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Letting law-abiding people carry concealed handguns could have prevented 1,570 murders and 4,177 rapes in 1992, according to a new study. Gun control advocates disputed the study's conclusions today.

The study, relying on data for U.S. counties from 1977 through 1992, said an additional 60,000 aggravated assaults would have been avoided if states with concealed weapons bans had allowed them in 1992.The study said concealed handguns "have their greatest deterrent effect" in areas with the highest crime rates. Criminals instead tend to turn to property crimes in states with such laws, the study said.

"By the very nature of these guns being concealed, criminals are unable to tell whether the victim is armed before they strike, thus raising criminals' expected costs for committing many types of crimes," a professor and a graduate student at the University of Chicago say in the draft study dated July 13.

Co-author John R. Lott, Jr., a visiting fellow at the university's law school, discussed the study Thursday at a seminar organized by the conservative Cato Institute.

Gun control advocates have said in the past that declining crime rates in states that allow concealed handguns are due more to the waiting period now imposed on handgun purchases by federal law.

The principal author of that law, Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized the new study today. "This gun study makes a pie-in-the-sky claim with only flawed science and a questionable agenda to back it up," said Schumer, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime.

Douglas Weil, research director at the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, said the study "goes against well-established evidence" to the contrary. He cited a University of Maryland study last year showing that murders committed with guns increased when concealed weapons were allowed.