The Campaign’s Statement on Permitless Carry In GA
Last week, The Campaign partnered with GVPedia.org to rebut misinformation from gun researcher, John Lott, by demonstrating the harmful public safety impacts of discarding permits for concealed handguns in Georgia. The article below was written initially as an op-ed, with an edited version appearing as a letter to the editor in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Permitless Concealed Carry Won’t Make Georgians Safer
The Georgia Legislature is on the cusp of eliminating the state’s concealed handgun permitting system. In a March 22nd commentary, pro-gun pundit John Lott urged the Georgia Legislature to pass this legislation, which he calls “Constitutional Carry.” Let’s call it what it is – Permitless Carry – as it will allow gun owners in Georgia to conceal-carry a handgun without training, a background check, or a permit. As he has done elsewhere, Lott argues that “predictions of doom and bloodshed” are overblown, refusing to acknowledge the bloodshed and violence that guns have already brought to Georgia.
Just last year, a gunman shot and killed eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were women of Asian descent. And in 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was brutally chased down and executed by racist vigilantes while jogging. The Arbery murder reinforces what will happen if dangerous individuals are allowed to carry loaded, concealed guns in public without a permitting system.
Georgians have already suffered the fatal consequences of weakening firearm laws. In 2014, Georgia passed the infamous “Guns Everywhere” bill (championed by John Lott, who appeared on Fox News in 2014 touting its alleged benefits) that allowed people to carry firearms into bars, schools, churches, and other sensitive places. At the time, proponents argued that the bill would not cause any additional bloodshed. Yet, after the law’s passage, gun violence surged.
In 2014, Georgia saw 1,391 firearm deaths of all forms, 506 of which were homicides. In 2020, Georgia had 1,897 firearm deaths of all forms, 899 of which were homicides. That represents nearly an 80% increase in firearm homicides in six years. Data from the Gun Violence Archive indicates that this bloody surge is continuing.
Georgia’s public higher education system became the next target for “Guns Everywhere” in 2017, when the state passed legislation allowing guns on campus, despite seven previous years of defeat. We can’t let this trend of weakening gun laws continue to put Georgians in danger.
Just as Lott was wrong about Georgia’s “Guns Everywhere” bill, he is wrong about the impact of Permitless Carry laws and weakening gun laws overall.
The academic literature is clear: weaker gun laws increase crime. A GVPedia analysis of homicide data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that states that pass a Permitless Carry law suffer a 22% increase in gun homicide in the three years after the law’s passage, more than doubling the 10% increase for the country overall in the same time frame. In particular, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and West Virginia saw substantial increases in gun homicides after passing Permitless Carry.
Lott has a long history of asserting questionable claims that advocate for weakening concealed carry laws, including a recent analysis by his colleague Dr. Carl Moody, which respected scholars at Johns Hopkins and Stanford University found was riddled with errors. Lott also contends that the majority of published research finds that Permitless Carry laws reduce crime, yet the opposite is true. His analysis is once again filled with errors such as misclassifying at least two studies and padding the results with studies that aren’t about concealed carry laws. He includes studies with severe errors, relies on heavily outdated research, and fails to include twenty-three national level studies analyzing the impact of concealed carry laws.
The truth is that out of the sixty-five national-level academic studies on concealed carry laws, a plurality find that weakening concealed carry laws increases crime. Of the thirty-five most recent academic studies (since 2005) on this topic, twenty-three (66%) find that weakening concealed carry laws increases crime. Only five studies since 2005 (14%) show a decrease in crime.
Lott also argues that “Permit holders nationwide are incredibly law-abiding,” even more so than law-enforcement officers. Yet his article ignores evidence from multiple investigations that permit revocation data are fatally flawed and miss at least 75% of permit-holder revocations for serious crimes. These investigations demonstrate that, at the very least, revocation data cannot be relied on to determine whether concealed carry permit holders are law-abiding.
Governor Kemp and the state legislature should disregard disinformation from discredited sources such as John Lott and instead turn to comprehensive policies that have been shown to save lives. Public policy must be based on accurate, peer-reviewed data and not industry marketing tactics disguised as academic research.
The evidence is clear: weakening Georgia’s gun laws has already exacerbated the bloodshed and will continue to do so.
Devin Hughes is the founder of GVPedia, a non-profit providing access to data and research about gun violence.
Andy Pelosi is the executive director of The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus