The number of concealed carry permit holders has increased for the third year in a row, according to a new report from Dr. John Lott and the Crime Prevention Research Center. About 7.3 percent of American adults – or 18.33 million people – now hold permits, which represents a 304 percent increase since 2007 and an 8 percent increase since last year.
Alabama has the highest concealed carry rate at 26.3 percent, with Indiana (17.9 percent) and South Dakota (16.02 percent) coming in second and third. The report’s authors note that the true number is likely higher in constitutional carry states like South Dakota.
Four states – Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Texas – now have over 1 million permit holders, and Florida is the first state to boast over 2 million permits.
Women and minorities are by far the fastest growing demographics in the concealed carry population. According to the report, among the three states with gender and race data spanning at least a decade, these demographics have increased exponentially faster than their white, male counterparts.
- 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.
- In Oklahoma, the increase for American Indians was twice the rate for whites, and for blacks it was 66% greater than for whites.
- 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 permit numbers grew 101% faster for women than for men.
The report’s authors argue that concealed carry permit numbers indicate gun ownership rates more reliably than National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) checks or surveys. Sometimes gun owners purchase multiple firearms on a single NICS check, and sometimes a concealed carry permit holder is not required to undergo a NICS check when purchasing a firearm. Surveys are also unreliable because gun owners are often unwilling to admit to owning guns to a pollster.
Concealed carry permit numbers do not suffer from the same weaknesses, and these numbers have increased no matter which political party controls the White House. While NICS checks have decreased in frequency post-2016, concealed carry numbers have continued to climb.
Just because a person possesses a concealed carry permit does not guarantee that the individual is carrying a firearm, of course. By comparing their data to a 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center, the report’s authors conclude that 2.4% of Americans say that they carry all the time, 5.4% carry most or all the time, 12.3% carry at least some of the time.
“What does this mean in practice?” the authors ask. “It means that in most places where people are allowed to carry a concealed handgun, there will be someone carrying a concealed handgun.”