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Across the country news media both new and old are talking about a study recently published in the Journal of Criminology (which, according to their ‘About Us’ page is “a peer-reviewed, open access journal that publishes original research articles as well as review articles in all areas of criminology”). Authored by Charles D. Phillips of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M University, Concealed Handgun Licensing and Crime in Four States is not the sort of study we usually see from academics in the health policy field. Don’t get me wrong, it contains much of the junk science we have come to expect from such researchers; assumptions presented as facts, cherry-picked data and data sets, ignoring inconvenient data, etc. . . .

Just as one example, in their introduction the authors state (vis-à-vis shall-issue laws):

However ambiguous the results of the research on this topic may be, the effect of the passage of CHL legislation is, in reality, no longer a pressing policy issue.

Ambiguous? I think Chuck needs to invest in a good dictionary; as Dr. Lott pointed out back in 2012:

Among peer-reviewed national studies by criminologists and economists, 18 find that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, 10 claim no effect, and just one claims one type of crime temporarily increases slightly.

So with Chuck’s study added in, we now have 29 studies showing no adverse effect from loosened permitting laws and one showing a temporary increase (followed by an overall decrease) in a single category of crime. Those results are hardly “ambiguous.”

But what distinguishes Chuck’s study from so many other public health policy efforts? He at least has the intellectual honesty to admit that passing shall-issue laws doesn’t increase crime.

For years, every time civil libertarians have tried to loosen permit laws the antis have made dire predictions of “blood in the streets,” “firefights over parking spots,” “OK Corral-style shootouts,” even “dogs and cats living together.” And for years gunnies have argued that the mere presence of a gun does not somehow transform everyday law-abiding OFWGs (or anyone else exercising their RKBA) into ravening monsters just itching for an opportunity to “slap leather” and murder people by the busload.

It’s nice to see at least some of these public health types are finally starting to catch on.

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  1. Every time I read another ‘blood will run in the streets’ comment by the ‘press’ or pol I wonder where the bloodshed is here in Nevada. There’s an awful lot of CCWs here.

    Then I look next door at ‘The Wild West’ (Arizona) and wonder why the streets are not running with the blood of all those gun fights that must be occurring…

    Because it doesn’t…

    Or are they saying ‘their’ populace is so much less responsible or untrustworthy? I can only think their audience/constituents (same difference, no?) should be a tad bit offended by this behavior.

    • Yep, I like how in Texas, legalizing handgun OC was this huge deal, yet OK has had it since ’12 and absolutely nothing changed for the worse.

      • Funny thing about Oklahoma’s licensed open carry, is that it also applies to out of state carriers with licenses Oklahoma recognizes, which is every state. So as a licensed Texas carrier, I can carry openly in Oklahoma today, on my Texas license, but may not do so legally here in Texas, on my same Texas license, until 1-1-16.

  2. Not all academic journals are equal. Watch out for open-access journals. Some exist primarily to make money for the publishers. The journal this paper was published in charges authors $500 to publish a research paper ( While some open-access journals may have credibility, there is a conflict of interest in requiring authors to pay to publish in “peer-reviewed” journals. Journals that have large publication fees tend to accept many of the papers submitted to them in order to make money. This publisher has office in Cairo, London, and NY. I wonder about the value of this paper in Egypt and England. Maybe some of the academicians reading this can comment on the impact factor or respect this journal carries among criminology researchers.

    • Even the supposedly peer-reviewed journals of long standing are now dubious. Scientific fraud is at an all-time high, with both data being manufactured and datasets being “groomed” – even in high-profile journals.

      • And the explanation is simple: there is too much at stake to tell the truth.

        Remember, no one gets large research jackpots grants for telling us that the sky is blue and water is wet. And lest we forget that we must never let anything — including the truth — stand in the way of Utopia “Progress”.

  3. Serious question:

    We all know and have stated many times that our right to defend our lives is NOT based on social utility. And yet these studies, and I dare say most “debates”, with gun-grabbers are almost universally predicated on social utility. So why do we engage with gun-grabbers on social utility when our right is not based on social utility?

    If a group of people began advocating for “legal” rape, would we debate the “merits” and drawbacks of rape with them? Or would we tell them that rape is flat out wrong — always has been and always will be?

    • It’s conducting the debate on terms generally they choose, and in terms they claim to understand.

      And they still lose.

      But I see your point.

    • The right to keep and bear arms for self-defense as an auxiliary right necessary for the preservation of life, liberty, and property is not dependent upon social utility.

      But here is why social utility is an important consideration IMO. Think about the Heller decision affirming the RKBA as an individual right not tied to militia service.

      (1) Heller included language affirming restrictions on the RKBA. It is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any way whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

      So, those thinking about the limits on the RKBA will surely consider the social utility of expanding or contracting the who, what, where, why, why, and how of guns in society.

      (2) Heller was decided by a 5-4 margin and the majority decision was written by a justice who will be 80 years old next spring.

      So, the social utility of guns is taken up as a political issue and could be important in deciding the next POTUS. Who could have the opportunity to shape the direction of the SCOTUS and therefore of the interpretation of the Second Amendment for generations.

      (3) Heller notwithstanding, any number of restrictions on guns have passed Constitutional muster over the years. In fact, it seems that more gun restrictions have been upheld in the courts than have been overturned.

      So, perceptions of the social utility of guns can affect the outcome of city council decisions, state legislative decisions, popular referenda, and so on.

      Just asserting the right as a right without consideration of social utility is more than simply arguing the issue on “their” terms. It is a legal and political necessity.

      • DavidY,

        First of all, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed reply.

        I fully understand and have had similar thoughts to your comments. At the same time, I question the wisdom of that approach.

        Suppose a “rape violence” group convinced some people in our nation that it was dangerous for society if women resisted rape. As a result, government passes a law that requires women to wear handcuffs and ankle shackles so that they have basically no ability to resist a sexual assault. What would our righteous response be leading up to the passage of such a rape “restraining” law? Would we engage in endless debates about the social utility of handcuffing and shackling women? And what would our righteous response be after the passage of such a rape “restraining” law? Continue to debate the social utility of handcuffing and shackling women … all the while supporting law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, and judges who arrest and prosecute women who fail to wear handcuffs and shackles?

        Laws that disarm the good people of our nation are no different. The basis for those laws: it is allegedly dangerous for our society if people can use firearms to resist violent attacks. And the result is the same: firearm laws effectively handcuff and shackle good people so that we cannot effectively resist violent attacks. Such laws are vile on their face. Why do we engage in debates about the social utility of such laws? Why do we support law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges who prosecute good people for failing to disarm?

        • Just a brief comment since in the ADD world of social media I think everyone is already moved on from this, but I would say the difference between the type of violation against the right of women to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness described here is different than the violation of the right to keep and bear arms because the former is a primary, natural right and the latter is an auxiliary right. But I am not a legal scholar and already feel myself getting out of my depth so I will leave it at that and perhaps others can clarify.

  4. When someone predicts blood in the streets and the wild west I usually reply with the following:

    Good day, As someone living in Arizona, I would like you to please understand that you cannot have your OK Corral scenario as you are predicting, as much as you would like it. Understand that the issue that sparked the massacre was the tightening of gun laws by lawmen, and failing to allow even other lawmen to possess firearms. Why do you think you know the names of folks like Doc Holiday, Wyatt Erp, and other famous folks like Billy the Kid? They were rare. You don’t know the names of the thousands of other folks who also lived in that time and weren’t involved in any shootouts, despite there being no gun laws in the majority of areas at all. Outside of the few hot spots, like Dodge City, and Tombstone(which really wasn’t that hot of a hot spot, there are more shootouts there NOW than were ever there during the Old West), most places were pretty peaceful.

    Understand that the “Wild West” is a purely fantastic Hollywood invention. You may be familiar with the Hollywood version of events. Much like the streets of LA are not constant scenes of high speed pursuits involving Riggs and Murtaugh shooting at bad guys, while they shoot machine guns at them, such portrayals of the west are not realistic. Life was hard for folks making a life out here. I suggest you read the REAL history of the west. Read about the small towns like Clarkdale and Jerome for a little bit more color.

  5. Author here is critical of junk science by academic researchers and cites as his counter evidence . . . John Lott’s letter to the editor published in the Baltimore Sun? Well, that was convincing.

    I don’t doubt Lott’s assertion any more than I accept it at face value because he said it. I would like to see the list of 29 studies, because not every study is equivalent, as TexasCitizen points out.

    I have edited two academic journals and acted as a peer-reviewer for dozens of article submissions over my career, and I can say without question that (1) the peer-review process is real (i.e., reviewers really try to determine whether a submission is good), and (2) the peer-review process is imperfect. It is imperfect not because human beings are involved. Publishing something that challenges the accepted wisdom of the time is harder than publishing something that accords with the accepted wisdom.

    That’s why so many of the assumptions that get built into the public health research on guns and gun violence aren’t caught. Thomas Kuhn wrote about this in terms of the development of the field of physics in his book on the structure of scientific revolutions. It doesn’t mean the entire enterprise of physics is corrupt. It is human. And humans are flawed.

    The peer review process is imperfect for the same reason that TTAG has to run an “irresponsible gun owner of the day” column.

    Of course, the vilification of academic research undertaken so frequently here and in other parts of gun culture does nothing to encourage people with a better understanding of guns — who could challenge assumptions — to get involved in the scholarly research process. Which to me, at least, is unfortunate. I am teaching a seminar on guns this semester and have smart students who span the political spectrum in their views of guns, and I am encouraging them all to think and learn more about the topic. Because at root that is what the academic process is all about – even if it at times gets fouled up by people.

    • DavidY,

      We would all be MUCH better off if academia would simply admit that, “… the academic process … at times gets fouled up by people.”

      The trouble is, I don’t really see anyone in academia who is willing to admit that to themselves much less state it publicly.

      As a result, academia has “become a law unto themselves” — where “law” refers to both natural laws (sciences) as well as jurisprudence. Is it any wonder that so many people, who have enough “street smarts” to see plain truths which academia ignores for various reasons, are so hostile toward academia?

      Saying it another way, people loath academia for two reasons:
      (1) Academia blatantly ignores and distorts the truth and outright lies at times.
      (2) Academia claims “elite” status to enforce their ignorance, distortions, and lies.
      It should be obvious why such a condition will not end well for academia.

      • I guess my question for you is how do you define “academia” and how much interaction you have with its members?

        There is actually a lot of reflection by people involved with academia about how to do good science, including social science, and how the reality of humans being involved makes that challenging. For example, Harvard sociology Michele Lamont published a book in 2009 called, “How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment.” It examined the peer review process in several disciplines. There are many more such works.

        You also use “academia” as a singular subject, but that is really only a shorthand for alot of people doing alot of things. Sort of like “gun culture.” I use the term all the time as a shorthand, but also recognize that it is a blanket term covering alot of people doing alot of things. Some good, some bad. As a member of both gun culture and academia, I don’t want to be judged by the worst examples of either.

  6. I can envision gun-grabbers all across the nation right now with their hands over their ears and their eyes closed … shouting out loud, “Stop confusing me with the facts!”

  7. My state of Oregon is a shall issue state. We have some of the lowest crime rates in the nation. As a matter of fact, a private citizen with a permit stopped a massacre at one of our shopping malls just last year. So the reality is that where ever honest citizens are allowed to carry firearms, they stop crime.

    Now look at California, a shall not issue state. There are more criminals there than honest citizens if you ask me. Why? Easy pickings! The criminals know that they stand a low chance of getting shot in the catch someone in public.

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