A new report from the Crime Prevention Research Center, Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2017, shows that there are now more than 16.3 million concealed handgun permits in the U.S., up 1.83 million since last July. Far more people carry guns today than in 2007, when there were only 4.6 million permits. Thirteen states now no longer require a permit to carry in all or most of the state. Eight of those 13 states made the change in the last two years.
During President Obama’s administration, the number of concealed handgun permits soared to over 16.36 million – a 256% increase since 2007. Unlike surveys that may be affected by people’s unwillingness to answer some personal questions, concealed handgun permit data is the only really “hard data” that we have on gun ownership across the United States. Among the findings of our report:
■ Last year, the number of permit holders grew by a record 1.83 million. This is more than the previous record increase of 1.73 million, set just the year before. Each of the last four years that we have been recording this data has set a new record. Despite expectations that permits were primarily driven by fears of Democratic presidencies, the growth in permits has continued at a similar pace after the November 2016 election.
■ 6.53% of American adults have permits. Outside the restrictive states of California and New York, about 8% of the adult population has a permit.
■ In eleven states, more than 10% of adults have permits. Alabama has the highest rate — 20%. Indiana is second with 15.8%.
■ There are four counties in Pennsylvania that have between 30% and 50% of their adult populations with concealed handgun permits: Potter (50.3%), McKean (34.6%), Warren (34.6%), Cameron (31.3%), and Armstrong (30.1%).
■ Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas each have over 1.2 million residents who are active permit holders.
■ Another 14 states have adopted constitutional carry in all or virtually all of their state, meaning that a permit is no longer required. Some people in these states still choose to obtain permits so that they can carry in other states that have reciprocity agreements with their states. However, because of these constitutional carry states, the nationwide growth in permits does not paint a full picture of the overall increase in concealed carry.
■ In 2016, women made up 36% of permit holders in the 14 states that provide data by gender. Eight states had data from 2012 to 2016 and they saw a 326% faster increase in permits among women than among men.
■ From 2012 to 2016, in the five states that provide data by race over that time period, the number of black people with permits increased 30% faster than the number of whites with permits. Asians appear to be the group that has experienced the largest increase in permitted concealed carry.
■ Concealed handgun permit holders are extremely law-abiding. In Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors and felonies at one-sixth of the rate at which police officers are convicted.
■ From 2007 to 2015 (the last full year that crime data is available), murder rates fell from 5.6 to 4.9 per 100,000. This represents a 12.5% drop. Overall violent crime fell by 18 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of adults with permits soared by 190%.
My research has demonstrated that the two groups that benefit the most from carrying guns are the likeliest victims of crime (poor blacks in high-crime urban areas) and people who are physically weaker (women and the elderly). Dozens of published peer-reviewed studies find similar results. —Texas & U.S. Law Shield Contributor Dr. John Lott, Jr.