Mike D'Antoni and the Difference Between a Concealed Handgun and LoJack

John Donohue and I have weighed in again on the concealed-handgun debate. (You can read previous writings on this subject here, here, and here.) This time we have responded to an empirical article by Carlisle Moody and Thomas Marvell, who claim they are “confident” that “the evidence, such as it is, seems to support the hypothesis that the shall-issue law is generally beneficial with respect to its overall long-run effect on crime.”

We point out in our response that the M&M article might have been more credible if

1) The authors had interpreted the sign of the coefficients correctly:

They state that “14 states experienced cumulative benefits while 10 states experienced cumulative costs.” Unfortunately, they have the numbers backwards: 14 of the 24 states are shown in Moody and Marvell’s Table 10 to have cumulative costs; that is, according to their own estimates, RTC laws lead to higher crime costs for the majority of states!

2) The authors had not found an implausibly high crime reduction in Florida:

Specifically, Moody and Marvell’s analysis indicates that the overall impact of RTC laws on crime through 2000 has been to lower crime by $28 billion nationally. But the same table reveals that Florida’s RTC laws alone experienced a crime cost reduction through 2000 of almost $31 billion. In other words, across the 24 states that they analyze, they attribute a benefit of almost $31 billion to the Florida RTC law and estimate an overall harmful effect of about $3 billion of RTC laws across the other 23 jurisdictions. So much for “generally beneficial.”

Now let us pause to reflect on this finding for a moment. If you had an intervention that had a net harmful effect in 23 out of 24 jurisdictions, while at the same time you estimated a massive benefit from the same intervention in only one state, would you assert that the intervention was “generally beneficial”?

3) The authors had coded the underlying data correctly (see p. 51 of our response).

As for now, the best empirical evidence still does not support the “more guns, less crime hypothesis.”

I’m often asked to reconcile this conclusion with the results of my LoJack article. You see, in an article with Steve Levitt, we showed that LoJack seemed to have a large deterrence effect on auto theft. Thieves (especially pros relative to joy riders) are less likely to take cars in a city like Boston, where a sizable fraction of the cars have LoJack. Unobservable precautions, like LoJack and silent alarms, can deter crime generally because potential criminals don’t know at the point of committing the crime whether their particular victim is protected or not. In contrast, a precaution like the Club, which is observable to the potential thief, probably just shifts crime to other victims.

But if our LoJack paper is correct, why wouldn’t we expect to see a similar crime-reducing effect from concealed handguns? Concealed weapons can also be a type of unobservable precaution that can deter potential criminals from committing crimes. Why doesn’t my concealed-handgun empiricism find similar reductions in crime when state laws make it easier to carry concealed handguns?

A powerful answer to this question comes from none other than the New York Knicks basketball coach Mike D’Antoni. As reported in last week’s New York Times:

Mike D’Antoni was thrilled to see Nate Robinson break out of his shooting slump Wednesday, but not so pleased with his behavior. Robinson — who was on the bench at the time — celebrated a second-quarter David Lee dunk by skipping down the baseline and bumping the Suns’ Amare Stoudemire, who had fouled Lee on the play. Robinson was assessed a technical foul, his sixth of the season. “To be honest with you, that’s why you don’t have concealed weapons, because I’d have shot him at that point,” D’Antoni said wryly. “I do like his feistiness, but he just needs to channel it in the right way. And he knows that.”

D’Antoni knows that the problem with a concealed weapon is that it can easily change from a defensive “unobservable precaution” to an offensive weapon to commit crimes. People are not as likely to get angry and rip a LoJack out of their car to beat someone with it.


Craig

So, what you are saying is that guns won't be as popular as Lojack, not that they wouldn;t deter crime if they were popular.

P

People are not as likely to get angry and rip a LoJack out of their car to beat someone with it.

--

Yes, clearly. We should ban all knives and baseball bats while we're at it, because while these things are merely tools, people may get angry and use them to commit bodily harm.

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Matt H

"D'Antoni knows that the problem with a concealed weapon is that it can easily change from a defensive “unobservable precaution” to an offensive weapon to commit crimes."

...Or maybe D'Antoni should never be allowed to carry a weapon because he has anger issues.

Brian

Isn't the difference that few potential criminals are actually harmed by defensive use of handguns?

LoJack presumably increases the probability of apprehension of car thieves. A criminal confronted with a handgun almost certainly walks away, free to attempt further crimes almost immediately.

David S.

What I've read in the "pro-gun" literature is that the rate of gun crime by concealed carry permit holders is very low. This following the passage of "shall issue" permit laws. Seems to me that if it were otherwise, the anti-gun groups would be publicizing that information quite loudly.

Are there any publicly accessible studies comparing the gun crimes by concealed carry permit holders vs. the population at large?

And do you really think that there are that many people who would use a gun if they got angry, amongst the general, non-criminal, population? I don't know anyone that I would have such a concern about.
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Dave

Billy

I agree with Craig somewhat. All this proves is that guns are less popular than Lojack. This is probably due to the fact that no one will bat an eye upon telling them you have lojack, but tell them you have a concealed weapon and the repsonse will be markedly different,a nd probably not in a good way.

MartyA

I think you miss the point, Ian, and although the D'Antoni quote is fun to include, it doesn't advance the argument. I think the real issue is how common the unknowable deterrent is - concealed carry is still quite rare, even in locations where it is allowed (or even encouraged). An interesting related study would be to find out if cars with visible external "LoJack Equipped" identifier are stolen as often as unidentified vehicles in those particular areas where LoJack is common.

And finally, the idea that having MORE weapons on the street, concealed or not, would REDUCE the level of violence is a wishful fantasy (a state of mind conservatives seem to have a vested interest in). That's where the "D'Antoni Effect" would come to the surface.

Some Random Economist

How many crimes are committed by concealed carry permit holders? Is that number actually large enough to counteract any deterent effect of concealed carry laws, or are other crimes responsible for the failure of the "more guns, less crime" hypothesis?

These other crimes strike me as a more plausible difference. I'll bet there are more burglaries in which the theif hopes to steal a gun than there are cars broken into in order to steal the LoJack.

Mark

#2--

Yes, clearly handguns and knives/baseball bats are the same thing. You make a wonderful "slippery slope" argument.

econobiker

In my opinion this lojack/concealed gun comparison is complete bunk.

A concealed handgun will negate active crime such as a car jacking. It is not a passive deterant since criminals do not know who is or is not carrying a concealed weapon (but they can infer that most nicer/newer cars in Boston probably have Lojack). A crime is ALREADY IN PROGRESS when a concealed weapon is used to negate it. Certaintly, then crime is now recordable in the database even though the criminal may have failed due to the citizen shooting him, criminal running away, or citizen holding the criminal for police arrest. Now if a jurisdiction or city required ALL of its citizens to carry concealed weapons then maybe you would see a difference in crime stats.

LoJack relies on a third party to monitor then inform the police to do their job and recover a vehicle. It is a passive deterant to the property crime of car theft. If you don't have lojack then the police don't care to try and search for your car- they just act as recorders of the history of the crime of car theft.

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Mike

The fact that there's not a clear result in this study and just about every other study (whether sponsored by the "pro-gun" folk or the "anti-gun" folk ) shows an important fact: "There's no reliable correlation between RTC and crime."

The NRA folks don't like that because they can't point to stats that say vigilantes are protecting the streets.

The Anti-gun crowd doesn't like that because they can't say, "guns are evil" and point to any real data to back them up.

So in the light of this lack-of-correlation (and believe me, there have been tons and tons of studies by both sides that want to find a correlation), why don't we just come down on the side of liberty and let people who want to carry guns, to just do so. There's no need to add another governmental restriction that shows no benefit.

Dr. Obvious

"So in the light of this lack-of-correlation (and believe me, there have been tons and tons of studies by both sides that want to find a correlation), why don't we just come down on the side of liberty and let people who want to carry guns, to just do so. "

Because people who don't like guns have no incentive to empathize with people who like guns. This is one area in which it's politically correct to be intolerant of someone else's personal choices.

Doc

A few years ago when airlines still served food in coach, some went to the deli apporach where pasengers picked up their bag lunch while boarding through the jetway. I always thought that if we spent a portion of the TSA budget on a cooler full of 9 mm pistols with low velocity loads we would solve air terrorism overnight. "Pick up your piece and relax." Of course the flaw was that the line managers would still make decisions like refusing to let a plane return to the gate while stranded on the tarmac. In which case we would have had a planeful of D'Antoni's plinking the crew.

One point not made above is that I've always believed that the reason drivers tend to be more mannerly and courteous in the southwest and south is that there's a high probability that the "idiot" whose driving you don't like is carrying or has a piece in the glove box. RTC as an aid to civility.

jep

"One point not made above is that I've always believed that the reason drivers tend to be more mannerly and courteous in the southwest and south is that there's a high probability that the “idiot” whose driving you don't like is carrying or has a piece in the glove box. RTC as an aid to civility."

I wonder how civil drivers are in congested Houston with some of the worst rush hour traffic in the nation per road mile. Is Houston as civil on the road as the rest of the south?

Don

I think Ian's point in sharing the Mike D'Antoni quote is not to posit that guns have some inherent crime-causing property, just to (humorously) demonstrate that a gun is a tool that can be used to commit crime and to deter crime. A LoJack, on the other hand, is purely a crime deterrent. Therefor it's not possible to draw a perfect parallel between the impact of increasing the prevalence of each item.

Wild hyperbole about banning baseball bats because they could be used for ill completely misses the point.

Matt H

"One point not made above is that I've always believed that the reason drivers tend to be more mannerly and courteous in the southwest and south is that there's a high probability that the “idiot” whose driving you don't like is carrying or has a piece in the glove box. RTC as an aid to civility."

I've lived in Texas almost all my life, and I don't think that I've ever considered whether an idiot driver has a weapon. We generally try to drive friendly in this part of the country -- we wave to express thanks when someone lets us over, for example -- but I suspect it's an aspect of a broader cultural phenomenon. In my experience, people are friendlier to strangers here than in the Northeast and in other parts of the country.

Building off of that idea, I think the RTC issue is fundamentally about friendly respect for our fellow citizens -- that we should treat each other as responsible adults until they prove themselves to be a danger to others. Most of us are good people and we shouldn't have anything to fear from each other. If I put a gun in my hand, it doesn't turn me into a potential murderer, and the same goes for everyone else. The fact that there *are* so many good guys out there -- and that they outnumber the bad -- is one of the fundamental practical reasons why I support RTC laws.

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sirhcton

Looking at a report at http://www.bradycenter.org/xshare/pdf/reports/no-gun-left-behind.pdf, there is a section listing a hodge-podge of offenses by concealed carry permit holders. They vary from fairly mild "I forgot to renew my permit" to incidents of murder and suicide. Reading their descriptions of the incidents and a non-rigorous examination of a few links to the details (I admit to being lazy), leads to the conclusion of possible bias on their part.

Even granting their assumption that all that they list are nasty criminals, it begs the question of concealed weapons permit holders actually being any more prone to criminal acts of violence than the population in general. I should expect this report to be screaming such a conclusion, if they could muster any support for it. The best they can present is that this class of people has members who do commit crimes of some sort and are not saints.

Given their likely bias, coupled with their weak claims, I strongly suspect that permit holders are generally less prone than most to be involved in crimes. If that be the case, then Mr. Ayres' (and Mr. D'Antoni's) arguement would be equally weak.

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junyo

"And finally, the idea that having MORE weapons on the street, concealed or not, would REDUCE the level of violence is a wishful fantasy (a state of mind conservatives seem to have a vested interest in). That's where the “D'Antoni Effect” would come to the surface."

Because the peacetime military is such a hotbed of violence. Ditto the average precinct house. Canada has roughly the same level of firearm ownership and less violent crime, the UK/Wales much lower and more (according to UN victimization surveys) although the murder rate is lower. Most Swiss homes with a male between 18 and 32 have a select fire SIG SG 550 rifle in the closet as part of their civilian militia program, very few incidents. Simple density of guns/guns per capita measurements have repeatedly proven to have almost no correlation to violence, it's a liberal fever dream that the simple presence of an inanimate object transforms otherwise normal individuals into killers against their will.

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Dave

How about Florida having a Stand-Your-Ground law, which you do not have to retreat before using your right to self defense.

If a criminal in a non-SYG state leaves you even the slightest avenue of retreat, then you would not be able to use your right and so submit.

wb

I am in a state that enacted RTC in 1989. While the number of permits issued is very high, many people who have a permit never actually carry a gun. They just like to have the option.

It's like everyone buyijng a lojack but not installing it. It won't have the same deterrent effect, since fewer crimes will actually be stopped by the lojack/concealed weapon that isn't actually installed or carried.

Therefore, it's doubtful that criminals have encountered more armed victims after enactment of the RTC than before.

I have almost never heard a news story of someone in my state using a concealed carry gun to defend themselves. We have far more stories of armed homeowners defending themselves inside their homes, which has always been unregulated in my state - it doesn't require a permit.

If criminals have no increased threat from their victims, there is no deterrence expected.