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Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review
Plassmann and Tideman (2001) document similar variability in the estimates. To account for the fact that county-level crime data include a large number of observations for which the outcome variable equals zero, Plassmann and Tideman estimate a nonlinear count data model. Using data from all counties with reported crime figures, the resulting estimates on murder and rape are consistent with Lott’s findings, but the sign of the estimated effect of right-to carry laws on robbery is reversed. Furthermore, when the effects of right-to-carry laws are allowed to vary among states, Plassmann and Tideman found that adoption of a right-to-carry law may increase, decrease, or have no effect on the crime rate depending on the crime and state that are involved. Consider, for example, murder. Right-to-carry laws are estimated to have a statistically significant decrease in the murder rate in Florida, Georgia, and Oregon following adoption of a right-to-carry law. Virginia has a statistically significant increase in its murder rate. The changes in the murder rates of other states that adopted right-to-carry laws are not statistically significantly different from zero. Plassmann and Tideman conclude by noting the fragility in the estimated effects of right-to-carry laws: “While this ambiguous result is somewhat discouraging, it is not very surprising. Whenever the theoretically possible and in practice plausible effects of public policy are ambiguous, it can be expected that the effects of such a policy will differ across localities that are clearly different from each other” (p. 797).
Finally, the added flexibility of the hybrid model estimated by Ayres and Donohue (2003a) produces estimation results that are different from Lott’s.9 The results found when using the revised original data (1977-
and is undefined in counties that report no crimes of the types analyzed. Therefore, these counties are not included in Lott’s analysis. Because the denominator of the arrest rate variable contains the dependent variable in Lott’s models, it is possible that dropping no-crime counties biases the results of his analysis. Nearly all of the low-crime counties have populations below 100,000. Therefore, use of only counties with larger populations largely overcomes the problem of missing arrest rate data without creating a bias.
Lott (1999:8-9; 2000:142-143), however, has argued that Black’s and Nagin’s results are unreliable because they eliminated 85 percent of the counties in the nation (all the counties with populations of less than 100,000). In particular, they used only one county in West Virginia. Lott (2000: Table 4.9) presents his own estimation results according to which his findings are largely unaffected by disaggregating the right-to-carry effect by state. However, Lott does not report the details of his analysis or the statistical significance levels of his estimates. Moreover, his response does not explain why Black and Nagin found statistically significant increases in some crime rates for some states following passage of right-to-carry laws.
The committee takes no position on whether the hybrid model provides a correct description of crime levels or the effects of right-to-carry laws. The important feature of the hybrid model is that it nests Models 6.1 and 6.2.