Is There A Correlation Between Open Carry Permits And Mass Shootings?

Kate Brown
Two more school shootings have appeared in the news today, and there is one stark difference between the two schools that deserves some attention.

Two more school shootings have appeared in the news today, and there is one stark difference between the two schools that deserves some attention: one shooting occurred in Arizona with notoriously lax gun laws, and the other happened in Texas with notoriously strict gun laws.

The first shooting to occur today happened at North Arizona University at around 1:20 a.m., killing one and injuring two others. The shooter was a freshman at the college, and the shooting reportedly happened during an argument with two other students outside a fraternity.

The second shooting happened at Texas Southern University at 11:30 a.m., killing one and injuring another. No names have been released, but two people are being detained for questioning. This is the third shooting to happen at this campus in a week. Currently, the school is on lockdown, but classes are scheduled to start again on Monday.

Numerous studies have shown correlations between the amount of gun owners and the crime rate in any given area. While there seems to be a lot of conflicting conclusions, there does seem to be a trend of less crime when there are more guns present. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the guns are actively carried by citizens walking around, it simply means there is a correlation between less crime and when people own guns.

This brings up a good question: what is the correlation between open carry permits and mass shootings versus strict gun laws and mass shootings?

A map from the Wall Street Journal shows the states that have open carry permits available to citizens. The shootings that occurred today were located in Arizona and Texas; interestingly enough, you can see that the two states are on the opposite side of the gun laws spectrum.

open carry texas

If you take a look at the map of mass shootings in the United States since Sandy Hook in 2012, you can see that, apparently, most mass shootings seem to take place in states that are firmly on one side of the spectrum.

Something to keep in mind when drawing conclusions from data like this: “correlation” does not mean “causation.” There was a hilarious “correlation” search engine created by a Harvard student that showed you could “correlate” some of the most random events together (for example, the amount of films Nicolas Cage appeared in strangely correlates to the number of people who drowned in swimming pools). 

Still, there might be a few ideas we could draw from this data.

In the aftermath of these shootings, government officials generally take action to prevent this from happening again, so gun control tends to go one of two ways: either citizens become more about protecting themselves (which means arming themselves) and there is a huge spike in gun sales, or government officials enact strict gun laws in order to make it harder to own a gun or can make it harder to carry a gun in public.

If we were going to draw a conclusion from the correlations between the gun laws and the amount of mass shootings in those areas, it seems that neither extremes are an answer.

If laws aren't the solution, then what else could we look at?

We could start to pay attention to the mental and emotional state of any given population. There is a huge difference in attitude between this generation and the last—we know that to be true. Is that where the causation lies? Could it simply be that densely populated areas make it more likely that we will have someone capable of this kind of evil?

Without opening more discussion about the causation of these devastating events, correlations won’t matter. 

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