Baltimore murders in the last 30 days (courtesy baltimoresun.com)

Most bad guys don’t want a gunfight. If they see a gun on your hip they will either shoot you before you figure out what’s happening (yes, there is that) or avoid you altogether. If there are two or more people open carrying the odds of a criminal attack decrease exponentially. OK, that’s a scientific term for a wild-ass guess. Life is a crap shoot (so to speak). Open carry isn’t exactly common practice. How do the bad guys know if someone is or isn’t likely to be carrying concealed (unless they live in a gun-free paradise)? And what if it’s a drive-by shooting like the one that killed a bus driver in Baltimore? Would that craven scumbag have hesitated if he’d thought that Craig Ray might have been armed? John Lott will tell you all day long: more guns, less crime. But what’s your personal take? Does deterrence work? [h/t DB]

127 Responses to Question of the Day: Does Deterrence Work?

  1. HELL YES it works. Been there done that with a knife a few times in California. Stories later if you want but the definitive book on this is “On Killing” by Lt. Col. David Grossman.

    • No, it isn’t. That book has no scientific approach to deterrence at all. It’s an interesting bunch of anecdotes, though, about the psychology of fighting.

      • Agreed, there are serious problems with that book.

        That said, a knife has certainly saved myself (and my wallet) from thuggery once or twice. Oh Spyderco, what would I do without you?

    • Yeah, works for me; I OC after CC for ten years. When I was OCing, I was walking to a restaurant I frequent. As I walked across the street I noticed a predator; on the hunt. I made sure to walk past him and made eye contact as I went inside; he immediately turned around and never saw him again. So in my experience; OC as a deterrent works.

        • What Jus Bil said; But I’ll elaborate. Can you tell the difference when a cat is just walking across the yard versus when that same cat is hunting a bird across that same yard?

          The first time you get hunted; you will KNOW the difference. It’ s why I carry a gun; a predator tried to mug me; we fought, I barely won. So now I know the difference.

        • …cause he probably saw some young minority armed with little more than a cell phone and a bad attitude, a bearded biker type( quite a few nowadays are posers who have nerdy 9 to 5 jobs), or some sickly transient bumming up a quarter from passersby(“…gotta be READY to defend myself from Hobo Kelly..”)

          Yup our very own “charlie bronson” made SURE he showed that “predator” he was a self appointed “sheep dog” and virtual badass by making sure, SOMEBODY saw his exposed hand cannon. But I bet badass didn’t bother to do his civic duty and at least call the PAID professionals to come and check that predator out,thus alleviating any
          Chance said “predator” could simply slip down to the next street and attack someone else.( ..of course the excuse will be,”the cops take too long and I FIXED the problem”)

          Sad part? Most open carry types aren’t even watching their environment like they ” think” they are- a rock to the back of the head or a buck knife secreted in a jacket sleeve could take quite a few out BEFORE they could use all their home or “safe range”practised quick draw techniques.

          Its not having the gun as a self defense tool but having the” I’m a badass with my gun” attitude that makes some total idiots, and the target of anti gunners…..

      • Cliff H-you do realize that its the UNIFORM of LEOs( deputy sheriffs, police officers, state troopers, constables) that is the visible deterrent, right??! Even lowly security guards with a radio, and armed with a baton and many malls have a deterrent effect due to their visible image of”authority”.

        Only time having a gun visible scares or “deters” people is when people see it in someones hand( “good guy or bad guy”) and folks think someone could get shot

  2. I absolutely think deterrence works, but there are so many contributing factors to the problem of violence (note, I didn’t use the agi-prop term “gun violence”) that it is hard to attribute particularly decreases or increases in crime to just increased gun ownership/concealed carry.

    Wealth, and local demographics play a significantly greater role in violence than any other factor in my opinion. Switzerland has something like 40 or 45 guns per person and no where near the gun deaths in America. Is that because of their laws? Or is it because they are by all measures “richer” than the united states on a per-capita basis? Their GDP per capita is around $80k per person, where as the USA’s is about $45 to $50k.

    Also, the War on Drugs and areas impacted by it most likely contribute the largest to the violence problem in America. If you want to label yourself as someone who wants to do something about (gun) violence in America and the War on Drugs isn’t on the top of your list you’re either an idiot or you actually don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone or anything except your own political agenda of disarming the American public.

    • How would the violence-prone, work averse, predators among us spend their days, do you suppose, were the war on drugs abandoned?

      Arts & crafts? Volunteer work? Perhaps some coursework at the local community college’s adult learning annex?

      These monsters are still who and what they are. They’ll just find something else sinister to do if the drug trade goes legit. They won’t just suddenly straghten up and fly right.

      • Probably work for a business that has shady practices but is mostly non-violent. Maybe they could work for a banker where stealing is all but legalized.

      • It depends, the black market demand for goods is not limitless. When you bring more things out of the black market it squeezes the smaller guys out who might be willing to violently defend their currently illicit goods, but these guys aren’t the cold blooded sociopaths that some may be. Therefore when the market shrinks, the small frys will find something else to do when they decide they don’t want to have their heads cut off by Johnny down the street who was controlling trade “X” before. And let me tell you Johnny will put you in a wood chipper for looking at him the wrong way.

        It’s simple economics really.

        • That’s right, organized crime ceased to exist in the United States when Prohibition ended. It did not start up again until the 1980s with the introduction of crack. And of course there was no organized crime before Prohibition because gambling, prostitution and drugs were pretty much legal in most part of the US before the First World War.

    • Tom,
      The Swiss historical gun violence rate has been not only because of high numbers of guns but because ethnically, societally and culturally they have been very homogenous. Where as we are 180drees opposite. Euro countries are having increased crime rates to go into their new melting pot mentality.

      Thugs will always go after the weak. They will even avoid people they know they can successfully assault if the person looks like he can inflict some degree of injury to them. Why risk it if you can find an easy mark. Low risk. Look at what happened when Banard Getz shot those teenagers on the NYC subway when they tried to rob him. Crime on the subway dropped so low the cops complained about being bored. Once he admitted to doing it crime on the subway shot through the roof.

      • First off to point out the FLAWS in your viewpoint. The country you refer to DBM has low population, higher standard of living, accessible health care and social infrastructure.

        Its,not the melting pot you curse, but the fact that bigotry, and minimalization of certain ethnic groups has always been part of american history( jews, irish, italians, poles all suffered from it when they came to the US)

        Add to it the winner take all mindset of wealth in nation(less than 10%of the population CONTROLS 80% of our wealth and GDP), as well as rightwng influenced indifference to the needs of the avg working american, and you get this apathy toward crime and violence.

        No kid in the rural midwest grows up wanting to be a meth cook, no kid in the inner city aspires to be a gangbanger-but POVERTY and ignorance( pisspoor schools and social outlets) coupled and societal indifference( that good old libertarian “I got mine, screw you”) contributes to crime and violence.

        Pretend all you want that this isn’t true, and that immigrants, foreigners and minorities( that “melting pot” you ridicule) are solely to blame, but ask yourself-if the wall street fat cats weren’t money raping our society and we put in for the social systems some of our scandanavian friends had, wouldn’t our crime and violence levels be low too??…

    • The data which show that CCW is a deterrent has factored in all the variables you discuss. Read John Lott’s book. You’ll probably be bored to tears as it’s not pro-gun red meat, but a lengthy discussion on the statistical methods used. (Skip to chapter 10 where it gets good.) Over 65,000 regressions have been run on Lott’s “More Guns Less Crime” theory. The majority of them support the theory. Some show no effect and only one (and a very crooked one run by an anti-gun advocate which uses subscriptions to one particular gun magazine as a proxy for gun ownership rates) shows a temporary increase in one category of crime.

    • Aghhh….I’ve been meaning to do a full factorial statistical review of gun violence and socio economic contributors. …..damn it, where did I put my pencil and like a year of time!

  3. This is why I am against open carry. Yes, yes, I know all the arguements. In my opinion open carry makes you the first target in an unprovoked attack. You will get shot first, probably in the back.

      • I know of at least one case locally at apartment complex. A night security guy shot in the back and his gun stolen.

        To the person open carrying in public during the day? Probably close to never.

    • I hear this argument, and yet I also hear the argument that criminals prefer easy targets. These two arguments seem to contradict each other.

      Why does one say on one hand that criminals prefer gun-free zones because there is less resistance from potential victims, and then turn around say that open carry is bad … because it shows that someone will provide resistance against the criminal …????

      If a criminal is absolutely, positively determined to make an attack, then presumably he might attack the open carrier first, in the same way a determined bank robber might attack a security guard first. But if they are looking for an easier target, it makes sense for them to leave and find another person/location to attack. If one person is carrying openly, there is also a chance that another person in the area is carrying concealed.

      Carry concealed, carry openly, carry whichever way you prefer. Just carry.

      • Carrying openly is very much like playing poker with your cards face up on the table: Every knows what you have. Sure, that will most likely deter the ones lacking the arms or balls to deal with an armed opponent, but if a thug does decide he wants your stuff, it means hes going to blow your brains out from behind or slit your throat rather than simply putting a gun in your face.

        • Not too sure about that. By that logic, everyone could just go around unarmed and all they are risking is that their “stuff” will be taken. I’m assuming someone who is willing to stick a gun in my face is willing to use it on me even if I ain’t armed–and someone who is willing to slit my throat from behind if I’m armed will be no less willing to do so if I’m unarmed (or perceived to be unarmed). OTOH, I’m not entirely averse to the logic; I wouldn’t care to hide my firearm under one of those so-called “shoot me first” vests that are basically as conspicuous on a summer day as an outside- holstered Glock. I do, however, think that your garden-variety footpad would probably just go somewhere else if he saw he was surrounded by those tactical vests and/or openly-carried weapons.

        • More like 7-card stud. Some, even MOST of your cards are visible, but you have a few hole cards that your opponent has to guess at. In Open Carry the BG can see your cards, but your hole card is WILL you shoot the sumbitch, and how good are you? That makes the gamble for BG a little more risky than walking into the same room and assuming either no one is armed, or if they are he has the drop on them.

    • Anti’s are against open carry because of “gun normalization.” I am pro choice, I think people ought to be able to choose how to carry.

    • Using that rationale, the police should be their first target. While it is true that police are often shot in line of duty, usually criminals tend to skulk off for easier pickings.

      • criminals don’t attack police because they are afraid of other police. If I had a well known, government backed gang at my back, I would carry how ever the hell I wanted.

    • To personally prefer NOT to open-carry, is decidedly different than saying you are against open-carry. This might account for some of the heat you are feeling. You might want to clarify your stance.

      • An excellent point. I would not open carry. I thought that I was being clear. Obviously not. If someone chooses to, that’s fine. But I would ask all my respondents to review the various videos that have been posted from store cameras. In a lot of them you will see the perp carefully casing the place prior to pulling a weapon. Such a perp would likely take out the open carrier, or go someplace else. One can never predict the criminal mind.

        • If I rob a store or bank, I would like to do it the most quite way possible.
          I’ve seen a bank robbery go down on video with cutomers at the next teller not even know it is happening.
          Knock off a place with no violence and you’re put in the queue as far as investigative priority.
          Out in the open with witnesses, shoot someone in cold blood and you go to the top of the list forever.
          As soon as a shot is fired, 911 lights up like x-mas tree and your escape clock starts ticking real fast.
          No advantage to shooting someone that is armed unless shooting someone is your actual motive and intent.

        • Bank robberies may be a separate category of crime/criminal – maybe. Rewards greater = greater willingness to accept risks.

          But the great majority of crimes, I am supposing, are of the spur of the moment rob the Quickie Mart kind, not generally your Ocean’s Eleven master criminals. Best case these guys are going to get a hundred bucks and a carton of smokes. All they want is enough haul to go buy some crack or meth. Watch those same videos as mentioned, there are LOTS of them. They may look around before they pull their piece, but to believe that they would just start shooting rather than walk away if they saw a cop or an armed citizen seems highly unlikely for a hundred dollar score. Unless their specific gang-related mission was just to find someone to shoot the chances are much higher that they would try to avoid firing their gun if at all possible. Also, if you watch the videos, in every case where they are confronted with armed resistance, especially a firearm, they will fall all over each other getting out of the shop and seldom even fire their own weapon, much less get off any effective aimed shots while they are running away.

    • The point is, Mike, you have every right to be against Open Carry – for yourself. You have absolutely NO RIGHT to tell anyone else that they could not, should not or worse CANNOT Open Carry. It is their choice and their business, not yours.

  4. Somewhat. As Tom Morabito stated, there are plenty of other factors that contribute to violence. I would say that it has the POTENTIAL to work extremely well. But with an average national carry rate of roughly 1%, that’s not doing a whole lot from a deterrent perspective. Now, if we could get it so that 80-90 percent of people are carrying (openly or concealed) and have it be a widely known fact that most are packing heat, I guarantee we would see an exponential drop in crime, even in the crumbling inner cities where we see most of the crime, and where it’s mostly driven by gang violence and poverty.

    • I don’t think it takes a preponderance of the population carrying. All it takes is that DOUBT in the criminal’s mind, “Is THIS person packing?”

      If only 1% carry… but THIS particular potential victim is in that 1%, then it’s 100% bad news for the bad guy.

      More CCWs is “more better,” of course. The higher the percentage, the worse the odds are for the bad guys.

      • If there are NO unconstitutional restrictions to the exercise of the RKBA then people may choose, like Mike, to carry concealed and others may choose to Open Carry. To the Bad Guy this is double trouble, since even if he walks in and sees an open carrier and decides to do the deed anyway, he STILL doesn’t know if there may still be a CCW he is not aware of. Win-win for our side.

    • Disagree. Typical criminals – muggers, burglars, etc. tend to commit a lot of crimes to feed their habits. Even they can figure out that they odds will catch up with them.

      Why do you think Canada and the UK have so many more home invasions than the US – the criminals WANT people to be home so that the alarm is not turned on and there’s someone they can force to open the safe, plus very little chance of an armed response from a homeowner.

    • I object to the characterization of US inner-city crime as the result of financial poverty. There isn’t a major ghetto in NYC, Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, or Baltimore that does not have access to government-subsidized food, housing, and medical care. The impoverishment is cultural. If I could create a large neighborhood in Zürich which believed in “don’t rat,” and which was represented by “leaders” who encouraged an ethos of entitlement and resentment, and which believed that education was not something you fostered within the family but something you were “given” by the city tax-payers, I think we could bump their crime rate up in a hurry.

      Much of Switzerland’s GDP is financial, and involves transactions made with foreign capital.

      • Alright, fair point. But poverty IS a major contributing factor to crime, regardless of the reason for said poverty.

        • Ever hear of Owsley Co. Kentucky? The “Poorest County in America”? How about these stats:
          Crime Rates
          Crime OWSLEY (per 100,000) Nation-wide (per 100,000)
          Crime Rate (Overall) 573.19 ——– 4,506.21
          Murder Rate N/A ——–5.70
          Assault Rate 22.05 ——–644.08
          Burglary Rate 176.37 ——-726.10
          Larceny Rate 330.69 ——–2,185.40
          Robbery Rate N/A ——–148.30
          Rape Rate N/A ——–30.60

          Owsley Co. has tons of poor people (medium income <$20,000) and very little crime. Guess what else they don't have…

        • Actually, there IS a lot of crime in Owlsley County–it’s just that it’s all drug crimes (possession, manufacturing, distributing, mostly meth). Almost no violent crime. And it does indeed seem to be a cultural thing. Or so I read in painstakingly researched report.

      • The impoverishment is cultural.

        This, a thousand times over. And unless that culture is reformed, some other people like us will be having the same conversation 200 years from now on “The Truth About Ray Guns.”

        • The Truth About Smart Guns…

          The Gun Review: The new 1400 trillion terabyte Nano Processor on the “new” Colt 1911… Is it really better than the 1200? And, why doesn’t it have 11G Service?

    • I think 80 – 90% is actually too high. At that point, criminals would just assume everyone was armed and they would simply shoot first. I also think at that level of carry that the wild west shootouts the antis scream about actually would happen with enough regularity that people would take notice. Not to mention that people would start to get shot out of confusion about who is the bad guy, etc. 25-40% is the ideal amount of carriers.

  5. Yes it does work. Having a gun isn’t the only way to deter someone though. Appearing alert helps alot, so does eye contact. Being fit helps too, although I understand that there are some for whom exercise isn’t an option due to age/disability/etc. The gun should be the last layer of the “don’t F with me” onion.

  6. Define “deterrence.” Are you asking if open carry is a deterrent? Or just laws that permit the arming of common citizens? In the killing referenced, it seems to me that had he gone inside and shut the door he’d be alive today, gun or no gun. further, this shooting appears to have happened so quickly that had he been armed would not likely have made a difference–he did not even have time to get inside his door before he was shot. (Yes, I am speculating.) And if he’d been standing in he door with a shotgun, the police would have shot him–it was Baltimore after all. (I think that qualifies as snarc.)

    • Well, the thug in this case seems to have effectively deterred the rest of the neighborhood from turning him in to the cops when the music is loud, or when they see other illegal activity. The suspect in this case (Kevin Barnell Carroll) has charges dating back to 1996 for carjacking, armed robbery, assault, narcotics possession with intent to distribute, burglary, car theft, and now murder. Do you think the criminal justice system was a deterrent? What if the bus driver, in the last hour he lived, managed to give Carroll some lead poisoning along with Carroll’s accomplices? Which do you think would have been a stronger deterrent, the risk of jail, or the risk of lead poisoning?

      • Unless and until threatened with deadly force, the victim had no cause and no right to ventilate anyone, much less the thug who killed him. In fact, the victim brandishing a firearm would have been a crime. But that was not the question posed by the thread, which seems to have been something along the lines of “does carrying a gun deter crime.” Your comments are not responsive to that issue.

        • uh, no. Deterrence is something that makes you less likely to so a thing. The victim in this case had plenty of time to shoot back. Which do you think would have made it less likely that the thug had pulled this stunt – jail or a large enough chance of getting shot in return? You are missing the larger point that the gangs use the threat of death to keep the neighbors quiet. The people in these neighborhoods live in fear because they cannot shoot back. Consequently they do not report illegal activity to the police. See how effective deterrence really is?

      • There may not have been much deterrent to speak of before said case of lead poisoning, but undeniably so afterwards.

        Tom

    • I would define deterrence as revealing that you are armed and/or apparently capable of effectively defending yourself, however it is accomplished, causing him or her to retreat or abandon the attack.

  7. How many shootings at gun shows every year? Those are practically a lib’s wet dream of small-phallus’d testosterone-driven, ignorant pro-Merica buffoons, yet still cannot find the stories about slaughter.
    Ditto with police station massacres. Is no one interested in taking on a group of armed people, even ones provably as inept at shooting as the local police?

    • Lakewood Washington police officer shooting: 4 officers in a coffee shop before their shift, in uniform and armed, were shot and killed.
      Murder of Timothy Brenton: 2 officers were in a parked patrol car when a gunman pulled alongside the vehicle and fired upon them, killing Officer Brenton.
      Castle Rock v Gonzales [Colorado]: Case details that the estranged husband went to the police station and engaged in a shoot out with the officers.
      A couple minutes on Google found those recent cases.

      People deliberately shoot uniformed police officers and attack police stations. People shoot others at gun ranges, in gun stores, in rough bars, wherever they can pull a gun and catch their target by surprise. The threat of return fire may make the scenario less likely, but it does not make the threat nonexistent.

      On a blog content related note: Genesee County, MI [where Flint, MI is located] had the highest number of issued CCW permits last I knew, and MI is a shall issue state as well. Not exactly a ‘gun-free paradise’. As a few others noted, violent crime is not a single cause/effect issue. There are a number of variables involved beyond whether or not citizens are armed.
      Part of Flint’s problem is the severely lacking police force, among many other issues, and the ~27% drop in crime is at least partially influenced by the recent State Police presence in the city.

      • Chris,
        As far as cops getting shot you have to realize that its easier to guard against an army than one man. And you can’t be hyper vigilant constantly. When an officer is in a place they feel is safe they let their guard down. And when one loan gunman walks up into a place of perceived safety the cops don’t recognize the threat soon enough. If those same cops had been out on patrol then the result would have been very different.

  8. Having been in the position to draw a weapon twice on would-be hoods, once in my own backyard and once in a parking lot, the fact that we’re all still breathing is proof positive that the threat of violence alone is enough to change most people’s minds.

    • …more than you’d want to. Cops open carry in uniform because they have to (bad guys know they have guns anyway). Cops never open carry in plainclothes.

      • More than you’d want to? Yes. Enough to bolster an argument? Doubtful. They are also in dangerous situations more than your average guy.

        • Getting some server error 500 but I should have probably said “off-duty” rather than plainclothes… though many departments mandate covering a gun in plainclothes too.

      • Off duty cops may not open carry in plain clothes, however, plain clothes officers/detectives do not necessarily go to the extremes of hiding their sidearm that non-LEOs must undertake. Full-size pistols hung on the belt with a police badge alongside and covered by a suit-coat is not exactly concealed.

    • Even if cops CCed, don’t you think the uniform, badge, and 50lbs Batman style utility belt would still be a dead give away to them being a cop?

  9. I have no idea what goes through a criminal’s mind, much less the minds of the criminally insane. Considering the risks of committing a violent crime (prison), it seems like a completely illogical thing to do, regardless of circumstance.

    So all I can do is look at the data, and the data analyses done by Mr. Lott are the definitive guide.

  10. Yes it works, although if you are not open carrying you would need to be perceived as armed. That doesn’t work too well in Chicago. Wi had its first DGU years ago at an Aldi’s. They had a sign up & I’m sure the armed perp thought he was the only one. He wasn’t. Never had another Aldi’s robbery that I heard of.

  11. It’s hard to be sure whether or not the bad guys’ awareness of the presence of guns is driving them elsewhere since, as always, it’s hard to prove that something didn’t happen that otherwise would have.

    But my gut tells me that, YES, criminals avoid my quiet little neighborhood because they know that its hard-working, Portuguese inhabitants are all armed. Better to try somewhere else…

    Just my 2¢.

    • Our home invasion rate in Idaho is nearly zero, because most of our home-grown criminals know that the gun owner rate in Idaho is around 90% of households. And for those criminals too stoned or too stupid to care, that possession rate takes care of the problem. It may not be a general deterrence on every criminal, but it turns out to be a very specific deterrence for specific criminals.

      • The common factor in urban shootings isn’t “being stoned” but rather being under the influence of alcohol, liquid courage.

        Knowing that people in a neighborhood will definitely rat and will often shoot back clearly leads to a reduction in crime, in my experience.

        There is nothing worse for crime-reduction than alienation of residents from police. That alienation is absolutely the worst feature of US urban governance and culture.

  12. In general, the same sort of decision making that will turn someone into a criminal tends towards poor judgement for long-term goals. Because of that deterrence is never going to be the huge mover against crime that some people would like it to be (whether because of three-strike rules, capital punishment, or firearms). Maybe there’s an effect but it’s going to be almost impossible to tease out.

    But leaving the general stats aside for a moment, I can guarantee that there is often effective deterrence when you are pointing a gun at a bad guy who thought he was targeting a defenseless victim. Pull the trigger enough times maybe we’ll start running out of them.

    • “Pull the trigger enough times maybe we’ll start running out of them.”

      This will be THE effective strategy as soon as the prosecutors/judicial system end their use of deterrence through making any DGU have the effect of turning the Good Guy into a target of state persecution and potential bankruptcy and jail time unarmed amongst the very criminals he CCWs to protect himself and his family from.

      So yes, deterrence works, usually for the Bad Guy by causing the Good Guy to hesitate and weigh the cost of his actions.

  13. I don’t know if the potential threat of an armed citizen will deter a criminal, but pointing a gun at one (or shooting him, if necessary) tends to deter that particular criminal. It’s like the death penalty – any convicted criminal who is actually executed (after the 25 years of appeals) has a zero recidivism rate.

    And I will guarantee you that when California finally decides that Charlie Manson is too old to be a threat, and releases him on parole, Manson will gather another group of mindless followers and start killing again.

  14. I have had to to present a pistol during the Rodney King riots and a rifle during a home invasion. Both instances in Los Angeles in the 90’s. Both instances I walked away from and in both instances the threat evaporated. I knew several policemen out there during the time and asked them all “Should I carry or not?”. They all answered with the equivalent of “You’d have to be crazy not to.” followed quickly by “I didn’t tell you that…”. Short answer: Yes… It is utterly amazing how quickly a persons attitude can change when faced with someone prepared and willing to defend themselves, their family and their property.

  15. My only anecdotal evidence is what I perceived to be a delayed drug deal or other nefarious transaction, where the likely suspects simply halted their activity until I was out of sight.

    Other than that, as an engineer I try to avoid extrapolation unless I have verifiable data from which to draw my lines. Though I did see a GM NVH spec once that allowed extrapolation from a single data point. That gave me a chuckle…

  16. Does deterrence work? Well, it works for the bad guys. I know I avoid parts of town where there is a higher likelihood of running into trouble. I know traditional bad guys avoid parts of town that have higher housing prices and more police. I know the site of me will cause people to cross the street to the sidewalk on the other side, even when I am not carrying. I know big dogs inside the house and thorny bushes under your windows work. An “ADT” sign in the front yard supposedly works even if you don’t have an alarm.

    Then again, there are still people out there who pick a fight with the biggest guy they can find. I suppose open carry as it exists today is only a deterrent to un-determined criminals. As some have already stated, it simply makes you the first target for a surprise attack if the bad guy has decided he deserves what you have more than you do. Since that guy is already willing to kill, and has decided he doesn’t want a confrontation he will likely shoot you in the back regardless.

    By my way of thinking open carry only works as a functional deterrent if there is enough people doing it that you can see them in all directions all day. So the bad guy knows, “even if I get the jump on this guy, I still have those other 12 bystanders to deal with.” In the society we currently live in a well publicized campaign something along the lines of, “Study shows that 1 out of every 4 residents carries a concealed firearm every day.” would be more effective. Nothing will stop the crook with Napoleon syndrome and an underdeveloped survival instinct, but like Mark Twain said, “Give me a man with a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ’til noon.”

  17. My sister teaches at a public high school in a not-so-great part of South Florida. Many of her students live in high crime where the ‘thug’ culture is strong. Months ago when news of the ‘knockout game’ (where teens were approaching randomly-chosen innocent strangers on the street and attempting to knock them out with a single sucker punch) was spreading on the major news networks, she asked some of her students if they knew anyone who was doing such a thing among their friends/neighbors. The almost universal reply was “Ms. XXXXXXXX, this is Florida. Everybody has a gun here. You’d be an idiot, asking to get shot if, you try that here” (I’m paraphrasing out the cultural idioms and colorful language). That’s all I needed to hear as far as the deterrent effect of an armed populace.

  18. In some abstract sense deterrence may work. But in the big picture deterrence is immaterial. In the early 20th century the criminal subtly from retribution to deterrence and rehabilitation. Mid-century the deterrence argument was front and center in the death penalty debate. Time has shown that most murders are crimes of passion where the murderer and victims know each other. And criminals are not inclined to weigh the consequences of their actions before committing a crime.

    • I submit that, the warlike conflicts of rival gangs aside, murder is a separate category of crime where general deterrence may not be entirely effective, however…

      1) Murder in the presence of an armed LEO is extremely rare – Why?
      2) Successful murder when the intended victim is effectively armed and prepared to mount a personal defense is less likely than an assault on an unarmed, unaware and unprotected individual.

      So, while in general the legal deterrent of harsh, possibly fatal legal penalties may not be entirely effective in preventing crimes of passion (although they have kept me from shooting a few people who probably deserved it, and probably deterred you as well), the deterrent effect of actually executing these miscreants is undeniable as they are unlikely to ever murder again in this lifetime.

  19. I think it is obvious that open carry, were it the norm, would be less beneficial than concealed carry. Assume 10% of the adult population did one or the other. The open carriers would define a small zone of safety, beyond which the perps would feel safe to prey upon people. With concealed carry the boundary of safety is always ill-defined and the perp never knows his odds. If one or the other is to be the norm, concealed carry is a better norm. Given the state of 2nd amendment law, the requirement to allow one or the other but not necessarily both in a state, I’d favor concealed carry as the norm.

    • “Given the state of 2nd amendment law, the requirement to allow one or the other but not necessarily both in a state…”

      Since the Second Amendment specifically prohibits the government or its agents from infringing in any way on the RKBA, the state of “2nd Amendment law” is that all such laws are unconstitutional on their face. We should not be choosing one or the other style of carry, nor agreeing that the government can decide which we may or may not use. If we fight at all, and I contend we must, then we should fight for the strict interpretation of the Second Amendment and against any legal interpretation of that natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right.

  20. I suspect that deterrence could be a viable reality. There is no arguing that pukes do go for an easier target. How many uniformed cops are victims of random robberies as opposed to off-duty cops who are still armed? Scumbags will steal stereos out of cars without blinking lights on the dash, why? Because there is always easier targets.
    If everyone in a town or city was known to carry concealed or open, what kind of random victim type crimes, like purse snatching, rape etc would be happening, very little I bet.
    Are there statistical numbers available? No there isn’t, but the concept is sound.
    People who are armed that everyone knows are armed have a lower risk of being victims. There is no arguing that. People who have two huge German Sheppard’s, like the neighbors across the street, one is 124 lbs, have a much much lower risk of having some dirt bag kick their door in and run off with the goods. Why? DETERRENCE!

  21. I like to think deterrence works because it fits well with my pro-gun stance. I know if I was a criminal I would look for soft targets. Criminal behavior is all about less work more profit, otherwise they would just get regular jobs and slug it out like the rest of us.

    However, my take away from this post is what a sh!thole baltimore must be when you have a fancy online interactive homicide map plotter thinger? There is a reason I don’t ever go there unless forced. I wonder if the Baltimore cops have picked up on this? Maybe, I don’t know, go sit in the squad car where the most dots are?

    Burn it flat and plant trees.

      • Very interesting. Not a lot of really serious crime in my neck of the woods, at least within a mile or so, but holy crap what a bunch of sex offenders in the area!

  22. IMO, deterrence matters. When a thug makes a move against someone, they’re betting their lives that their victim will just comply .

    When they get lead instead of a wallet, it changes the risk calculations and the bad guys hit the road. Alternatively, some bad guys are not deterred by the threat of violence .
    While most thugs don’t want to get shot , some bad guys are rotten to their inhuman cores.

    For those who have ever watched the movie “No Country for Old Men” ,there are indeed real life Anton Chigurhs walking about today. People who will start a fight just for kicks. The kind of bad guy who shoots at LE instead of surrendering. That level of inhuman scum won’t be deterred by anything except a bullet to the head. Fortunately such true examples of depravity are rare-but they’d see an open carrier and strategize how to take the gun instead of avoiding an incident to begin with.

  23. I know from personal experience deterrence works.

    End of story; gun grabbers can go to hell on that one, especially when it comes to my – or any other gun proponents self defense rights.

  24. Anecdotes and the theatre of individual stories is what makes the gun community/2A folks look foolish. The hysterical “home invasion”, mexican drug cartel attack, the flash mob mall attacks or terrorists in Iowa nonsense. Affter struggling with this issue for a long time I heard John Lott finally describe the situation exactly to my liking. I am paraphrasing “people with guns do good things AND bad things.” “From the stats it appears overall there is more good done than bad “. Period. All the discussion of how much, and when, and under what circumstances, by whom – well its a waste of my very valuable time. Getting lost in the weeds, especially against a more skilled debater is dangerous. I will simply leave it at the above level of description and declare victory.

  25. Here’s another thought I had for quite awhile. Open carry an unloaded gun. Conceal carry a loaded gun. And if a perp decides to jack your open carry, BANG!, they’d be in for a surprise. Or maybe I read too much manga.

    • If a perp grabs your empty gun and points it at you, shooting him wouldn’t be defensible since you know the gun is harmless. You go to jail.

      Try again.

    • Please, Bernard, do not try this. As Curtis points out, shooting someone who has stolen a pistol you know is unloaded is not a DGU. If the pistol does not pose an actual threat to you or someone else then the shooting would be considered “laying a trap” and in most jurisdictions would equal murder.

      If you must, the decoy gun, if a revolver, should have at least one chamber, the first one up, unloaded. Perhaps the next loaded with snakeshot. If your decoy is a semi-auto then it must be carried loaded, but with no round in the chamber and the safety on.

      Either way, you will look to the jury exactly like someone who was just looking for a reason to shoot some BG and this will not go well for you. I foresee jail time in your future and some unpleasant room-mates.

  26. Well, I would say concealed carry is a deterrent to violent crime. However, I would guess it is not a deterrent to property crime- burglary of unoccupied dwellings vice robbing people, stealing a parked car vice car-jacking etc. etc.

    I would be interested to see if someone has done much in the way of studies of property crime rates before/after liberalization of carry in specific jurisdictions.

      • Well- you’re right, googel is our buddy- Heres’ something from Professor John Lott of ‘More Guns, Less Crime’ :
        http://www.largo.org/Lott.html

        ‘Our study further found that while some criminals avoid potentially violent crimes after concealed-handgun laws were passed, they do not necessarily give up the criminal life altogether. Some switch to crimes in which the rise of confronting an armed victim is much lower. Indeed, the downside of concealed-weapons laws is that while Violent crime rates fall, property offenses like larceny (e.g. stealing from unattended automobiles or vending machines) and auto theft rise. This is certainly a substitution that the country can live with.’

  27. Maybe it does, maybe it’s doesn’t…

    Eye contact may end up being enough to deter an attacker just looking for an easy score.Then again, pointing a gun at the BG does always work, or even shooting the BG once (sometime more) as we have seen with DGU on here before.

    You want OC because it’s your right, you can, and ‘Murica- go forth. Just do not think simply having a gun displayed openly on my belt will be this magic charm which will ward off BGs.

    I remember watching a video on here awhile back where of a bunch of gangbangers threw bottles at cop cars and were taking over city streets, how’d OC work for those cops? Were the bangers scared or deterred from screwing with them?

    Remember there are hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, you aren’t the only one packing. And, that group thugs might not be scared of your sidearm and it may not stop anything.

    That’s the way I see it, so I’ll take CC and do my best maintain the element of surprise.

    • I remember watching a video on here awhile back where of a bunch of gangbangers threw bottles at cop cars and were taking over city streets, how’d OC work for those cops? Were the bangers scared or deterred from screwing with them?

      They know the cops just can’t shoot them for that. If they could, they wouldn’t have done it.

      And none of us can legally shoot someone for throwing bottles at our cars, either.

      Notice how they were throwing bottles and not molotovs or bullets.

      • OK, so maybe some thugs see Mr Joe Open McCarry and say, “Let’s screw with him, he can’t shoot us for just messing with him.”

        You want to stand out, that’s your call, not me, I want to blend in. The nail that sticks out is the nail that gets hammered.

  28. As long as the deterrence is credible. You have to be willing to use what you got in your own defense if push comes to shove.

    For the most part street criminals look for easy marks and getting shot isn’t good for business.

    Putting myself in their mindset, I know if I saw some white dude packing a Glock on his hip I’m not likely to attack him or try to rob him. I’d wait until he was long gone or move out of the area to find unarmed people.

    Obviously this might not work against people out of their mind on drugs or just plain insane in the first place, but for most, deterrence is effective.

  29. It works for clear thinking criminals, no question. They’ll outright tell you it does. I asked a career burglar (out on probation) about that very thing last week and he told me: “Fuck that noise. If I think someone’s got a gun inside, I’ll move on to the next house.” The drugged out wankers, on the other hand, don’t always possess the faculties to make the distinction. Thus, bedside Mossberg.

  30. I think deterrence works to a limited level. Public square, sure, it’d be hard to think of a reason why a criminal would attack a gun carrying citizen. But then criminals aren’t always rational, are they?

    Surprise attacks will never be eliminated, guns or no guns. The best that we can do is carry and be aware of our surroundings.

    I don’t think we’ll ever have a quantifiable result, as it’s pretty impossible to track the “gun-deterrence” events. Criminals aren’t going to submit “I was going to rob this guy, but then I saw his gun on the hip, so I decided to go rob this old lady down the street.” That’s not going to happen.

    There might be a little value to a survey of currently incarcerated criminals. You would have to trust they’re honest.

  31. My take is irrelevant. What is relevant if the overwhelming data showing it does work as well as prison interviews with criminals who support that view.

  32. The efficacy of any deterrent is entirely incumbent on what effect it has on your adversary.

    Generally speaking, the more you make yourself look like a hard target that can respond in-kind to a dangerous threat, the more likely they’ll be to leave you alone. Criminals aren’t the brightest crayons in the box, hence why they’ve turned to a life of thuggery in the first place, but the vast majority will know well enough to take the path of least resistance.

    In other words, they’re just lazy as shit.

    But, I would rather not rely on a criminals’ base fear of my gun. Be aware that there are those out there that are smarter, tougher, and more skilled than your average gan-banging meth-head. Either that, or they’re naive and dumb enough to think they are because they’re inexperienced.

    Those are the types that The People of The Gun are, or at least should be, preparing themselves for. It’s never enough just to have a gun, but be willing to use the damn thing and be able to use the damn thing with all the due diligence and skill that we can muster.

  33. I wouldn’t call an armed response a true deterrent in that some attempted crime happens, good guy pulls his gun, bad guy cancels plans for an easy score. Sure, it deters increased damage, etc., which really isn’t even discussable. It absolutely works. I wonder sometimes if OC can be a true deterrent, meaning it can prevent any attempt to commit a crime. I know that the popular wisdom is that it increases the likelihood of being a target, but that is only true if someone actually notices.

    It is amazing how little people actually notice what’s going on around them. Not the readers of this site, as your SA is probably an 8 or 9 out of 10. But consider this: I am a below knee amputee and, because I live in the Southwest and can wear shorts about 9 months a year, my prosthesis is very obvious. And it is stunning how many people simply don’t notice. It’s not that they are being kind by ignoring it, but if I make some reference to it, they look at me blankly and sort of go, “what?” and then get red faced when they look down.

    I agree that we all prepare for the worst, which is a deadly serious group of very bad people, but more and more people I have spoken with, from cops to DAs to defense attorneys, the basic agreement is that ‘crime makes you stupid’. Like the guy who tries to rob a gun store during work hours and walks past six police cars parked out front. I would loved to have heard what he had to say, but he was dead before he hit the ground. Most spur of the moment criminals are probably in that category.

    I am certain there are true predators out there who can sense weakness like a wolf sniffs out prey, but there are many, many more mopes that are simply dumb as toast and functionally blind. Of course, while I recognize that, it doesn’t change my preparedness. Only a fool doesn’t prepare for the worst. But damn, some of them are just hard-rock stupid.

  34. a concealed weapon does not make a crime deterrent of itself, all it represents is a chance for equalization of a confrontational process! it is this principle of a Fairness doctrine that the treasonous and seditious anti’s don’t like!
    Anti’s fear non conformity too their personnel belief’s as they want to feel morally superior too Joe Schmoe Weapons lover! (I’m better than you)
    you also have to consider the fact that most Anti’s have a Criminal in their family that they want to protect!
    That said the more People protest themselves the more risk factor is introduced too criminal activity

  35. In earlier times, when swords were the weapon of choice, a large percentage of the population went around armed in some fashion, and, at least in 1000 years of medieval through Elizabethan England, the rates of violent death are many times our own. I think that culture has as much or more to do with the murder rate as weapons do. In an honor/shame culture, violence will be higher than in a guilt culture. All said, I sure like the option of being armed.

  36. Here is my take on pistols as deterrents to crime:

    1) You cannot statistically measure any event that does not happen
    2) Not all illegal acts nor perpetrators of such acts are operating under the same motivations or mental acuity and this will mitigate the effectiveness of a visible or concealed firearm as a deterrent
    3) Concealed Carry, in places where it is perceived to be fairly common, will in general convince petty criminals to seek lines of endeavor that do not require the risk of facing a potentially armed victim
    4) Open Carry, in places where even the most dim-witted criminal can see it is common, can be expected to have a significant effect on their confrontational criminal activities
    5) In areas where both Open and Concealed Carry are optional and it is known that they are common it could reasonably be expected that the mystery factor would be extremely intimidating to Bad Guys and they would change occupations or even residence.

    It can be presumed that the perception by the criminal element that an unknown number of persons in their zone of interest might be armed will significantly change their criminal strategies.

    Several final thoughts:
    1) Stupid people/stupid times/stupid places, whether you are armed or not
    2) The entire argument is moot, since any attempt to enforce one or the other form of carry is unconstitutional
    3) Some people are just looking for trouble and disregard risk, kind of a Bad Guy’s X-Games. Open or Concealed, your only defense against them is Situational Awareness.

  37. Deter what? Maybe novice hoodlums or opportunists, but hardened criminals??? Puh-leeeese! I knew a liqour store owner and his,wife that carried .357 colt pythons in plain sight. One evening three Crips gangmembers posed as customers and walked in, pulled a .22 and shot the owner in the face, killing him. They muscled the wife down, disarmed her and stole a lousy $600.00, the owners gun and his wifes gun.

    People need to STOP this “goin’ down guns a blazin” stupidity. You have to not only properly arm yourself, but KNOW your state laws about being armed, as well case law to protect yourself. You should also THINK scenarios for when and when not to carry open or concealed? ( large crowd scenario. Multiple armed assailants, rural or isolated area, etc)

    Police officers and security guards daily “open carry” so ask yourself WHY that has never been a deterrent to people who want to attack them before you get too comfortable thinking open carry will deter someone from causing you problems……

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