Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws: A Critique of the 2014 Version of Aneja, Donohue, and Zhang

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In 2005 the National Research Council (NRC) analyzed right-to-carry (RTC) laws, which relax the requirements necessary to acquire a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The NRC essentially concluded that the data were not sufficient to determine whether RTC laws increased or decreased crime. However, a recent working paper from Abhay Aneja, John J. Donohue, and Alexandria Zhang re-evaluates the NRC analysis and purports to find evidence that RTC laws increase murder, rape, robbery, and assault. They make a number of choices that generate those results, but we find those choices are often unjustifiable. Most importantly, we note that they use only part of the available data, claiming that a regime change renders decades of data unusable—yet they did not test for the existence of a regime change, and our examination here finds little evidence that such a regime change occurred. Additionally, we note that they compare states that newly adopted laws with states that already had laws, that their standard errors are biased downward, that they exclude highly significant individual state trends, that they run multiple tests without adjusting significance levels, and that they fail to report significance tests on pre- and post-law dummy coefficients.

Response to this article by John J. Donohue: More Gun Carrying, More Violent Crime (EJW, January 2018).