Major Points About Gun Carrying on Campus
Dr. Gary Kleck
1. Defensive carrying of firearms in the general noncriminal U.S. population is extremely common. One national survey estimated that over 16.8 million American adults carried a gun outside their home for self-protection at some time during 1992, that the average carrier carries a gun about every other day, and that there were over a billion instances of gun carrying that year (where one person carrying on one day counts as one “instance”) (Kleck and Gertz 1998).
2. Less than 1 in a 1,000 instances of gun carrying, whether by carry permit holders or by others, are done for the purpose of committing a violent crime with the gun. That is, over 99.9% of gun carrying is done for purposes of self-defense (Kleck and Gertz 1998, p. 210).
3. Criminal gun violence among persons with licenses authorizing them to carry guns in public places is virtually nonexistent. Data from Florida covering 24 years when the state’s “shall-issue” carry law was in operation indicate that the state issued 2,047,928 concealed weapon licenses between October 1, 1987 (when the new “shall issue” carry law went into effect) and August 31, 2011, and that there were 853,272 active licenses as August 31, 2011. Yet, over this entire period, the state revoked a grand total of just 168 carry licenses due to licensees committing a crime in which a firearm was utilized – an average of just seven gun crime convictions per year (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 2011), in a state in which there 113,641 violent crimes known to the police in 2009 (U.S. FBI 2010). Even if there were five gun crimes actually committed by permit holders for every one that resulted in a criminal conviction and permit revocation, it would still be safe to say that less than 1/100th of 1% of Florida carry permit holders committed a violent gun crime. Further, I am not aware that any of these instances of permit holder gun violence occurred on a college campus.
These figures imply that carry permit holders probably committed no more than 1/100th of one percent of the violent crimes in Florida. Indeed, the rate of criminal violence is far lower among carry permit holders than in the rest of the population. In sum, there is no empirical support for the concern that allowing Florida carry permit holders to carry guns on college campuses would cause a significant increase in gun violence on campus, since violent gun crime is virtually nonexistent among permit holders.
4. Defensive gun uses (DGUs) linked with gun carrying are extremely common.
For example, in 1992, there were an estimated 2.5 million total DGUs, 63% of which occurred in locations other than the victim’s home, implying that there were c. 1.6 million DGUs that required carrying a gun outside the crime victim’s home in order for the defensive use to occur.
Since crime rates today are only about half what they were in 1992, a reasonable estimate of annual DGUs in the U.S. involving gun carrying outside the home for 2015 would be a little over 1 million once adjusted for population growth.
On the other hand, the number of valid carry permit holders in Florida increased from 74,259 at the end of fiscal year 1992 to 1,290,362 (Florida 2015). This could tend to increase DGUs in Florida linked with gun carrying. I cannot say what the net effect of declining crime rates combined with increasing carry permit rates would be.
5. Defensive gun use by crime victims is effective in preventing victim injury or property loss, and is more effective in preventing serious injury than any other method of self-protection, including nonresistance (Kleck 1988; Kleck and DeLone 1993; Tark and Kleck 2004). Likewise, rape attempts are less likely to be completed when victims use weapons for self-protection (Kleck and Sayles 1990). Thus, denying gun possession to persons victimized in public places would increase the rate of injury and property loss among the victims affected. I am not aware of any evidence or logical reason to believe that defensive use of guns is any less effective if they happen to occur on a college campus than at other locations.
6. In sum, there is sound reason to expect that defensive benefits to crime victims would result from licensed gun carriers being allowed to carry guns on college campuses, and no empirical foundation for expecting that this would result in any nonnegligible number of permit holders committing violent crimes with their guns.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 2011. “Concealed Weapon or Firearm License Summary Report, October 1, 1987 – August 31, 2011.” Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Department of State, Division of Licensing.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 2015. “Number of Valid Florida Concealed Weapon Licenses as Reported at the End of Each Fiscal Year (June 30) Since Program Inception in October 1987.” Available online at http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/7504/118881/NumberOfValidCWLicenses_FiscalYearEndSince1987-1988.pdf.
Kleck, Gary. 1988. “Crime control through the private use of armed force.” Social Problems 35(1):1-21.
Kleck, Gary, and Susan Sayles. 1990. “Rape and resistance.” Social Problems 37(2):149-162.
Kleck, Gary, and Miriam DeLone. 1993. “Victim resistance and offender weapon effects in robbery.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 9(1):55-82.
Kleck, Gary, and Marc Gertz. 1995. “Armed resistance to crime: the prevalence and nature of self-defense with a gun.” Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 86(1):150-187.
Kleck, Gary, and Marc Gertz. 1998. “Carrying guns for protection: results from the National Self-Defense Survey.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 35(2):193-224.
Tark, Jongyeon, and Gary Kleck 2004. “Resisting crime: the effects of victim action on the outcomes of crimes.” Criminology 42(4):861-909.
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2010. Crime in the United States – Uniform Crime Reports 2009. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.