Permitless Carry Homicide Increase Claim Refuted by Cited Study

Making false claims about the right to bear arms in order to influence political decisions is an attack on all Ohioans. (Ohio-Gun-Control-iStock-884221290 Allexxandar)

U.S.A. – -( “A Republican permitless carry gun law will bring Ohio more death,” writer Craig Calcaterra asserts in a Tuesday Columbus Alive article. “Researchers have found that states with permitless carry laws have experienced an 11 percent increase in handgun homicide rates after enactment.”

The topic could not be timelier. At this writing, the legislature has passed Senate Bill 215 up to Governor Mike DeWine and it is awaiting his signature, his veto, or his silence, in which case it becomes law after 10 days without his participation.

DeWine has been a mixed bag for gun owners. At one time was called “a principled statesman” by the Brady Campaign, until he decided NRA’s endorsement worked better for his political ambitions. But recently he’s been making noises about distancing himself from that and going back to supporting gun laws like the so-called STRONG Act.

As expected, he’s being hammered by both sides, with the major, well-funded gun-grab groups and influential lobbyists like the Fraternal Order of Police getting the lion’s share of sympathetic headlines. Prominent among those is the aforementioned Columbus Alive article, especially influential because the outlet is part of the powerful Gannett Publications empire with its far-reaching USA Today network, and because Columbus is Ohio’s state capital, and politicians take note of what’s being said about them in the media.

An 11 percent increase in handgun homicides attributable to permitless carry is significant enough to make anyone sit up and take notice. If the figures bear out, gun owners can expect a governor (who at times appears to be working up the guts to chicken out) to set his speechwriters to work on excuses. And making that claim, right under the headline, is certainly an attention grabber.

“[P]ublic health researchers have found that states with permitless carry laws have experienced an 11 percent increase in handgun homicide rates after their enactment,” the article elaborates, providing a link to an August 2017 American Journal of Public Health abstract titled “Easiness of Legal Access to Concealed Firearm Permits and Homicide Rates in the United States.”

The curious thing is, I couldn’t find their subhead-“worthy” assertion substantiated. Perhaps readers here can check my work by following my methodology and see if they get different results.

First, I read the abstract. Nothing.

Then I decided to do a word search, starting with (since it’s the percentage quoted) the number “11.” That returned 18 results, for dates, footnotes, and stuff, with the only one coming close to relevancy being a claim that “firearm homicide rates … were 11.7% higher in ‘shall issue’ states.”

That’s very different from permitless carry. It also recalls a noteworthy deceptiveness of relying exclusively on rates over numbers:

“For example, in 1880 Dodge City, one person out of 996 was killed. However, 100 years later in Miami, 515 people out of 1.5 million were killed. Although more people were murdered in Miami, statistically speaking the city has a lower homicide rate — just 32.7, compared to the 100.4 of Dodge City in the 1880s.”

Relying on that abstract observation also neglects a sigificant and fundamental admission the that it makes:

“At least 10 national studies have examined the relationship between shall-issue concealed-carry laws and firearm-related or total homicide rates at the state level. In 2 studies, shall-issue laws were found to decrease homicide rates. In 2 studies, these laws were found to increase homicide rates. Six studies reported no clear impact of shall-issue laws on homicide rates.”

That’s hardly “settled science,” and note it (unsurprisingly) makes no mention of the other side of the coin, lives saved by armed citizens.

Since “11” didn’t work to substantiate Columbus Alive’s claims, the next logical search to perform would be for the word “permitless.” Here we hit paydirt:

“We examined the potential impact of shall-issue laws, comparing them to may-issue laws. In other words, using the may-issue states as the reference group, we estimated the impact of shall-issue laws on homicide rates. Because only 4 states had permitless-carry laws in place during the study period, there were not enough observations to allow any meaningful analyses of these laws. Therefore, we deleted state–year observations in which a permitless-carry law was in effect … The number of states that had permitless-carry laws in effect at all during the study period was small … as was the number of observations  … limiting our ability to analyze the impact of these laws … Finally, we were unable to analyze the impact of permitless-carry laws because of the small number of observations. Only 4 states had permitless-carry laws in place during the study period. However, in the past 2 years, an additional 5 states have enacted such laws. Elucidating the impact of permitless-carry laws will require follow-up for the 9 states that now have such laws in effect.”

So what does that make of the claim that “Researchers have found that states with permitless carry laws have experienced an 11 percent increase in handgun homicide rates after enactment”? Their website does not provide for reader comments to correct the record and get the real information out, so wanting to give the benefit of the doubt, I approached both Columbus Alive and writer Craig Calcaterra on Twitter (politely, even):

“Please explain why the study you link to on that claim says: ‘Finally, we were unable to analyze the impact of permitless-carry laws because of the small number of observations.’”

That was three days ago. I have not received a response nor seen a correction published. You know they’re aware of it, the writer and the editor. And that seems at odds with another feature at their website, a pledge to readers, really, “USA TODAY Network’s Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms”:

“WE ARE COMMITTED TO … Seeking and reporting the truth in a truthful way … Serving the public interest … Exercising fair play … Maintaining independence … Acting with integrity…”

I’d escalate that to management, but last time (2013) I brought ethics concerns to their attention, after their The Journal News holding published gun permit holders’ names and addresses, and their Des Moines Register holding published a call for gun owners to be killed, they just ignored me. Seeing the way they use interns to censor that which they disagree with, and that my reaching out this time has been ignored, I’m not seeing much point in trying again.

If they were truly interested in living up to the ethical standards they claim, they’d realize a small correction, now that people have read their article and moved on, would be way too little way too late. Nothing less than another headline article, retracting and apologizing for their unsubstantiated claim, one explaining in detail what they got wrong, how it happened, and what steps they’ll take to ensure it never happens again, will suffice— and that’s provided it’s published before Gov. DeWine makes up his mind.

If they don’t have time to write one, I’ll let them post this one gratis as long as they credit AmmoLand.

Holding breath in 3…2…1…

About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

David Codrea


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