Debunking the CAP Fact Sheet
A popular gun control "fact sheet" uses the same tricks as the others
On October 4, 2022, the Center for American Progress released a “fact sheet” with a wall of studies supporting the idea that weakening carry laws increases homicide. As usual, the “fact sheet” either wildly mischaracterizes the science it links to, or it plays shell games with the truth to be more persuasive than factual, and it’s such a firehose of bullshit that nobody has the brain power to swim through it all.
First, let’s lay out the truth, according to science. In 2019 Michael Siegel and others produced the gold standard research on this topic, which concluded that there are a few laws that work but most don’t. His study is here:
And my treatment of that study on Open Source Defense is here:
There are three permit regimes that states can be in:
“May Issue,” where the government can pick and choose to whom they give a carry permit and can throw black people up against walls since they know black people can’t afford a permit,
“Shall Issue,” where anyone who applies can get a permit provided they meet clear benchmark criteria.
“Constitutional Carry,” which means anyone who can legally buy a gun can legally carry it.
Siegel’s 2019 study showed, among other things, that “May Issue” and “Constitutional Carry” have the same gun homicide rates, and “Shall Issue” is higher. I suspect this is for two reasons:
Cops in May Issue states can harass minorities about guns, and minorities are disproportionately responsible for crime,
In Constitutional Carry states nobody knows if grandma is packing so the higher carry rates create a crime disincentive.
These are mere suspicions of mine which happen to align with the data. Now that we know what the truth is, let’s swim through the CAP “fact sheet” in HWFO style. We’re going to do this with screenshots, in case they read this article and go back and make stealth changes to theirs, like Vox has done before.
This is accurate. Gun rights are in fact winning.
This study focused only on violent cities, and it lumped Shall Issue and Constitutional Carry into one category for analysis. The fact that it didn’t differentiate between two different carry regimes which Siegel(2019) showed had different impacts on crime invalidates its conclusions. It lumps the higher crime rate of Shall Issue in with the lower crime rate of Constitutional Carry on purpose, to wallpaper over any positive effects of Constitutional Carry.
One aspect of the problem it did heavily focus on, however, was how firearm theft from cars increases with overall firearm carry rate. That is true, and it is true because gun free zones force firearms carriers to leave their guns in their car. If gun free zones were required to provide secure firearm lockers then this would almost entirely go away.
That study is paywalled, but it makes the same error as above - lumping Constitutional Carry and Shall Issue into the same bucket, in order to paper over the benefits of Constitutional Carry.
This study was by Siegel, so we expect it to be good, and it was. His literature review for instance was honest instead of being an advocacy platform:
The study concluded the same thing his 2019 study did - that Shall Issue was higher than May Issue. But this study didn’t analyze Constitutional Carry at all - it basically just threw that data out - an error Siegel later corrected in 2019.
That study is hilarious. Its abstract opens by citing “rapidly rising rates of violent crime,” when violent crime was very low and very flat until the 2020 Floyd Riots, lockdowns, ACABs, and police defunding, and then doesn’t control for those. Regardless, it runs the same bait and switch, comparing May Issue to Shall Issue without analyzing Constitutional Carry at all. It also only focused on policy changes that transitioned from banning perpetrators of violent misdemeanors from getting a permit, to allowing those same perpetrators to get a permit. And that result seems reasonable, and fits well with Siegel’s 2019 work which states that prohibiting violent misdemeanor perps from buying guns is a net gain, and relatively popular across all demographics.
That study was paywalled, but her comments tell us several things. One, she was using the “four or more shot” definition of “mass shooting,” which is nothing more than a generalized indicator of the rate of street violence and not an indicator of the random spree killings we see in the news. Two, nothing in the abstract or her interview indicated she controlled for race, which is the greatest flaw anyone can make in this space. Homicides are disproportionately black, and black folks live disproportionately in the south, which is red.
That study wasn’t a study at all, it was an “analysis” put together by “GVPedia” which is an anti-gun “white paper” front. It had no data, explained no methodology, and presented one hilarious graph:
They claim that they took the three years before each state passed their constitutional carry law, and the three after, and developed an average trend based on that data. Then they compare that against a grey line which is supposed to be “national average,” but of what? What years? What’s the midpoint of that line? The three years before and after the rest of the nation didn’t pass that law? Whatever weird fuckery this is, it’s obviously not apples to apples because the calculation of that grey line is literally impossible, since there’s no way to know where to set the midpoint.
That study was surprisingly not awful, but it’s studying something incredibly rare. In 2017 there were 351 workplace firearm homicides out of 325.1 million people, meaning the chances of something like that happening are literally one in a million.
That bullet cites a book called Rampage Nation by Louis Klarevas, who’s Amazon description is incredibly rife with mathematical errors.
One such error is explained by Politifact, in a surprisingly good article that pits Klarevas’s research against the notoriously (and sometimes too enthusiastically) pro-gun researcher John Lott. It’s worth the read, but the punchline is that in order to make the claim that shooting sprees don’t primarily happen in gun free zones, Klarevas included shooting sprees that weren’t random - they were in the course of committing other crimes, were in people’s homes and the result of domestic or other disputes, and similar. So that is the sort of dirty statistical trick you can expect to encounter in his book.
This is literally the argument-ad-populum fallacy, but even if we presume that it’s not, they’re playing monkey business with the language. Their reference is to a 2014 email survey of 140 people, only 14% of which were “very knowledgeable” about the topic, and only 62% of whom disagreed with the statement that reducing concealed carry requirements reduces crime.
That isn’t a study at all, it’s a quote from an article on cleveland.com which states explicitly that there is no consensus on the effects of changing gun laws, and which includes quotes from both sides of the argument. The Cleveland.com article is actually quite good, and it seems almost as if CAP stole exactly half of it while ignoring the other half, when it put together its “Fact Sheet.”
Here the “Fact Sheet” lists about five studies showing that gun theft increases when carry requirements go down. These are probably true, because an increase in the rate of firearm carry will be associated with an increase in car break ins finding guns in parking lots outside of gun free zones. The last time my car was broken into was outside the Fulton County Courthouse in plain view of the cops, because someone was hoping to find a gun that I wouldn’t be allowed to carry inside. This is an issue that is bad, and needs to be fixed in two ways. One, folks who carry need to get gun safes mounted in their cars - that’s a real thing. Two - buildings which prohibit firearms must provide secure firearm storage to get the guns out of the parking lots.
Where we will push back is the claim that they increase violent crime.
This is the same study in reference 7 above, which erroneously lumped Shall Issue and Constitutional Carry into the same category.
That’s not a study, it’s a quote from an NBC News story, and I don’t disagree that more guns get stolen when folks who carry are forced to leave their guns in cars outside of gun free zones.
This isn’t a study, it’s a link to an article by The Trace, a well known antigun media front funded by Everytown, and written by Jennifer Mascia, a well known antigun culture warrior. The entire piece centers around this graph:
The graph doesn’t go back in time enough to show a long term trend, but we do see that 2019 and 2017 were about the same, 2018 was lower than both, and it gives us the impression that these numbers are part of the overall trough of low American homicide rates we’d seen for the prior two decades:
The Trace article does nothing to disaggregate the 2020 increase in road rage deaths from the overall increase in homicide in 2020 that spilled out of the Floyd Riots, ACAB, police defunding, unemployment, and Covid lockdown anxiety.
The next two CAP citations go back to the same Trace article.
This is a link to a local news story about police breaking up a fight which involved no guns whatsoever.
This is probably true, but Maryland was May Issue until 2022, and the people he’s talking about aren’t going to abide by the current Shall Issue permit regime anyway. There are very important things to learn about this quote from this law officer - that shootings are related to beefs, that they are a result of no acceptable alternative means of dispute resolution in certain urban communities, and that the people stranded in this honor culture are disproportionately raised fatherless. All important things, all totally unrelated to the state of permit law in Maryland.
This link is to a local news story, and to a quote from 2017 about a law that’s over a decade old. A decade during which Wisconsin gun homicides were relatively flat. The below graph comes from Everytown, and you’ll notice they start the clock in 2010 when national homicide rate was at a 50 year low. Even so, rates are flat through 2019, so this particular cop is complaining about something that doesn’t appear in the numbers.
The rest of the fact sheet doesn’t really reference any studies at all - it’s just media soundbites and quotes from anti-gun individuals making assertions as if they were science, when they’re not.
These sorts of Wall of Text attack vectors on gun culture are all too common, and there are too many to debunk in real time, a technique Brian Chau calls the “Firehose of Bullshit.” But having a few debunking articles on the shelf to share, such as this one, may be helpful to you in the future as gun rights continues to win.