Home Concealed Carry HOOBER: The Correlation Fallacy, Concealed Carry And SCOTUS

HOOBER: The Correlation Fallacy, Concealed Carry And SCOTUS

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By Sam Hoober

One of the most profuse logical fallacies is the correlation fallacy. Just because two things coincide or correlate doesn’t mean they have anything to do with each other, or – we’re probably more used to this phrasing – correlation is not causation or something to that effect.

The phrase in Latin is cum hoc, ergo propter hoc meaning “with this, therefore because of this,” in case anyone wonders.

Why this is getting brought up is the recent argument of NY State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Second Amendment case that was just argued before the Supreme Court. The NY State Rifle and Pistol Association contends that New York’s Sullivan Act (which requires cause be given for the permit) infringes on Second Amendment rights.

Here’s the audio of the oral arguments:

Besides arguments on precedent which mostly rested on the history of unchallenged regulations, one of the arguments against changing New York’s permit law is the old saw about how more people with pistol permits will lead to blood in the streets as a public policy matter.

This isn’t the first time this objection has been raised.

While it’s true that humans don’t show the proper restraint at times and sometimes regulation is needed – you should go to jail if you drive drunk, the labels on things should relate to the contents, etc. – but the old saw has always been that the number of shootings will increase if it’s easier for people who are otherwise perfectly entitled to own a gun to carry them in public.

As we know by now, that’s not true.

Historically, the tide turned with the “Second Wave of Shall-Issue” as it’s commonly called. Exactly when it started is a matter of debate; some insist it started with the passage of Florida’s shall-issue permit law in 1987, but the first modern shall-issue laws in Georgia in 1976 and Indiana in 1980.

Prior to that, only two states – New Hampshire and Washington – had shall-issue laws on the books. Connecticut was close to shall-issue in practice by the 1960s and Vermont, of course, has never required a permit.

As more and more states enacted shall-issue permit laws and constitutional carry laws, the effect would be for violent crime and gun crime to rise. However, homicides have actually been trending downward since the early 1990s though they have risen and fallen year over year.

2020 and 2021 have seen an uptick, but whether that’s an anomaly or a trend remains to be seen.

It’s also worth noting that of the ten states with the lowest homicide rate, 8 are constitutional carry states. States with the highest numbers of homicides, two of the top ten (California and New York) have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation.

So clearly, gun violence and homicide rates do not positively correlate to less-restrictive concealed carry laws. If anything the opposite is the case, if you go by the numbers.

However, neither is concealed carry itself necessarily the cause for the great drop in crime in the 1990s. For one, the decline was actually global; violent crime decreased everywhere during that period. Since violent crime was declining in areas where legal gun ownership is so much more regulated, the global reduction in violence had nothing to do with firearms.

A number of theories have been put forth as to why crime fell in the 1990s, usually attributed to softball causes like “policing,” incarceration, and macroeconomic trends such as employment and per capita incomes.

However, some other explanations have been put forth such as reduced lead exposure and legalized abortion. The theories are that unleaded gasoline (introduced globally in the 1970s) has correlated to lower crime in the US and abroad, and since the demographics of abortion (i.e. women most likely to utilize abortive services) are very similar to the demographics most likely to produce a criminal (i.e. socio-economic status, education level, age and marital status of the mother) fewer criminals were being born post-Roe v. Wade.

The reality here is that violent crime is a really complex problem. The acts themselves are simple (robberies, assaults, murders, etc.) but there are a lot of different factors that influence all the various people that eventually commit them.

Both pro- and anti-gun factions like to cherry-pick various aspects of it that benefit their position, even though the bigger-picture view typically reveals that A) things just aren’t that simple, and B) guns and concealed carry don’t really cause or prevent crime on the macro scale.

The hope, of course, is that our nation’s highest court sides with the right of the people, rather than of the state, to carry and bear in our own defense.

Sam Hoober is a hunter and shooter based in the Inland Northwest.

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