– The purpose of the present analysis is to test the relative impact of trust in police, social cohesion, and fear of crime on neighborhood‐level rates of concealed pistol license (CPL) holding. The dynamics of both formal and informal social control are hypothesized to affect neighborhood CPL concentrations.
– Data were neighborhood‐level and came from a city survey and the state Department of Licensing. A path model was estimated.
– Police service level had a negative indirect effect on neighborhood CPL concentrations through fear of crime, but had a strong positive direct effect. Social cohesion also had a strong positive direct effect on CPL rates.
– The study suggests that lawful concealed hand‐gun carrying should be viewed as a way in which neighborhoods exercise informal social control. People in socially cohesive areas may carry concealed hand‐guns not only because they fear for their own safety, but also because they feel a sense of responsibility to their fellow neighborhood residents.
– Police who encourage citizens to engage in private forms of self‐protection should be aware that citizens in cohesive areas may choose to do this via hand‐gun carrying. Police should be sure that citizens in these neighborhoods have ready access to safety training and devices. Most importantly, police should emphasize to citizens in these areas that hand‐gun carrying has not been shown conclusively to reduce crime, and that there are other private crime‐prevention techniques that carry more promise of keeping communities safer from crime.
– There are few studies attempting to determine the precursors to concealed hand‐gun carrying. The paper seeks a better understanding of the reasons why some neighborhoods evince higher levels of CPLs than others. Additionally, most prior studies have used suboptimal levels of aggregation. The study uses neighborhood‐level data, which allows for an examination of ecological phenomena without the confounding effects of between‐jurisdiction heterogeneity that a higher level of aggregation would produce.