12.3% of Americans sometimes carry handguns, 5.4% of Americans carry most or all the time, & 2.4% carry all the time

Jul 14, 2017 | Featured

One of the big questions about concealed carry is how frequently permit holders carry their guns.  At least 6.5% of the adult population has a concealed handgun permit, but with 14 states allowing people to carry without a permit, it is hard to know how many people actually carry.  But a new Pew Research Center Survey makes it possible to estimate the percentage of the adult population in the US carries guns with them and how frequently they carry them, though their number would include both concealed and open carry.  No permits are necessary for open carry in most states.  A lot of people may not frequently openly carry handguns, but it might make up a large share of those who on occasion carry a gun.  Surprisingly no one has done the necessary multiplication to figure this number out.  There are three relevant sets of numbers:

First two warnings.  While presumably, most people who are illegally carrying a gun aren’t likely to tell a stranger that they are breaking the law, some of these people might be illegally carrying.  On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that many people with guns don’t like to tell pollsters that they have them so that would work to make these percentages lower than they actually are for law-abiding individuals.  It is not clear what the net effect of these two opposing factors are, but if we had to guess, it most likely underestimates the number of people who are legally carrying a gun.

There are three relevant sets of numbers:

— 30% of American adults say that they own a gun

— 72% of the people who own a gun, say they own a handgun or a pistol

— 11% of handgun owners say that they carry all the time, 26% say they carry most or all the time, and 57 percent say that they carry at least some of the time.

Assuming 242.9 million adults, what does that imply?

— 2.4% say that they carry all the time — that translates into over 5.83 million people.

— 5.62% carry most or all the time — that translates into over 13.64 million people.

— 12.3% carry at least some time in the past — that translates into over 29.9 million people.



  1. William Peterken

    Tom givens, who ran a training center in Memphis, has an article in the current Gun digest Concealed Carry annual edition. Training 45,000 citizens for concealed carry over eighteen years in the city with the highest homicide rate resulted in interesting and informative data. Of the 45,000 trainees, 65 had encounters with armed assailant criminals. The results: 62 wins, ZERO losses, and 3 “forfeits.” The forfeits were trainees who failed to carry and were unarmed when killed by criminals.

    This shows the importance of carrying all the time. Also, carrying only some of the time, such as when going someplace where it is dangerous and you may need to shoot your way out, leaves you in the unpleasant position of telling the jury why you deliberately went someplace so dangerous you went armed when normally you go about unarmed. Were you just looking for a chance to try out your piece and your hollow point ammunition?

    My twin sister, Betsy McCaughey gave me a signed copy of your latest book. It is well worth reading. Bill

    • johnrlott

      Thanks very much, Bill. I appreciate you also subscribing to our email list.

  2. Jay French

    Hi John, I love your data. The number speaks volumes. Any research data on why on 2.4% carry all the time? The owners’ guns are too big? Holsters not comfortable? Visiting Non-Permissive Environments? Lack of conceal-ability? Any research or data will be appreciated. Thanks, Jay French 717-497-4001 or [email protected]

  3. Dave Moss

    I’m in the 5% category. One of my part-time jobs is in a school environment, where I am legally barred from carrying. I carry everywhere else, including my full-time job… legally, but not permitted by my employer.

  4. David Tasler

    I carry 90% of the time as I’m in and out of government building’s. . I have my concealed carry license so it’s an everyday thing to put it on .

  5. HRColey

    I carry all the time, both outside and inside the house. Frequently home invasions start with the bad guys rushing the door as soon as the homeowner starts to open it. If a burglar kicks my door open, knocking me down I intend to lie on the floor and shoot my way out of trouble. When your door is forced open you don’t have time to go get a firearm, so you better have a gun on you or in your hand.

    • Marc

      Your gun doesn’t do you any good if it is in the bookshelf if you need it and you are in the kitchen, garage, out by the smoker etc.