“Shall Issue” Gun Law States Associated With Higher Homicide and Firearm Death Rates

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences Boston University School of Public Health Boston, MA 02118

Prof. Siegel

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH
Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences
Boston University School of Public Health
Boston, MA 02118

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: A central question in the debate about public policies to reduce firearm violence is whether easier access to concealed handguns increases or decreases the rate of firearm-related homicides. Previous studies on the impact of concealed carry permitting laws have yielded inconsistent results. Most of these studies were conducted more than a decade ago. This study provided a reexamination of this research question with more recent data, up to and including the year 2015.

While all states allow certain persons to carry concealed handguns, there are 3 major variations in permitting policy. In 9 states, law enforcement officials have wide discretion over whether to issue concealed carry permits; these are referred to as “may issue” states because police chiefs can deny a permit if they deem the applicant to be at risk of committing violence, even if there is not a criminal history. In 29 states, there is little or no discretion; these are referred to as “shall-issue” states because permits must be issued if requisite criteria are met. In an additional 12 states, no permit is necessary to carry a concealed handgun.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: In this study, researchers compared homicide rates in states with “shall issue” laws to rates in states with “may issue” laws. The time period for the study was 1991-2015.

The study found that shall-issue laws are associated with significantly higher rates of homicide. Shall-issue laws were associated with 6.5% higher total homicide rates, 8.6% higher firearm homicide rates, and 10.6% higher handgun homicide rates

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Our findings suggest that easier access to concealed weapons is associated with an increased risk of fatal shootings involving handguns.

This may be related to an increase in the prevalence of people carrying guns and/or to the carrying of handguns by people who are at higher risk of violence. Some have argued that the more armed citizens there are, the lower the firearm homicide rate will be because the feared or actual presence of armed citizens may deter violent crime.

Our study findings suggest that this is not the case and that in fact, easier access to concealed handguns increases public safety risks.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future studies should examine whether “permitless carry” laws pose different safety risks than “shall issue” laws.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

  • This research is particularly relevant because Congress is currently considering “national concealed carry reciprocity” legislation that would allow anyone to carry a gun in any state as long as they have a concealed carry permit in their own state of residence. Our study findings suggest that such a policy could have significant public health risks.
  • This research is also important because there is a trend toward increasingly permissive concealed carry laws. Our findings suggest that these laws may be inconsistent with the promotion of public safety.
  • One unique aspect of our research is that it is the first to examine the impact of concealed carry laws on rates of handgun homicide. Previous studies examined homicide by all firearms. However, if concealed carry permitting laws affect homicide rates, they should specifically affect handgun homicide rates. In our study, we found no impact of shall-issue laws on long gun homicides; the increase in homicide was found only for handgun shootings. This adds validity to our study findings.

Disclosures: This research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evidence for Action Program.

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