The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Concealed carry laws help reduce violent crime

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 1/11/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 797 times Debate No: 68127
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




Standard rules apply


I accept. (I presume the first round is for acceptance, so I will start my arguments in the second round.)
Debate Round No. 1


- Clarification -

Many terms may be used in this debate. One of them may be the term ‘shall issue’ laws. Shall issue laws are a form of liberalized concealed carry law. They generally mean if you meet the criteria of the law—including but not limited to—being 21 years of age or not having a violent criminal record, you will obtain this law. If you pass training and pass all requirements, you obtain the law.

This is in contrast to may issue, meaning if you pass all of the requirements, you still may not be licensed as you need a ‘good reason’.

No issue is self-explanatory. Concealed carry is banned, and you will never be issued a concealed carry permit.


I would argue both sides should be given equal burden of proofs. Although I am affirmative, CON is now against the status quo. Nearly all states have passed shall issue laws, and a few (Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, Arkansas, Vermont) have no restrictions [8]. Therefore, I have a burden to prove that concealed carry laws do reduce crime, and CON must prove they either have no discernable effect or increase crime.

C1) Deterrence theory

This will provide theoretical reasons as to why concealed carry laws would decrease crime.

Deterrence theory began in the 1960s under the groundbreaking research by now deceased economist Gary Becker. His work in the field of criminology is almost unmatched. His theory is now known as deterrence theory. The theory holds criminals are rational actors and will act rationally towards incentives and punishments. Indeed, Becker finds many criminals are in crime solely for payment: money. But others see the emotional thrill overweighs the costs of punishment. Essentially, criminals react to different forgings. If there is increased threat to them, they back down and are less likely to commit criminal acts [1].

This applies to concealed carry in a fairly obvious manner. If citizens are able to arm themselves, this increases the cost to the criminal. Citizens may now react violently towards criminal actors, either ending in a failed attack or even death. Armed citizens also could increase the chances which criminals are caught. Therefore, concealed carry laws significantly increase the risk of committing various crimes. Based on Becker’s theory, we should see a decrease in violent crime if people are now allowed to arm themselves.

And concealed carry holds more of a deterrent than open carry. Open carry can and does deter criminals. However, it also means if you are a criminal you know who to avoid. This means either you will attack at a different place, or merely murder the carrier and then harm the defenseless masses. Concealed carry means the criminal is unaware as to who is armed. The criminal does not know when a civilian has the capacity to end his life. The criminal does not know who to attack first. The criminal is the one who will be taken by surprise. Although open carry does reduce crime, concealed carry is one of the strongest deterrence methods a civilian can possess.

C2) How firearms affect crime rates

Firearms have two effects on crime. First, they can increase crime. They do this by arming criminals. This can empower them to commit more crime or make the severity of their crimes more severe. However, firearms can also reduce crime. Arming citizens will both deter crime but also reduce the impact of crime. Defensive gun uses, for example, would reduce the impact of the crime, even though the crime is still attempted. The question is which effect is more important. Overall, firearms have been demonstrated to have little effect on crime, and gun control is largely ineffective. Gun control primarily affects law abiding citizens, meaning they even have the potential to increase crime [2].

So why is this relevant? Obviously, laws which give firearms primarily to law abiding citizens will reduce crime. Concealed carry laws chiefly arm law abiding citizens. This means the second effect—the crime reducing effect—is amplified by concealed carry laws.

C3) Empirical research on right to carry laws

What does the empirical literature reveal to us as to how concealed carry laws affect crime rates?

The research begins with two scholars, John Lott and David Mustard. Their study took into account every single country in the United States. Their study found concealed carry laws would save the economy 6.2 billion dollars each year due to reduced crime impacts. Murder fell 7.7%, rape fell 5.3%, aggravated assault fell 7.01%, and robbery fell 2.2% [3].

John Lott’s work received criticism—which I am sure my opponent will mention. Regardless, the study received much praise, including from award winning criminologist Gary Kleck. Lott’s study was the first to utilize the entire country. Before him, studies would focus on small non-geographically representative areas. They studies every shall issue law passed between 1977 and 1992. Lott’s study attempted to control for many factors other than merely changes in shall issue laws in order to obtain the true effects—previous research did not. The study was also the first to focus on all types of crime, whereas studies before focused only on homicide. Although Kleck remained fairly skeptical of the studies conclusions, he noted the study proved concealed carry laws did not increase crime. He also conceded the study was the best designed study of publication to date [4].

There has been a few literature reviews on the topic. A recent one by John Lott in the Maryland Law Review summarizes the recent literature. Little research was found as to whether or not concealed carry laws increase accidental death rates. Of the evidence currently in existence, there seems to be no relationship between concealed carry laws and accidental deaths or suicides. There have been a total of 29 studies published by economists and criminologists on the issue. Of those, 18 supported the idea concealed carry laws reduced crime, 10 claimed no effect, and only one found an increase in crime. There are 5 different methods which have concluded concealed carry laws reduce crime. Authors of different political views have contributed to the idea that concealed carry laws reduce violent crime. If you extend the meta-analysis to include non-refereed studies, there are 21 studies which claim concealed carry laws reduce crime, 11 which claim no effect, and 3 claiming an increase. 60% of the literature, therefore, supports my position. Of the ones which claim increased crime, they have been found to be severely flawed. Ironically, they accuse Lott’s work of having coding errors. However, it was on a paper which he was not an author, and the coding errors did not affect the results. The ironic part is that their work is now notorious for coding errors, including having the same county in the dataset multiple times. Scholars have failed to reproduce their work, meaning it is highly unlikely these laws increase crime. The research claiming no effect also often makes errors—such as truncation bias—and when the errors are accounted for, they also find no increase in crime. Lott concludes, “the consensus is the same: right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime.” [5][6].

Some research even indicated concealed carry laws reduce police deaths. Before a law, states have a slightly higher chance of police deaths via shooting. After shall issue laws are passed, there is a slightly lower chance of being murdered if you are a police officer. Allowing law-abiding citizens to carry firearms does not endanger police officers—in fact, it may even protect them [7].


Research on general firearms tells us one thing: Guns can both increase and decrease crime. Concealed carry laws primarily arm citizens, indicating the decreasing crime effects would become amplified. This means there should be large decreases in crime after shall-issue laws are passed. Research on general crime also gives credence to the idea. Criminals are rational actors and respond to incentives and costs. Concealed carry laws increases the cost for criminals, meaning they would be more hesitant in attacking citizens who may be armed. And research on concealed carry laws themselves almost unanimously argue these laws reduce crime. Unless my opponent really refutes C3, he loses the debate.

[4] Gary Kleck. Targeting Guns, pp 371-372.
[6] John Lott. More guns Less Crime (2010).


I thank my opponent for hosting this debate.

I will show that concealed carry laws do not reduce violent crime in
any significant, measurable way. Many states have "shall issue" laws, mainly
because it is considered a fundamental right. I am not against this. However,
the idea that such laws actually reduce crime is an illusion.
Although there may be a deterrent effect of concealed carry laws, there are also other effects that cause an increase of violent crime. Let me mention a few:

Obviously, concealed weapons are used in crimes. Take for example road rage. Michael Dunn, a concealed weapon carrier, was convicted of first degree murder when he shot into an SUV with teenagers because of loud music. Nearby in my state Michigan, a father was shot in front of his family after a road rage confrontation with a concealed carry permit holder [4]. Murder by CCW holders are relatively rare, but they do happen.

Another, in my opinion more important, factor is that concealed carry laws leads to more risky and confrontational behavior of the concealed weapon carrier. Studies have shown
that carrying a weapon makes a person more paranoid [2].
Take for example the well publicized George Zimmermann case [3]. He followed Trayvon Martin which led to a violent confrontation. A violent crime was committed, although one may argue who the perpetrator was. It seems unlikely that Zimmermann would have followed Martin had he not been armed. The (false) sense of security of a concealed weapon
may lead to more confrontational behavior that can lead to violent crime, but the concealed carrier, or by someone else. Almost all studies do not take this kind
of behavior change into account.

Criminals have several choices. Instead of being deterred, they could also react
to a concealed carry law by arming themselves more, to have the upper hand in a
possible confrontation. Such behavior would lead to more violent crime. This effect
has also not been taken into account in all the studies that have been cited.
In particular, deterrence theory will give only a lopsided picture, because
it assumes that the criminal only has 2 choices, either commit a crime, or not.

So now we have some reasons of why concealed carry laws may increase violent crime,
and also one reason why it might reduce violent crime. So which effect is greater?
The National Academy of Sciences, THE authority in science matters, reviewed the science on this question
(including the work of John Lott) and found
"There is no credible evidence that "right-to-carry" laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime." [5]
The Academy studied 253 scientific journal articles, 99 books and 43 government

[2] Biggs, A. T., Brockmole, J.R., & Witt, J.K. (2014). Armed and attentive:_Holding a weapon can bias attentional priorities in scene viewing. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.
Debate Round No. 2


1. The brutalization hypothesis

The brutalization hypothesis is what Con tells us: the deterrent effect will be overrided by brutalization. CCW holders will become more brutal, commit crimes, and increase crime. But this effect has not been observed. Con cites a few anecdotal examples of crime committed by concealed carry holders, but even he admits that these are "rare". So it is very unlikely that they could override the deterrent effect as well as any defensive uses by CCW holders. Indeed, in Florida "Crime rates involving gun owners with carry permits have consistently been about 0.02% of all carry permit holders since Florida"s right-to-carry law started in 1988" [1]. Indeed, the brutalization effect is simply too small in order to increase crime rates.

Con also claims carrying a gun makes you paranoid. However, it begs the question as to whether or not the gun causes the paranoia or whether or not they are paranoid and that is why they get the gun. It also begs the question as to whether or not increased paranoia leads to violent crimes. Indeed, concealed carry holders are the most law abiding group of citizens [2]. So, the question is to what effect"if any"will concealed carry have on crime rates. Gun carrying may increase paranoia, but my opponent must first prove that it will significantly impact crime rates"which is probably doesn"t, as concealed carry holders are the most law-abiding demographic.

If they carriers are paranoid, it may even have a crime reducing effect. They may be paranoid because they are worried about crime, but this may lead them to be less confrontational and go to bad neighborhoods as they wish to avoid crime. Further evidence that CCW laws likely do not cause an increase in crime is that in recent years, crime has continued to decrease despite large increases in the amount of concealed carry holders [3].

Con also claims criminals may arm themselves due to these laws. This is unlikely, as extensive background checks occur in order to obtain a permit [2]. And as noted, guns can increase crime via criminal armament, but also decrease crime if the law affects law abiding citizens. It obviously arms law-abiding citizens more, as almost never do they commit crimes [2]. My opponent offers conjecture, whereas I provide empirical evidence.

2. NAS report

Con"s empirical case relies solely upon the NAS report, using an appeal to authority in order to claim he is correct. But it should be noted my opponents quotation says we have no proof it increases crime or keeps it the same either"they merely want more research. They do not say John Lott is wrong, but that more research is needed. Second, the panel had Steven Levitt as one of their authors, who is a liberal who criticized John Lott before the report. Third, criminologist James Q Wilson wrote an extensive dissenting opinion arguing John Lott was correct [4].

A new reassessment of the NAS report has replicated Lott"s and the NAS regressions on crime. What is interesting is that the NAS data actually strongly correlates with Lott"s conclusions. From the study, "James Q. Wilson was perfectly justified to conclude that right-to-carry laws reduced murders, since the NRC"s own regressions " showed a significant negative effect on crime." [5]

The fact is, the NAS paper is not strong evidence against our position, and other research should be cited on the Con side in order for him to win the debate.

[2] John Lott. More Guns, Less Crime.


black_squirrel forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Valar_Dohaeris forfeited this round.


black_squirrel forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by 16kadams 1 year ago
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Tweka 1 year ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Ff