As the United States is moving into a post-pandemic era, the number of concealed handgun permits has continued increasing. The figure now stands at 22.01 million – a 2.3% increase since last year. 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. This increase occurred despite 24 Constitutional Carry states that no longer provide data on all those legally carrying a concealed handgun because people in those states no longer need a permit to carry. A 25th state, Alabama, has also adopted Constitutional Carry, but its law doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2023.
These numbers are particularly topical given that the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down New York’s “May-Issue” Concealed Handgun Law, affirming a constitutional right to bear arms. The decision will have a major impact conconcealed carry laws in the seven states that had “May-Issue” type rules.
What might happen to the number of permits in those seven states? Illinois, which was also forced by an earlier court decision to adopt right-to-carry rules, may serve as an example. While Illinois has done its best to make getting a concealed handgun permit expensive and difficult, the latest numbers show that over 4.5% of its adult population now has a permit. If the seven “May-Issue” states have a similar experience as Illinois, it implies an additional 2.7 million concealed handgun permit holders in the United States.John R. Lott, Jr., “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2022,” Social Science Research Network, November 17, 2022.
Among the findings of our report:
- Last year, the number of permit holders continued to grow by about 488,000. At 2.3% growth over 2021, that is the slowest percent and absolute increase that we have seen since we started collecting this data in 2011. Part of that is due to the number of permits declining in the Constitutional Carry states even though it is clear that more people are legally carrying.
- 8.5% of American adults have permits. Outside of the restrictive states of California and New York, about 10.2% of adults have a permit.
- In seventeen states, more than 10% of adults have permits. Since 2019, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota have fallen below 10%, but they are now all Constitutional Carry states, meaning that people no longer need a permit to carry. The concealed carry rates for Connecticut, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have risen to above 10% this year.
- Alabama has the highest concealed carry rate — 32.5%. Indiana is second with 23.4%, and Georgia is third with 15.5%.
- Six states now have over 1 million permit holders: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Florida is the top states with 2.57 million permits.
- Twenty-five 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. Many residents still choose to obtain permits so that they can carry in other states that have reciprocity agreements, but while permits are increasing in the non-Constitutional Carry states, they fell in the Constitutional Carry ones even though more people are clearly carrying in those states.
- In 2022, women made up 29.2% of permit holders in the 15 states that provide data by gender, an increase from the 28.3% last year. Seven states had data from 2012 to 2021/2022, and permit numbers grew 115.4% faster for women than for men.