At Townhall: What States Like California and New York Can Learn From Other States About Guns

Nov 23, 2022 | op-ed

Dr. John Lott has a new piece at Townhall.com.

More people than ever have concealed handgun permits. A new report from the Crime Prevention Research Center, which I head, shows the figure now stands at 22.01 million – an increase of 488,000 since last year. Whereas gun ownership surveys may be affected by people’s willingness to answer personal questions, concealed handgun permit data is the only “hard data” we have on the prevalence of guns.

The remarkable increase occurred despite people no longer needing a concealed handgun permit in 24 Constitutional Carry states. Alabama will become the 25th state in January. The number of permits fell in constitutional carry states, but the other states saw such increases that the total still rose.

After the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision to strike down the concealed handgun laws in New York, California, and five other states, Democrats were quick to predict disaster. Those seven “May Issue” states required people to provide a “good reason” for why they should be able to protect themselves, and politicians applied the rules arbitrarily. To the dismay of many Democrats, Justice Clarence Thomas stressed the importance of “objective” standards for gun permits – ones that don’t require “the exercise of judgment, and the formation of opinion.”

When a local reporter in Albany, New York, asked Gov. Kathy Hochul if she had “the numbers to show it’s the concealed carry permit holders that are committing crimes,” Hochul dismissed the question outright. “I don’t need to have numbers. I don’t need to have a data point to say this.”

Some of these politicians ought to get out of their states more. Outside of California and New York, about 10.2 percent of adults have a permit. Alabama has the highest concealed carry rate — 32.5 percent. Indiana is second with 23.4 percent, and Georgia is third with 15.5 percent. In Pennsylvania, which neighbors New York, almost 15 percent of adults have a permit.

But there has been no “chaos” or “disaster.” Alabama did not turn into a lawless wild west.  

Since 1976, 18 states have eliminated subjective “proper cause” requirements which require convincing a government bureaucrat of one’s need for a permit. Concealed handgun permit holders have proved extremely law-abiding in these and other states. No right-to-carry state has ever even held a legislative hearing to consider moving back to a “proper cause” requirement. Over time, states have also eliminated gun-free zones as they have seen how none of the dire predictions have come true.

While Illinois has done its best to make concealed handgun permits expensive and difficult to obtain, the latest numbers show that over 4.5 percent of its adult population now has a permit. That’s thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling. If the other six “May Issue” states have had an experience similar to that of Illinois, there could already be an additional 2.7 million concealed handgun permit holders in the United States.

The seven restrictive states have issued especially few permits to women and minorities. Data from Los Angeles show that only the political elite got permits: judges, reserve deputy sheriffs, and a small group of very wealthy, well-connected individuals who gave campaign donations to the county sheriff. Few recipients were minorities or women. While Hispanics made up over half of Los Angeles County residents, they only received about 6.5 percent of the county’s permits. Women got about 7 percent, and blacks 5 percent. In right-to-carry states, women have 29 percemt of the permits, and blacks have 12 percent.

In the seven states with data from 2012 to 2021/2022, permit numbers grew 115.4 percent faster for women than for men. 

The history of concealed handgun laws in the United States has been one of a gradual loosening of restrictions over time. Gun control advocates have continued to lose credibility, and the rules have continued to be relaxed.

The Supreme Court decision may finally let the media centers of New York City and Los Angeles see for themselves that there is nothing to fear from concealed carry.

John R. Lott, Jr., “What States Like California and New York Can Learn From Other States About Guns,” Townhall, November 22, 2022.

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