Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across The United States

John R. Lott Jr.

Crime Prevention Research Center

John E Whitley

Crime Prevention Research Center; Institute for Defense Analyses

Rebekah C. Riley

Crime Prevention Research Center

July 13, 2015

Abstract:

Since President Obama’s election the number of concealed handgun permits has soared, growing from 4.6 million in 2007 to over 12.8 million this year. Among the findings in our report:

  • The number of concealed handgun permits is increasing at an ever- increasing rate. Over the past year, 1.7 million additional new permits have been issued – a 15.4% increase in just one single year. This is the largest ever single-year increase in the number of concealed handgun permits.
  • 5.2% of the total adult population has a permit.
  • Five states now have more than 10% of their adult population with concealed handgun permits.
  • In ten states, a permit is no longer required to carry in all or virtually all of the state. This is a major reason why legal carrying handguns is growing so much faster than the number of permits.
  • Since 2007, permits for women has increased by 270% and for men by 156%.
  • Some evidence suggests that permit holding by minorities is increasing more than twice as fast as for whites.
  • Between 2007 and 2014, murder rates have fallen from 5.6 to 4.2 (preliminary estimates) per 100,000. This represents a 25% drop in the murder rate at the same time that the percentage of the adult population with permits soared by 156%. Overall violent crime also fell by 25 percent over that period of time.
  • States with the largest increase in permits have seen the largest relative drops in murder rates.
  • Concealed handgun permit holders are extremely law-abiding. In Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors or felonies at one-sixth the rate that police officers are convicted.

Concealed Carry Permit

Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across The United States – Background

Over the years, more and more states have adopted laws to allow individuals to obtain concealed carry permits. Illinois was the last state to do so, with the first permits issued
in March 2014. Even Washington, D.C. started issuing permits earlier this year. Today, permitted concealed handguns are allowed in every jurisdiction in the United States.

But the rules vary greatly from state to state. Some states don’t even require permits, with no fees or  training required. Some states make it easy and cheap to get a permit. In South Dakota, the fee to obtain the  four-year permit is only $10, with no training requirement. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, the permit only costs $19 for five years and there is no training requirement. By contrast, Illinois charges a $150 fee and requires 16 hours of training. With training and range time, it may cost as much as $300, meaning the total dollar costs of getting a permit in Illinois is about $450. Not surprisingly, concealed carry is much more popular in states where  permits are relatively inexpensive and easier to obtain.

This report will focus on the increase in concealed carry. Obviously, the main focus from a crime prevention point of view is whether people actually do carry guns, not whether they are allowed to do so.

Unsurprisingly, the number of permits has grown faster than the number of states that allow concealed carry. This is because in each state, the longer the law is in effect, more and more people have gradually applied and received permits. But there appears to be another factor: President Obama’s election in 2008. Not only did Obama’s election increase gun sales, it also increased the number of concealed handgun permits.

Initially the increase in permits was slow, growing from roughly 2.7 million permit holders in 1999 to 4.6 million in 2007. But the number of concealed handgun permits literally exploded during the Obama presidency. For December 2011, the federal Government Accountability Office estimated that there were at least 8 million concealed handgun permits. By the June 2014, it was 11.1 million; in 2015, 12.8 million.

In other words, during the eight years from 1999 to 2007, the number of permits increased by about 240,000 per year. During the next four years, the number of permits surged by 850,000 per year. Then from the end of 2011 to 2013 the yearly increase rose by 1,550,000. And during the last year the increase has continued to accelerate to 1,700,000.

The rapid increase in concealed carry permits is also mirrored by the rapid increase in gun sales. NICS background checks soared from 11.2 to 21 million between 2007 and 2014. The sale of guns accelerated further over the last two years — averaging 14 million during 2008 to 2011 and over 20 million during 2012 and 2013.

But both polling and NICS checks provide only imperfect measures of gun ownership. Polling relies on people’s willingness to reveal whether they own a gun. And the changing political environment after mass shootings or a growing distrust of government may affect people’s willingness to reveal that they own a gun.

Concealed Carry Permit

Concealed Carry Permit

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