The effect of access to concealed carry permit data: evidence from North Carolina

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Date

2019

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture

Abstract

Gun regulation in the United States is a contentious political issue. This is exacerbated by the fact that the economics literature has not come to a clear consensus on the effects gun possession has on crime. In this paper, I examine whether access to online gun permit data deters criminal behavior. On July 12th, 2012, WRAL, a Raleigh, North Carolina local television station, published a database containing the number of concealed carry permits held on every street in the station's viewing area. This allowed members of the public to search the database and find the number of permits at the street level in twenty-two of the 100 total counties. This paper studies how public availability of concealed carry permit data affects violent and property crime rates. I use multiple difference-in-differences strategies, exploiting variation in the timing of WRAL's database going online, inclusion in the television station's viewing area, and agency-level permit concentration to examine the effect of a plausibly exogenous shock to crime in North Carolina. My findings indicate that there are no statistically significant changes in property or violent crime rates for counties whose permit data was published relative to those outside WRAL's viewership area. I also find no evidence of crimes shifting between areas of high and low gun concentration. However, an extension of my empirical model suggests that applications for concealed carry permits rise by approximately 18.1% in treated counties after publication of the concealed carry database.

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