At Real Clear Politics: Gov. Hochul Short on Answers, Thin on Data

Dr. John Lott has a new piece at Real Clear Politics.

When a local reporter in Albany, New York, asked Gov. Kathy Hochul if she had “the numbers to show it’s the concealed carry permit holders that are committing crimes,” Hochul dismissed the question outright. “I don’t need to have numbers,” Hochul said. “I don’t need to have a data point to say this.”

The reporter, Anne McCloy, persisted and noted: “Somebody who is going to go do a mass shooting or something like that may not go and get a permit.” But Hochul said that was irrelevant to the issue of people carrying concealed handguns for protection.

The exchange must have caught Hochul off guard, since reporters don’t normally challenge support for gun control. But if Hochul wants to claim that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down New York’s restrictive concealed handgun law “could place millions of New Yorkers in harm’s way,” she has to explain how exactly permits make people a danger to others. After all, permit holders must pass a criminal background check, obtain the required training, and be at least 21 years old.

Democrats and gun control proponents are now predicting disaster in New York and the six other heavily Democratic states with restrictive “may-issue” concealed

handgun laws. These states required applicants to demonstrate “proper cause” – a good reason that would convince a government bureaucrat of one’s need for a permit.

But those predicting catastrophe don’t have history on their side. Forty-three states don’t require a good reason for people to carry a gun for protection. And yet, concealed handgun permit holders have proven extremely law-abiding. No right-to-carry state has ever even held a legislative hearing to consider moving back to a “proper cause” requirement.

Since 1976, 18 states have eliminated “proper cause” requirements in favor of “right-to-carry” policies. In state after state, gun control proponents kept predicting the same disaster. And gun control proponents continually lost credibility.

But that didn’t stop Justice Stephen Breyer from speculating: “People of good moral character who start drinking a lot and who may be there for a football game or – or some kind of soccer game – can get pretty angry at each other. And if they each have a concealed weapon, who knows?”

Concealed carry laws have been in place for decades, and there are now 21.5 million permit holders nationwide. If there were any merit to Breyer’s concerns, his imagined scenario ought to have played out at least once. But there isn’t a single recorded incident like it.

In Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of firearms-related violations at one-twelfth the rate of police officers. The average revocation rate is one-tenth of 1% in the 19 states with comprehensive data. Typically, permit revocations occur because someone moved, died, or forgot to bring a permit while carrying.

California and New York don’t provide data on revocation rates, but we do have some other information on how arbitrarily permits are issued. In 2013, Los Angeles County named its 341 permit holders out of a population of almost eight million adults. 

In L.A., only the political elite got permits: judges, reserve deputy sheriffs, and a small group of very wealthy, well-connected individuals who gave campaign donations to the county sheriff. Few recipients were minorities or women. While Hispanics made up over half of Los Angeles County residents, they only received about 6.5% of the county’s permits. Women got about 7%, and blacks 5%. In right-to-carry states, women have 29% of the permits and blacks have 12%.

In the rest of the U.S., 10% of adults have permits. People in most states don’t think twice about being in the presence of armed citizens in restaurants, theaters, and stores. New Yorkers must be terrified to visit Pennsylvania, where 14.4% of adults have permits. 

When officials get to decide who gets a permit, explicit death threats often aren’t even enough to qualify. Residence in a high-crime neighborhood is irrelevant.

Fifty-two peer-reviewed, empirical studies have been published on right-to-carry laws. Of these, 25 studies found that allowing people to carry reduces violent crime, and 15 found no significant effect. A minority, 12, observed increases in violent crime after concealed carry was adopted. Unfortunately, these 12 studies suffer, to varying degrees, from systematic error. They overwhelmingly focus on the last 20 years and compare states that recently passed concealed carry laws with more lenient states that had sustained a much larger growth in permits over the past two decades. The finding that crime rose relatively in such states is actually consistent with permit holders reducing crime.

Hochul says her job is to establish sensible gun safety laws, but facts do matter. The current system is arbitrary and favors the privileged. With California and New York unable to protect their citizens, people will soon learn that Hochul’s fears of letting law-abiding citizens defend themselves are unjustified.

John R. Lott, Jr., “Gov. Hochul Short on Answers, Thin on Data,” July 4, 2022.

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