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Right-to-Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State-Level Synthetic Control Analysis

John J. Donohue, Abhay Aneja, Kyle D. Weber

NBER Working Paper No. 23510
Issued in June 2017, Revised in November 2018
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics

This paper uses more complete state panel data (through 2014) and new statistical techniques to estimate the impact on violent crime when states adopt right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws. Our preferred panel data regression specification, unlike the statistical model of Lott and Mustard that had previously been offered as evidence of crime-reducing RTC laws, both satisfies the parallel trends assumption and generates statistically significant estimates showing RTC laws increase overall violent crime. Our synthetic control approach also strongly confirms that RTC laws are associated with 13-15 percent higher aggregate violent crime rates ten years after adoption. Using a consensus estimate of the elasticity of crime with respect to incarceration of 0.15, the average RTC state would need to roughly double its prison population to offset the increase in violent crime caused by RTC adoption.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23510

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