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Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review
In the first exercise, we replace the right-to-carry dummy with a series of dummies for each of the possible numbers of years prior to—and following—adoption. We summarize the estimated coefficients in three figures. These figures show the estimated coefficients normalized on the year of adoption and multiplied by 100 (so the y-axis is a percentage), and the associated 95 percentage confidence intervals.13 The vertical line marks the adoption year, while the horizontal line marks 0.
Figure 6-2 shows the time pattern of coefficients from the violent crime model. For years preceding adoption, violent crime is increasing in ultimately adopting states (relative to the national time pattern). Following adoption, the increase relative to trend continues, reverses, then reverses twice again. For property crimes, in Figure 6-2, the upward trend for years prior to adoption continues following adoption.
Figure 6-3 and Figure 6-4 show graphs for individual violent and property crime categories, respectively. The obvious striking feature of these figures is that the big reductions in crime occur roughly 9 years after adoption. Otherwise, the postadoption estimates are generally small and sometimes positive and are, in general, both statistically insignificant and statistically indistinguishable from the preadoption estimates. The trend model essentially fits a line with constant slope through the postadoption portions of these graphs, and the line’s slope is affected by years long after adoption. These time patterns raise serious questions about whether the reductions in crime documented in the trend model are reasonably attributed to the change in the law.
In the second exercise, to further explore the sensitivity of the trend model estimates, we reestimate the baseline trend model (Model 6.2) using revised new Lott data on the period 1977-2000. Table 6-7, row 1, repeats the estimates from Table 6-6, row 1 which includes all years for all states, regardless of the amount of time elapsed since the law change. Subsequent rows include observations that occur certain numbers of years after the law change. (Row 2, labeled “6 years,” includes the year of the law change and the 5 following years, and so on.) These estimates show that including 5 years or fewer reverses the signs of the estimated effects of right-to-carry laws on murder and property crime (from negative to positive) and reduces the magnitude of the estimated reduction in the rates of rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and violent crime. Moreover, there are fewer statistically significant changes in crime trends. One needs to include at least 6 years following the prelaw-change period to find statistically significant reductions in the violent crime and murder trends.
The trend results rely on changes in crime trends occurring long after the law changes, again raising serious questions about whether one can
That is, we subtract the year 0 coefficient from each year’s coefficient.