Despite the expectations of many after the 2016 elections the number of concealed handgun permits has increased for the third year in a row. In 2019, the number of concealed handgun permits soared to now over 18.66 million — a 304% increase since 2007. About an 8% growth over the number of permits since 2018. 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. Still, an even larger number of people carry because in 16 states people don’t need a permit to carry.
Among the findings of our report:
- Last year, the number of permit holders continued to grow by about 1.4 million. Despite 16 states where a permit isn’t required and 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.
- 7.3% of American adults have permits. Outside the restrictive states of California and New York, about 8.75% of the adult population has a permit.
- In thirteen states, more than 10% of adults have permits, down from just fifteen last year. The three states that now fell below 10% are now all Constitutional Carry states — Arkansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, where people no longer need a permit to carry in their states. South Carolina was the one state that had been below 10% that was now above it.
- Alabama has the highest rate — 26.3%. Indiana is second with 17.9%, and South Dakota, another Constitutional Carry state, saw its percent decline to 16.02%.
- Four states now have over 1 million permit holders: Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Florida is the first state with over has over 2 million permits.
- Sixteen states have adopted constitutional carry, 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 2019, women made up 26.5% of permit holders in the 12 states that provide data by gender. Eight states had data from 2012 to 2019 and permits for women growing 101% faster for women than those for men.
- Three states that have detailed race and gender data for at least a decade show remarkably larger increases in permits for minorities compared to whites. In Texas, black females saw a 3.6 times greater percentage increase in permits than white males. North Carolina had black permits increase twice as fast as whites, and in Oklahoma the increase for American Indians was twice the rate for whites and for blacks it was 66% greater than for whites.
- From 2012 to 2018, in the four states that provide data by race over that time period, the number of black people with permits increased almost 20% faster than the number of whites with permits. Asians appear to be the group that has experienced the largest increase in permitted concealed carry, growing 29% faster than whites.
- 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.
Source: John R. Lott, Crime Research Center