not clear why anyone should care about this average, which is not related in any obvious way to (for example) nationwide benefits of right-to-carry laws. If coefficients vary among states, then it may be much more useful to estimate the coefficients for each state. It is entirely possible that the effects of right-to-carry laws vary among states, even after controlling everything else that is in the model. If they do, it may be much more useful to know which states have which coefficients, to see the magnitude of the variation, and to have a chance of finding out whether it is related to anything else that is observable. Of course, a number of the studies summarized above have varied Lott’s model by allowing the effect of right-to-carry laws to differ by states (see, for example, Black and Nagin, 1998, and Plassmann and Tideman, 2001). A model in which coefficients are estimated separately for each state does not require adjustment of standard errors.
In summary, whether adjustment of standard errors is needed depends on the details of the effects that are being estimated and the model that is used to estimate them. These issues have not been investigated in studies of right-to-carry laws to date. Adjusted standard errors are not needed for Models 6.1 and 6.2. The precision of estimates from these models should be evaluated using unadjusted standard errors.
This section presents the results of the committee’s own analysis of Lott’s revised new data covering the period 1977-2000. The purpose of the analysis is to clarify and illustrate some of the causes of the conflicting results. The committee has not attempted to form our own estimates of the effects of right-to-carry laws. Rather, our analysis is directed toward gaining a better understanding of the fragility of the estimates. We begin by illustrating the sensitivity of the findings to extending the sample period to cover the years 1993-2000. We then demonstrate that the basic qualitative results are sensitive to variations in the explanatory variables. In all cases, we use the revised new data set. There is a consensus that these revised data, covering the periods 1977-2000, are correct.
Horowitz discusses this problem in further detail and provides a statistical explanation for the fragility in the estimates in Appendix D. This appendix describes two fundamental sources of difficulty in causal inference that are especially relevant to studies of right-to-carry laws. One is the difficulty of choosing the right explanatory variables for a statistical model. The second is the difficulty of estimating the relation among crime rates, a large number of potential explanatory variables, and the adoption of right-to-carry laws. Even if the correct explanatory variables were known, it would be hard to specify a model correctly, especially in high dimensional settings with many explanatory variables. The committee drew on some of