Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wisconsin's first year of concealed carry yields worrisome results

Data not definitive, but is the state heading in the wrong direction?

The finer points:
  • Wisconsin's murder rate shoots up from 2011 to 2012
  • Gun advocates previous claims of concealed carry making us safer comes into question

On November 1, 2011, Wisconsin officially became the 49th state to legalize concealed carry.

That means that the year 2012 was the first full year that concealed carry was the law in Wisconsin, where citizens could legally, with a permit, carry guns and other weapons on their persons.

Prior to the concealed carry law being enacted, I wrote a blog post on the necessity of stronger regulations, specifically to the training that goes into obtaining a license:
An argument often made in the gun debate is that more guns make people safer. While the evidence suggests that, at the very least, gun ownership doesn't equate violence, it's tough to assume guns necessarily make us safer on their own. These guns are heavily regulated, whether concealed or not, tracked to ensure that the people who use them are found immediately following their use. Guns are safer, it seems, with stronger regulations attached to them.
Two years have passed since concealed carry became law, and we now have a full year of evidence to compare records with. So, did concealed carry make Wisconsin safer?

The answer? There’s nothing in the statistical analysis that can be definitive. There’s no strong evidence, one way or another, that can link concealed carry to a rise or fall in crime rates. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, and it’s much too soon to be making any generalization in one way or another based on the new law on its own.

But it’s interesting to note one aspect of the statistics, available through the FBI website: crime in Wisconsin actually went up, statewide. And it’s not only in Milwaukee, but in the state at-large as well.

Violent crime in Wisconsin in 2011 was at 236.914 incidents per 100,000 citizens. In 2012, that rate increased to 280.525 per 100,000, an increase of 18.4 percent.

The rates of murders and aggravated assaults also increased in the state from year-to-year, by 26.8 percent and 29.1 percent, respectively.

Milwaukee continues to be the city with the most murders in the state, and notably crime has increased there as well. Indeed, Forbes recently named Milwaukee the tenth most dangerous city in the nation (among cities with populations exceeding 200,000, excluding Chicago because they collect records differently).

But homicides in Milwaukee climbed only slightly as compared to the state as-a-whole, by 6.7 percent. That means that, although Milwaukee still has the highest homicide rate in the state, the murder rate climbed faster outside of its jurisdiction (the rest of the state) than it did inside.

Indeed, if you subtract the population of Milwaukee and its murders for the years of 2011 and 2012, Wisconsin saw its homicide rate shoot up, increasing its rate of murder per 100,000 by more than 60 percent.

Like I said before, none of this data can definitively tell us whether concealed carry had an adverse or positive affect on crime in Wisconsin. More years of evidence is needed before such a conclusion can be reached.

Still, it’s interesting to look at this data and wonder, which direction is Wisconsin heading in? If this year’s data is any indicator of what the future holds, the promise of “less crime under concealed carry” seems to be a floundering one.


  1. Whatever does this mean: "Violent crime in Wisconsin in 2011 at 236.9 murders per 100,000"? With a population of 5.7 million, Wisconsin experienced 13,509 murders?!! What kind of statistical analysis is this? Furthermore, your statistics say nothing about how many were committed with guns. And even less about how many were committed by concealed carry permit holders!

    1. David, that sentence was a mistake on my part, and instead of "murders" it should have said "incidents." I will edit that sentence because I was obviously typing too fast for my own mind to handle what I wanted to say. Thank you for the heads up on that! You're welcome to edit my work at any time you like!

      As far as the weapons used in the crimes, please note that all I'm saying with this post was that we were promised less crime with concealed carry because people would be free to defend themselves in public, and thus it would deter the criminals from randomly selecting people they determine to be "defenseless."

      Now, the data I've presented is in no way definitive. But data that points to less crime in Wisconsin would surely seem to help the case that concealed carry weapon advocates made before the law passed. However, the opposite holds true in the first year of the law being fully implemented -- there was more crime, not less.

      That, again, doesn't mean that concealed carry led to more crime. It does, however, lead us to question whether the argument made in favor of the law ("concealed carry will lead to LESS crime") was errant.

  2. As of November 2013, there were some 200,000 CW permit holders. That's 3% of the population as of 2012 figures.

    figure on any given day only 2/3rds of that 200,000 is carrying (that number is probably conservative-I certainly don't carry every day, maybe 2 days out of the week), that leaves us with 150,000 or roughly 2% of the population carrying a weapon on any given day.

    You're telling me that with that small of a sample size, we're able to even make an inkling of an educated GUESS as to whether the law deters crime or not yet?

    Sorry bro, I'm calling BS on this one. You're flat out wrong. As you state: "It does, however, lead us to question whether the argument made in favor of the law ("concealed carry will lead to LESS crime") was errant."

    Not really, there isn't even CLOSE to enough data to even BEGIN to THINK about questioning this yet. Ask any statistician or scientist, this small of a sample would get you laughed at.

    We need more CWP holders to make a guess, we're just not there yet.