The Corner

Politics & Policy

Connecticut’s 1995 Gun-Permit Law (Still) Did Not Reduce Firearm Homicides by 40 Percent

(Jim Young/Reuters)

Cory Booker made that claim yesterday. As CNN notes, there’s a 2015 study backing him up.

Since the day it came out, that study has been driving me insane.

Basically, what the study does is compare Connecticut’s gun-homicide rate with the rate for synthetic Connecticut — a statistical abstraction based on other states with similar homicide trends. The problems are that (A) synthetic Connecticut is mainly just Rhode Island; (B) Rhode Island had a big homicide spike right after Connecticut’s law went into effect that wasn’t seen elsewhere in the country; and (C) the researchers needlessly cut the data off in 2005.

A 40 percent drop in gun homicides really ought to be visible in a simple comparison of Connecticut’s trend with the national one — but it’s not. It’s purely an artifact of the way the analysis is set up.

Here is a chart from the study itself. Do you really believe that, but for Connecticut’s permitting law, which went into effect at the time shown by the vertical line, the state would have had an abrupt reversal in its crime decline a couple years later — at a time when crime was still falling at an impressive clip nationally? Or does it seem more plausible that Connecticut’s crime trend would have paralleled the national trend (All control states, which the study limits to the 39 with no permitting law as of 1995) . . . which is in fact what it did, even with the law?

And here’s a chart I made myself for The American Conservative a few years back presenting the data differently and extending them in time. There was a brief period in the early 2000s — half a decade after the law went into effect — where Connecticut’s gun homicides dipped (and its non-gun homicides rose) relative to national trends. But this washed out starting in 2006, conveniently the first year of data not included in the study. Connecticut has always been a pretty safe state, with homicide rates that are typically half to three-quarters the national ones, but nothing earth-shattering happened in 1995 to change this.


I have long admitted I’m something of a squish on universal background checks, though I am not at all a fan of the discretion-laden permitting systems that some stricter blue states, such as Massachusetts, have. If we’re going to build a case that certain restrictions are effective, though, we’re going to need to do a lot better than this nonsense.

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