when he started promoting the NRA. That’s his source for teling us about the design of gun locks? Charlton Heston? Give me a break.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • I see his point with the trigger guard style locks. The bar across the trigger and the action required to undo the lock (especially under stress) seems like an invitation to unsafe contact with the trigger and/or dropping the gun since one hand is guaranteed to be on the key, not on the gun.

        Quick access safes seem to avoid these problems, but for some reason most of the legislative attention has been on “on the gun” locks.

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