Our alert last week described a recent NBC News article on rising gun ownership in America, which cited national polling numbers showing that “[m]ore than half of American voters – 52% – say they or someone in their household owns a gun.” This represents “the highest share of voters who say that they or someone in their household owns a gun in the history of the NBC News poll, on a question dating back to 1999.” The actual gun owner numbers are likely to be still higher, given that most people are unwilling to discuss their personal details with complete strangers.
Another sign that the American public is still keen on guns is sales data. This year’s Black Friday smashed the previous Black Friday record, with firearm background checks “up over 11,000, or 5.5%, from the previous record set in 2017.” The most recent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics on the “top ten highest days” for National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) gun-related background checks has this year’s Black Friday as the highest “Black Friday” on record, and at third place overall.
The Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) has just published its latest annual study on concealed carry permits. Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2023 (Nov. 30, 2023), authored by Dr. John Lott, Carlisle E. Moody and Rujun Wang, examines trends regarding concealed carry permits. There’s good news here, as well.
Earlier, the CPRC’s 2022 study concluded that an estimated 22.01 million individuals in America had been issued a concealed handgun permit, a 2.3% increase over 2021. This was “the slowest percent and absolute increase that we have seen since we started collecting this data in 2011,” and the study attributed it, in part, to the 24 states at that time that had a permitless carry law in effect. The “number of permits declin[ed] in the Constitutional Carry states even though it is clear that more people are legally carrying.”
The CPRC’s newest study notes that, for the first year since its reporting began, the number of permits declined, albeit by a fraction of less than one percent (down 0.5% from 2022 figures). To put this in context, the number of permits overall has grown from 2.7 million in 1999 to “at least 21.8 million” as of the latest count. Far from being an indicator of lessening interest in lawful concealed carrying, the dip is due to a change in applicable state laws, which allow qualified individuals to carry without application forms, fees, wait times, and other bureaucratic hoops. “A major cause of the marginal decline is that 27 states now have Constitutional Carry laws,” with Alabama, Florida and Nebraska most recently joining the states that allow permitless concealed carry. Significantly, the study notes that the 27 states with constitutional carry represent “65% of the land in the country and 44% of the population in 2022.”
With more than half of all states having embraced constitutional carry, “the concealed carry permits number does not paint a full picture of how many people are legally carrying across the nation ... while permits are increasing in the non-Constitutional Carry states (317,185), permits fell even more in the Constitutional Carry ones even though more people are clearly carrying in those states (485,013).” For this reason and others, the study cautions that the numbers cited are an underestimate, and that “the scale of that underestimation is increasing over time” due to old or missing data on permit issuance in some jurisdictions, and the continued spread of constitutional carry laws.
The CPRC study provides valuable data on permit holders by state, ranks states by the percentage of permit-holders in each state (with Alabama, Indiana, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Georgia as the top five), and lists the 2023 costs, by state, of getting a permit.
The study also breaks down data on permittees by race and gender for the jurisdictions that make that information available. “Seven states had data from 2012 to 2022/2023, and permit numbers grew 110.7% faster for women than for men.” As has been the trend in previous years, the concealed carry community remains increasingly diverse. “When permit data is broken down by race and gender, we find that black females have had the fast growth, especially during the pandemic. The rates of permit holding among American Indian, Asian, Black, and White females all grew much faster than the rates for males in those racial groups.” The study points out that “there was a noticeable drop in the percent of permits issued [to] women and blacks after Constitutional Carry was adopted. It appears that both groups were relatively sensitive to the cost of permits.” Even in “shall issue” states, the application, training and other fees required to obtain a permit apparently present a real barrier to the exercise of Second Amendment rights, in many cases for the very people who are most vulnerable to crime and violence.
Another crucially important finding in the CPRC’s study is the relationship between crime and lawful carrying. Concealed handgun permit holders themselves “are extremely law-abiding,” and,
[a]t the same time that there has been an exponential growth in permits, there has been a general linear decline in rates of homicide and violent crime offenses. Except the extraordinary high rates of homicide offenses since the first year of the pandemic in 2020, the rate has dropped around 11% for the past two decades. Violent crime fell from 5.23 per 10 million people in 1999 to 3.81 per 10 million people in 2022, a 27% drop. Meanwhile, the percentage of adults with permits soared by five-fold. Such simple evidence by itself isn’t meant to show that concealed handgun permits reduce violent crime rates, as many factors account for changes in crime rates, but only that there doesn’t seem to be any obvious positive relationship between permits and crime.
In the meantime, the constitutional carry juggernaut presses on. The twenty-eighth state to go permitless is likely to be Louisiana. Republican Jeff Landry, Louisiana’s former Attorney General and new Governor, has made a commitment to secure the enactment of constitutional carry legislation in 2024.
In contrast, President Joe Biden – who has spent a significant part of his term down the gun-control rabbit hole – is running on a reelection platform of even more gun control. (The details are TBA as the “Joe’s Vision” tab, https://joebiden.com/joes-vision/, at the official Biden/Harris 2024 website currently features a “Dark Brandon” error message and a graphic of a grinning Biden with two red blotches for eyes.) Biden’s campaign is circulating a memo (“Trump’s America in 2025: More Guns, More Shootings, More Deaths”) that appears to build on the deceptive message that increased gun ownership means increased violence and crime. “More guns, not less. That’s Donald Trump’s plan to make us safe,” reads a statement from a Biden-Harris 2024 spokesperson.
For those looking for reasons to disagree with the “more guns, less safety” narrative, look to the millions of responsible gun owners across America who know better.