Clearly freedom is on the move thanks to your support of the NRA. But because of the confusing and inconsistent patchwork of carry laws and roadblocks like “may-issue,” high fees and lack of reciprocity, the struggle is far from over.
Freedom is knowing that at any time some good citizen near you in the shopping mall, movie theatre or restaurant might be carrying concealed. Freedom is knowing that this is their constitutional right, a right only reasonably restricted by very specific criteria having to do with each individual’s actions. Freedom is knowing that all of those millions of Americans now taking on the burden of carrying concealed have made the decision to be guards against the possible evil actions of a few.
Freedom is not, as Wikipedia says in its “Concealed Carry” page, something that is “legally permitted” in “some countries and jurisdictions.” No, in the United States the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights restricts government from infringing on our right to bear arms. It is true that governments in some states and jurisdictions have assumed the power to arbitrarily decide who may legally exercise their rights, but this is something the Supreme Court will hopefully rectify.
Thanks, in no small part, to you and your support of the NRA, the freedom to bear arms has been on the move in the “land of the free and home of the brave.” As of 2018, the number of people with concealed handgun permits had grown to over 17.25 million, a 273 percent increase from 2007. In 2018, some 7.14 percent of American adults had permits and an unknown number were carrying in the 16 states that now allow some type of “permitless” or “constitutional carry.”
CONCEALED-CARRY FACT: Despite what the mainstream media so often insinuates, concealed-carry 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,” says the CRPC.
Freedom Is Contagious
This embrace of our rights is something the mainstream media is ignoring or denigrating, but that nevertheless is continuing.
What we’re experiencing is no small societal shift. This is a tremendous and growing expansion of our American freedom that is changing views and saving lives. This is a trend that has been occurring for decades and all indications are that the number of those who carry is still going up, up, up.
There were 2.7 million people with concealed handgun permits in 1999. By 2007 there were 4.6 million. In 2011, there were 8 million. By 2014 there were 11.1 million Americans with concealed-carry permits. By 2017 there were 17.25 million citizens with permits.
In 2017 alone, the number of people with concealed-carry permits grew by about 890,000, according to research done by the Crime Research Prevention Center (CRPC), a nonprofit that conducts research on laws regulating the ownership or use of guns, crime and public safety. “Outside the restrictive states of California and New York, about 8.63% of the adult population has a permit,” says the CRPC. Also, more than 10 percent of adults have carry permits in 15 states.
The top five states in terms of the percentage of people with carry-concealed permits are:
1. Alabama: 22.1%
2. Indiana: 17.9%
3. South Dakota: 17.2%
4. Pennsylvania: 13.49%
5. Georgia: 13.28%
At least four states now have over one million permit holders—Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas. Meanwhile, the percentage of women and minorities getting concealed-carry permits has outpaced men and those who identify as Caucasian. Between 2012 and 2018, the number of women with permits grew 111 percent faster than it did for men. Of the five states that have data on permit issuance by race for 2012 and 2018 (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas) the number of permits grew 20 percent faster among those who identify as black when compared to those who identify as white, reports the CRPC.
Guns and Crime
As the number of people with permits to carry (or who simply began carrying in states with constitutional carry) has surged over the last few decades, the national murder rate has generally been declining.
As the murder rate fell nationally from 6.3 to below 5 and more recently back up to 5.3 per 100,000 between 1998 and 2017, the percentage of adults with permits soared from about 1.3 percent to 7.14 percent of the overall population (again, excluding states with constitutional carry). This simple correlation by itself doesn’t prove that concealed-carry permits reduce violent crime rates. Many factors account for changes in crime rates. It does indicate, however, that an increase in the number of people utilizing their right to bear arms certainly isn’t making homicide rates surge, as the mainstream media and anti-gun groups so often allege.
Plenty of in-depth research, of course, has shown that an armed citizenry is a safer citizenry.
A Quick History of Concealed Carry
Over the years, thanks to the hard work of millions of NRA members, more and more states have adopted laws that make concealed-carry permits available to average, law-abiding Americans. Illinois was the last state to give its residents a chance to use their freedom—it was forced to do so by a federal court thanks to an NRA-supported challenge to its ban on carrying firearms. Illinois issued its first permits in March 2014. Even Washington, D.C., finally began issuing concealed-handgun permits after also being forced to do so by another NRA-supported legal challenge.
The modern wave of concealed-carry legislation and licensing, however, arguably began in 1987 when Florida went from being may-issue to a shall-issue state. Currently, in “may-issue” states, state or local licensing authorities can decide, based on any arbitrary or even discriminatory standards, to deny any citizen their right to bear arms. “Shall-issue” states or jurisdictions in contrast require the public officials to give anyone a concealed-carry permit who isn’t specifically barred from owning or carrying a firearm by law.
1989: Four states followed Florida to become shall-issue states: Georgia, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Tennessee at the time went from “no-issue” to “may-issue.”
1990: Two states became shall-issue—Idaho and Mississippi.
1991: Montana became shall-issue.
1994: Alaska, Arizona, Tennessee and Colorado became shall-issue states.
1995: Nevada, Utah, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and North Carolina became shall-issue states.
1996: Louisiana, South Carolina and Kentucky all became shall-issue states. This brought the entire Deep South to shall-issue and increased the number of shall-issue states to 30.
2001: Michigan became shall-issue.
2003: Alaska repealed its law restricting concealed carry and became the second state (after Vermont) where concealed carry became unrestricted. Also in 2003, Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri and New Mexico became shall-issue states.
2004: Ohio went shall-issue.
2006: Kansas and Nebraska became shall-issue states—at this time 37 states were shall-issue, two were unrestricted and nine were may-issue.
2008: The Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment is an individual right. From this point more states began adopting constitutional-carry policies and the last “no-issue” states were soon forced to begrudgingly give citizens their freedom.
2010: Arizona became the third state (after Alaska and Arizona) to permit constitutional carry. The Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second Amendment restrictions on government also apply to state and local governments.
2011: Wyoming became the fourth state to pass constitutional carry. Wisconsin and Iowa became shall-issue states. (Meanwhile, other states and cities, such as Hawaii and New York City, remained no-issue in practice, but not in law.)
2013: Arkansas became a constitutional-carry state; Illinois became the last of the 50 states to be forced to give up a no-issue policy and became shall-issue.
2015: Maine and Kansas passed constitutional carry.
2016: Four more states adopted some form of constitutional carry—Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri and West Virginia.
2017: North Dakota and New Hampshire passed constitutional carry.
2019: South Dakota became a constitutional carry state. (The law went into effect July 1.) Oklahoma and Kentucky also passed permitless carry to bring the total to 16. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to New York City’s concealed-carry laws.
Freedom Needs to Reign Over the Land
Today, concealed carry is technically legal in every jurisdiction of the United States, but the rules vary so greatly from state to state that people are afraid to travel with their self-defense firearms. In places like California the arbitrariness of “may-issue” regimes is exemplified by the county to county variation in permit issuance. While some agencies issue permits to anyone who isn’t prohibited, some deny almost all applications.
New Jersey is notorious for prosecuting those who mistakenly take a wrong turn from a neighboring state with their licensed concealed-carry handguns on them or in their vehicles. There’s no clearer example of this outrageous treatment of a law-abiding American citizen than the experience of Shaneen Allen, a single mother from Pennsylvania who spent 48 days in a New Jersey jail and faced years behind bars. Thankfully, she was pardoned by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
To protect the rights of citizens earlier this year the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2019” was reintroduced in Congress. The law doesn’t have much of a chance in this Congress, as Democrats advocating for more restrictions on our rights have a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Many of these Democrats are opposed to allowing, for example, a woman who has chosen to obtain a concealed-carry permit to protect herself from a violent ex-boyfriend to carry her freedom as she travels.
“The current patchwork of state and local gun laws is confusing and can cause the most conscientious gun owner to unknowingly run afoul of the law when they are traveling or temporarily living away from home,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA.
There are states, such as California, New York and Maryland, that won’t honor any concealed-carry permit from another state. There are also many states that will honor all U.S.-issued concealed carry permits. Another list of states honors only certain states concealed-carry permits. This confusing patchwork of laws regulating a right that applies everywhere in the United States makes it particularly hard on first responders who travel to other states to help out in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
The trend is toward freedom, but the struggle is hardly over.
History is Repeating
During Reconstruction, some Southern states passed laws banning concealed carry. These laws were often aimed at disarming blacks. Rivers H. Buford, associate justice of the Florida Supreme Court, said this of a Florida law that banned concealed carry: “The original Act of 1893 ... was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers ... and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.”
Many of the most restrictive gun-control laws today also disenfranchise many minority communities.
Costs Are a Hurdle for Freedom
The average fee for a five-year permit is $64, determined the CRPC. “California is at the high end of the spectrum, charging up to a $385 fee and requiring 16 hours of training,” says the CRPC. Some jurisdictions require that applicants actually go through the same training as law enforcement, which can raise costs to over $1,000. In many parts of California and in New York City, permits seem to go to the most politically connected. In contrast, South Dakota has no training requirement and charges only $10 for a four-year permit. Not surprisingly, concealed carry is growing faster in states where permits are relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain. Anti-gun groups know this and so have pushed for higher fees and other burdens in places like New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
A Few Facts About People Who Carry
A 2018 survey paid for by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, titled “Concealed Carry Market” used data from 4,521 people who carry concealed to answer questions about what they carry, how they carry, why and more.
• 85% of men prefer to carry their firearm at the waist (inside and outside the waistband)
• 57% of women prefer to carry at the waist
• 31% of women prefer to conceal in carry bag
• 19.8% of women said they purchased under-layer clothing such as corsets, underwear and bras that are specially designed to hide a firearm
• 98.1% of all respondents said they own at least one semiautomatic pistol
• 61.4% own revolvers, which made up only 13.8% of the total firearms owned by those who answered the survey
• 48% of the men surveyed said they carry all the time
• 37.6% of women said they always carry
• 70.1% of women obtained their conceal-carry license in the past five years as compared to 54.4% of men
• 80.5% indicated self-defense was a reason for obtaining a permit
• 85.5% of women indicated that they felt safer knowing they could defend themselves
• 57.8% of women and 52.5% of men prefer 9mm