The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently published an article claiming Wisconsin’s concealed carry law has led to an increase in gun violence. The article’s authors maintain that the available data collected through the last 10 years support this. One thing we should have learned by now is that when it comes to the gun debate, statistics can be presented in such a way to support any argument. Upon further investigation, it becomes apparent that some of the major arguments being made in this trending article are flawed. Let’s take a look at what those are.
Law-Abiding Citizens Create ‘Gun Violence’?
Former Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn has gone on record calling Wisconsin’s concealed carry law “irresponsible” and blamed it for the increase in gun violence in the city. Flynn has been outspoken about his views, and anti-gun advocates have used them as ammunition. It so happens that one of the CAP article’s authors is the executive director of a Milwaukee-based organization calling for stronger gun laws. Flynn’s past claims may have helped to lay the groundwork for this CAP study.
Pressed in the past about the alleged increase of gun violence caused by concealed carriers, Flynn failed to cite any evidence besides his own experience. During a town hall meeting hosted by the CC4QP in 2017, the president of the Police Association, Michael Crivello, challenged the accuracy of Flynn’s statement. “I have never had a conversation with you, chief, relative to you displaying that we are arresting an overwhelming amount of people,” Crivello stated, “or even one person, that has committed a crime while carrying a CCW.”
Let’s get one thing straight: Individuals with concealed carry licenses are not committing crimes. The Heritage Foundation found that Americans defend themselves with their firearms between 500,000 and 3 million times every year. Law-abiding citizens use guns to protect themselves, not to harm others or commit crimes.
How Does Milwaukee Factor In?
According to the stats shared in the CAP article, firearms injuries per capita in Wisconsin rose slightly after the passage of concealed carry in 2011. But a 2016 article published in The Post-Crescent revealed the state’s numbers were consistent with growth in the national average. This also was the case with violent crime, which mirrored the national trend. The number of homicides remained consistent as well.
Seventy-one of Wisconsin’s counties averaged a total of 37 homicides per year from 2007-2015. This is excluding Milwaukee County. In that county, the number of homicides jumped from an average of 68 in the four years before 2011 to 94 in the four years after. But this doesn’t indicate concealed carry licenses had anything to do with the rise in homicides in one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. There would have been a rise in all of its counties, not just one, if this were the case. Milwaukee County is an outlier. It needs to be taken into consideration when studying the whole of Wisconsin.
It’s also worth noting that the CAP article in question cites The Post-Crescent’s article (endnote five) where the above stats are taken from. However, the authors fail to mention these findings in its own study.
How Does Wisconsin Compare to Other States?
The CAP article goes on to further state that the passage of concealed carry is associated with a rise in gun homicide rates. The authors conclude the “abrupt changes in gun homicide trends in Wisconsin can be attributed to state-level causes such as the passage of concealed carry laws.” They claim the rise in gun homicide rates after 2011 did not occur in other neighboring states. The article only shared stats comparing Wisconsin to Michigan and Minnesota and left out the rest of the nation.
Isolating Wisconsin from the rest of the U.S. doesn’t give us the whole picture. When compared on a national level, firearms homicide rates in Wisconsin are the 13th lowest in the U.S. Even the notoriously anti-gun Everytown for Gun Safety reported gun deaths in Wisconsin increased 17 percent from 2010 to 2019, the same increase experienced nationwide. Wisconsin doesn’t appear to be such a problem after all.
Other states need to be examined and compared, not just Minnesota and Michigan. Why were Wisconsin’s other two neighboring states, Illinois and Iowa, excluded? What about the other 45 states? Better yet, how does another state with loose gun restrictions, such as constitutional carry, compare? Take the case of West Virginia, for example. The State Journal found that West Virginia’s constitutional carry law didn’t impact violent crime rates. Ohio County Sheriff Tom Howard stated that the state’s constitutional carry law “really hasn’t had any major effects on the crime rate up here.”
Epidemic of Suicide
How do suicide rates factor into the stats used in the CAP’s study? We don’t know because the authors don’t say.
Anti-gun advocates routinely interlace suicide stats with gun homicide figures. While terrible, suicide isn’t what most people think of when they hear gun homicide.
Madison’s NBC15 reported that Wisconsin’s suicide rate rose 40 percent from 2000 to 2017. And suicides make up 70 percent of all firearms deaths in Wisconsin, according to the EFSGV’s Prevent Firearm Suicide project. The rise of suicide is an epidemic that needs to be addressed in Wisconsin and the rest of the country. However, the rise of gun ownership or concealed carry isn’t to blame.
Don’t Let ‘Gun Violence’ Stats Fool You
The authors of the CAP article claim they provided sufficient evidence for lawmakers in Wisconsin to take a second look at the concealed carry law in the state and take measures to strengthen it. Wisconsin’s experience supposedly provides evidence that weak public carry laws contribute to an increase in violent gun-related crime.
On the contrary, this article left us with more questions than answers. But it did teach us one thing: Don’t hesitate to question stats being used or authors’ motivations and end goals.
These aren’t the only findings that we have an issue with this article, but they are the major ones. You can read the entire CAP article here. See if you can spot some inconsistencies for yourself. Also, you can explore some of the concealed carry facts vs. fiction listed on our website here.