- A naïve count analysis of academic studies from 1995-2018 indicates an evenly split literature on whether RTC Laws reduce, increase, or have no effect on crime.
- Focus on modern studies (post 2005) with a national scope reveals that a majority find that RTC Laws increase crime.
- There are an insufficient number of defensive gun uses for RTC laws to reduce crime through direct deterrence.
- Indirect deterrence is highly implausible due to a lack of general knowledge about the distribution of permit holders.
- There are an insufficient number of permit holder crimes for RTC laws to increase crime through direct escalation.
- An increase in crime through indirect escalation is highly likely given the more than 200,000 gun thefts every year.
- The modern academic literature and investigation of causal pathways both reinforce the conclusion that RTC laws likely increase crime, or at best have no net beneficial effect.
These results provide a number of insights regarding state and federal policy on gun violence. Efforts such as Concealed Carry Reciprocity, which would allow individuals from states with looser restrictions to obtain a concealed carry permit to carry their firearms in states with stronger laws, are deeply misguided unless paired with measures that substantially increase training requirements and the strength of background checks. The growing trend of permitless carry (otherwise known as “constitutional carry”) that has already spread to fourteen states removes the two most beneficial aspects of the permitting process: passing a background check and undergoing at least some training. As such, permitless carry is likely to exacerbate the crime inducing effects of concealed carry. Allowing concealed firearms into more sensitive areas such as schools and places of worship is also likely to have a similar detrimental effect on community safety.
Public policy should be evidence based and rely on solid, academic studies. As discussed in this paper, replacing RTC laws with May Issue standards provides local law enforcement discretion to double check whether a permit applicant is truly responsible before granting the permit. Increased training with an emphasis on deescalating conflicts and how to safely store firearms to avoid unintentional shootings and theft could also help reduce gun violence. Furthermore, the training should provide a clear-eyed assessment of the dangers that accompany owning and carrying a firearm. Studies clearly show that gun violence can be reduced by adopting an evidence-based approach to firearm policy and shifting towards proposals with significant academic evidence support such as Permit to Purchase, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and funding community-led programs aimed at reaching at-risk individuals.