Do More Lenient Gun Laws Reduce Criminal Activity? The Impact of State Concealed Weapon Laws on Crime

Student Author(s)

Joshua Groenhof

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sarah Estelle, Economics

Document Type


Event Date



From 2005 to 2015, state laws nationwide have made it easier, on average, for individuals to carry a concealed weapon. During the same timeframe, both violent and property crime rates have generally decreased with the exception of violent crime rates in 2014 and 2015 which increased. If these trends are related, it may be that where concealed weapon laws are more lenient, would-be victims are more likely armed, decreasing the expected benefit of criminal activity. Alternatively, if concealed weapons are easier for perpetrators to carry, crime may increase in number and/or severity. Previous economic studies have considered the impact of concealed weapon laws on crime, but they fail to address the full variation of laws across states and time with respect to concealed carry permits. While the literature suggests that more lenient gun laws reduce crime, it is not clear whether this effect is monotonic (i.e. always increasing or always decreasing). Therefore, this research analyzes the heterogeneous effects of all four types of concealed weapon laws - no-issue (nobody can carry), may-issue (must provide a reason for the license), shall-issue (must pass basic requirements), and right-to-carry (no license needed) - as part of an overall objective of identifying an optimal concealed carry law with respect to resulting crime rates. Using state fixed effects as well as crime data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, demographic and socioeconomic data from the US Census Bureau, and concealed weapon laws of all fifty states during 2005 to 2015, this research will analyze the impact concealed weapon laws have on crime, allowing for further heterogeneity of effects by type of crime.

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