Editor's note: this piece was co-authored by Professor Carl Moody.
Preface: Last Friday, the National Law Journal ran an op-ed by Lisa Vicens and John Donohue with many errors in it regarding a case that the U.S. Supreme Court heard last Wednesday on New York’s concealed handgun law. The article gave readers very inaccurate information on the academic research regarding the risk of crime by concealed handgun permit holders. This false claim of public safety is really all the state of New York has to base its case on. The left-leaning National Law Journal, a business partner with Michael Bloomberg, is unwilling to respond to repeated requests to correct the record on these extreme inaccuracies, so we are publishing our response here at Townhall. Unfortunately, all the judges, lawyers, and law professors who read the National Law Journal won’t hear the other side of the argument.
Our Piece: “The last thing we need is the infusion of additional guns into New York City,” said New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Sunday. After the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen last Wednesday. New York’s legal team argued to the Court that this would worsen gun violence.
New York is one of seven “May-Issue” states where officials can turn down carry permit requests for any reason (or no reason) at all. The Court is considering replacing this discretionary process with objective “Shall-Issue” rules. That way, people can get a permit as long as they reach a certain age, have no criminal background, pay the fees, and complete any required training.
Since 1976, 18 states eliminated “proper cause” requirements, and gun control advocates have consistently predicted disaster. But in state after state, concealed handgun permit holders have proved to be extremely law-abiding, and Right-to-Carry states have never even held a legislative hearing to consider moving back to “proper cause.”
Those same fears were raised again and again during Wednesday’s oral arguments. Justice Stephen Breyer speculated: “People of good moral character who start drinking a lot and who may be there for a football game or -- or some kind of soccer game can get pretty angry at each other. And if they each have a concealed weapon, who knows?”
But, with 21.5 million permit holders and laws over many decades, you should have seen that example at least once. We haven’t.
In Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of firearms-related violations at one-twelfth of the rate at which police officers. In the 19 states with comprehensive permit revocation data, the average revocation rate is one-tenth of one percent. Usually, permit revocations occur because someone moved or died or forgot to bring their permit while carrying.
But the question before the Court is whether a “good reason” provision makes things safer, and the revocation rate is no different in May-Issue states.
Only one Amicus brief by proponents of May-Issue laws even briefly question how law-abiding permit holders are. But the one study it cites doesn’t even contradict this point. “The proportion of deadly conduct offenses in convictions was five times higher for permit holders than for non-permit holders.” Put aside how the study classifies deadly conduct crimes. The study merely claims permit holders have a relatively high likelihood of being convicted of such deadly crimes relative to other crimes. It doesn’t contradict the fact that the conviction rate for permit holders is dramatically lower than non-permit holders for all crimes.
Academics have published fifty-two peer-reviewed, empirical studies on concealed carry. Of these, 25 found that allowing people to carry reduces violent crime, and 15 found no significant effect. A minority (12) observed increases in violent crime. These 12, however, suffer from a systematic error to varying degrees: they tend to focus on the last 20 years and compare states that recently passed concealed carry laws with more lenient states that had sustained growth in permits over the past two decades. The finding that crime rose relatively in such states is consistent with permit holders reducing crime.
In these pages, Lisa Vicens and John Donohue argue that Donohue’s “most comprehensive study” shows “Shall-Issue” laws increase homicide. But other research using the exact same data and methodology found their results are reversed with just slightly different specifications.
They also point to one public health journal article claiming that more gun ownership leads to more deaths of police, but they fail to note another peer-reviewed study specifically on the issue of permitted concealed handguns shows that Right-to-Carry laws tend to reduce the murders of police. Nor do they mention that properly doing the public health journal article flips that result and shows that more private gun ownership reduces the deaths of police officers.
If the Supreme Court rules against arbitrary and unfair permitting processes, the remaining seven “May-Issue” states will finally get to see for themselves that there’s nothing to fear from concealed carry.