Guns Galore? Nevada Legislature to take up more gun law changes

guns pile Here they go again.  The Assembled Wisdom in Carson City will be considering more pro-NRA legislation in the upcoming session. [RGJ]  Judging from what we’ve seen thus far, the Republicans are mostly interested in expanding the privilege of concealed carry, enacting reciprocity statutes, and allowing guns on school campuses.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why any civilian with a valid reason to carry a firearm needs to conceal it. If the idea is to let a potential criminal know that he or she will be putting him or herself in danger if an assault is attempted, then why not strap on the old six-shooter and show the world?  Concealment not only hides the weapon from those who would do evil, it also hides it from police officers and other law enforcement officials.  In a land awash in firearms, the notion that anyone could be armed at any time must be part of the assessment of a situation made by law enforcement officers.  We decry the use of ‘heavy-handed’ tactics by such officers while at the same time creating the circumstances which lead to and often justify the use of force.

The rationale for the expansion of concealed carry seems to channel from the NRA’s position that the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with one.  Unfortunately, there’s no peer reviewed research to support this. Do more relaxed concealed carry rules prevent crimes? There’s no peer reviewed research to support this conclusion either.  [Donohue, Aneja, Zhang]

While some conservative and gun advocacy groups have made the claim that more concealed carry permits are related to reduced crime rates, some of the arguments fall because of an inadequate logical base.

“The main argument is that two things that happened simultaneously are related: A 22% drop in murder rates and a 103% spike in gun permits during 2007 and 2013. The report concludes that by “using this new state level permit data from 2007 on, our analysis suggests that each one percentage point increase in the percent of the adult population holding permits is roughly associated with a 1.4% drop in the murder rate.” [Mic]

We have some magical thinking going on here.  If this framework is adopted, then one could argue that a 103% increase in concealed carry permits also “suggests” that this is related to the increase in the DJIA from 13,264.82 in December 2007 to 16,576.66 in December 2013.   Sound silly? Because the DJIA and the crime rate aren’t in the same general category?  True, but when authors of any report use terms like “suggest” and “roughly associated” they are telling the reader they can’t justify a statistical relationship between the elements, much less make a causal connection.

When factors like improved policing methods and higher levels of incarceration are tossed into the mix the ‘suggested’ causal relationship between concealed carry permitting and the reduction of general crime rates becomes even more opaque.  One Alabama newspaper tried its hand at research and concluded:

“AL.com gathered the number of active pistol permits for 63 out of 67 counties. (Four didn’t respond despite repeated requests). But a statistical examination of Alabama’s county-by-county permit rates does not turn up any correlation with rates of serious crime. These offenses consist of homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.”

What might be left then are bits of anecdotal evidence, real and imagined. “I showed the car-jackers my gun and they ran off.”  Good. Not so good, “If I had had a gun I would not have been raped.”  That’s one possible outcome, another might have been “he grabbed the gun away and shot me.”   At present we don’t have any peer reviewed research that can adequately reconcile variations in the results of defensive gun use, primarily because we haven’t carefully defined what we mean by defensive gun use.  The 2013 report from the CDC suggested five high-priority areas for additional research, unfortunately without making much progress on a research definition of DGU.  [NAS]  The House of Representatives still has no intention of funding further gun use and violence related research. [IBT]  We are thus left with a situation in which, given the lack of scientific evidence, the emotional or ideological ‘evidence’ is cited with the same authority as those few scientific studies that are available.

For example, we know that an earlier study indicated that in general the rate of victim injuries were less where a gun was used for self defense. However, what we don’t know is if the firearm was concealed at the outset? Shown at the outset? Was the firearm used to threaten, intimidate, or actually shoot the criminal? Better data collection, and better analytical compilations, depend on better recording and reporting than is now available.

What the 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature could do before launching into ideological legislation is to fund scientific research on defensive gun use in the state of Nevada. In short – get the facts BEFORE the fun starts.

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