• 19.48 Million Permit Holders, 820,000 More Than Last Year Despite Many States Shutting Down Issuing Permits Because Of The Coronavirus


During President Trump’s administration, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared to over 19.48 million — a 34% increase over 2016. However, while gun sales have set records in 2020, the growth in concealed handgun permits has slowed as many states shutdown their issuance of new permits. Unlike gun ownership surveys that may be affected by people’s unwillingness to answer personal questions, concealed handgun permit data is the only really “hard data” that we have. Seventeen states no longer provide data on all the people who are legally carrying a concealed handgun because people in those states no longer need a permit to carry.

Among the findings of our report:

  • Last year, the number of permit holders continued to grow by about 820,000. At 4.4% growth over 2019, that is the slowest percent and absolute increase that we have seen since we started collecting this data in 2011, but part of that is due to many states not issuing concealed handgun permits during the Coronavirus pandemic. Another part is in the sixteen Constitutional Carry states (plus Montana where a permit is not needed in almost all the state) the number of permits has been declining even though it is clear that more people are legally carrying.
  • 7.6% of American adults have permits. Outside of the restrictive states of California and New York, about 9.2% of the adult population has a permit.
  • In fourteen states, more than 10% of adults have permits. Since 2019, Arkansas and Oklahoma have fallen below 10%, but they are now all Constitutional Carry states, meaning that people no longer need a permit to carry. South Carolina’s concealed carry rate has risen to above 10%.
  • Alabama has the highest concealed carry rate — 28.5%. Indiana is second with 18.7%, and Iowa is third with 15.0%.
  • Five states now have over 1 million permit holders: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Florida is the first state to have over 2 million permits.
  • Sixteen states have adopted constitutional carry for their entire state, meaning that a permit is no longer required. Because of these constitutional carry states, the nationwide growth in permits does not paint a full picture of the overall increase in concealed carry. But some residents still choose to obtain permits so that they can carry in other states that have reciprocity agreements.
  • In 2020, women made up 26.4% of permit holders in the 14 states that provide data by gender. Seven states had data from 2012 to 2019/2020, and permit numbers grew 101.2% faster for women than 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 3.9 times greater percentage increase in permits than white males from 2002 to 2019. Oklahoma data from 2002 to 2019 indicated that the increase of licenses approved for Asians and American Indians was more than twice the rate for whites. North Carolina had black permits increase twice as fast as whites from 1996 till 2016.
  • From 2015 to 2019/2020, in the four states that provide data by race over that time period, the number of black people with permits increased almost 55.6% 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 62.9% 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 Prevention Research Center