At Fox News: Decline in new gun permits doesn’t tell whole story about how many Americans carry: expert

Nov 30, 2023 | Media Coverage

Fox News has a news story about our latest annual concealed carry permit report.

FIRST ON FOXThe number of concealed carry permit holders in the U.S. dropped slightly this year, but the number of Americans carrying a concealed firearm has likely increased overall due to more than half of U.S. states enacting laws that do not require eligible residents to obtain a permit, according to the author of a new study examining gun data.

“I’ve been tracking the number of concealed carry permits since 1998,” said John Lott, founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). “And what you find is that this is the first year that there’s actually been a drop in the number of concealed carry permits. It’s not very much, but you basically see two different types of states. In the constitutional carry states, there was a drop. In all the other states, there was an increase.”

Fox News Digital exclusively obtained CPRC’s study that examines data on concealed carry permits, which found a 0.5% decrease in concealed carry holders across the U.S. this year. The study relies on concealed carry permit data as opposed to gun ownership surveys, which Lott said can be unreliable if gun owners are unwilling to share their personal information with a surveyor.

A concealed carry weapon (CCW) is the practice of Americans carrying firearms in a public space but in a way that is not visible to others.

“The main reason for the drop is that the number of permits declines gradually in the Constitutional Carry states even though it is clear that more people are legally carrying,” the study, authored by Lott, College of William & Mary economics professor Carlisle E. Moody, and CPRC research associate Rujun Wang, states. 

As of September, 27 states in the U.S. have constitutional carry laws on the books, which allow legal residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit from the government. Residents of those states can still obtain permits, and frequently do, in order to carry in other states that have reciprocity agreements. 

The U.S. became a constitutional carry-majority nation just this year, after Alabama, Florida and Nebraska enacted permitless carry laws. Constitutional carry law states account for 65% of the land in the U.S. and 44% of the population, according to the study. 

The 23 states that do not have constitutional carry laws saw an increase in concealed carry permits, according to the study, but “permits fell even more in the Constitutional Carry ones even though more people are clearly carrying in those states.” 

All in, there are 21,846,557 active concealed carry permits in the U.S., according to the study. CPRC, which has been tracking CCW data since 2011, found there were 22 million concealed carry permit holders in 2022. 

Out of the U.S. adult population, 8.4% hold concealed carry permits, which increases to 10.1% of the adult population when removing New York and California, which have strict gun laws. In 17 states, more than 10% of the adult population have CCWs, including in Oregon and Michigan as of this year.  

Florida has issued the most concealed carry permits, at 2.56 million, followed by Texas at 1.63 million, and Pennsylvania at 1.6 million, the data found. Alabama had the highest percentage of residents with CCWs, at 27.75% of the state’s adult population, followed by Indiana at 22.95% and Colorado at 16.55%.

Lott said that obtaining a concealed carry permit can be an expensive endeavor, pointing to cities such as Chicago or states such as California that require people to spend hundreds of dollars to obtain the permit and get the required gun safety training. In states where permits and their costs have been eliminated, more people are inclined to purchase a handgun and conceal carry.

“There’s strong evidence that when you lower the cost of people being able to go and carry – not making them have to pay the fees and not making them have to wait periods of time to go and carry – you’re going to see more people carrying, and we’ve seen that in terms of more people getting training, for example,” Lott told Fox News Digital.

Lowering costs also changes the “mix of people who get permits” and leads to “a lot more permits issued in heavily minority, poor zip codes,” according to Lott.

The economist and crime researcher said that in blue states such as Illinois, wealthy White residents don’t flinch at spending a few hundred dollars on obtaining a permit and training. But Black Americans living in high-crime areas of Chicago, who Lott said would most benefit from owning a handgun for self-defense, are less likely or able to shell out the cash for a permit.

Graph on CCW increases

This CPRC graph shows an increase in concealed handgun permit holders among Black Americans in Texas. (Crime Prevention Research Center)

“My research indicates that it’s people who are most likely victims of violent crime, poor Blacks who live in high-crime urban areas and people who are relatively weaker physically – women and the elderly – who are the ones who benefit the most from having concealed carry. And yet, they’re the ones who were being prevented from getting one,” he said.

Data graph on gun ownership

This CPRC graph shows an increase in non-White concealed handgun permit holders in Texas. (Crime Prevention Research Center)

Only a handful of states break down permit data by race and sex, but available statistics show women and minorities are increasingly turning to gun ownership. Over the last 10 years, for example, the growth rate for permits has been 111% faster for women than men, Lott said.

“Women made up 29.1% of permit holders in the 14 states that provide data by gender,” the study says.

“Three states that have detailed race and gender data for at least a decade show remarkably larger increases in permits for minorities compared to whites. In Texas, black females saw an 8.2 times greater percentage increase in permits than white males from 2002 to 2022. Oklahoma data from 2002 to 2022 indicated that the increase of licenses approved for Asians was approximately eight times the rate for whites. North Carolina had black permits increase twice as fast as whites from 1996 till 2016,” the study continues.

The study includes a survey conducted by McLaughlin and Associates that found 15.6% of general election voters carry concealed handguns.

“The results show a much higher percentage of adults carrying: 7.2% carry all the time, 8.4% carry some of the time, and another 13.8% carry not often. Thus, the percentage of people carrying all or most of the time went from 5.4% in 2017 to 15.6% in 2023,” the study states.

The reasons for the increase, according to the study, boils down to three likely options: “the increase in Constitutional Carry, looking at general election voters rather than all adults, and the increase in violent crime.”

Lott argued that as more Americans arm themselves, crime will likely decrease because it becomes riskier for criminals to steal or victimize people.

“As it becomes riskier for criminals to go and commit crime, you see less crime. And you can make it riskier for criminals to commit crimes with higher arrest rates, higher conviction rates, longer prison sentences, but you can also make it riskier for criminals to commit crime by making it so that the victims are able to go and defend themselves,” he said. 

Lott noted, however, that in order to efficiently drive down crime, law-abiding residents of high-crime areas would need to conceal carry.

“If you want to reduce crime, you have to have people carrying in those areas where they’re the most likely victims. That would be poor Blacks who live in Chicago, places like that,” he said.

Lott said the data also highlighted “how incredibly law-abiding permit holders are.”

“Permit holders are convicted of any type of firearms-related violations at about 1/12 the rate that police officers are convicted of firearms-related violations. And police officers are convicted at about 1/20 the rate of the general population,” he said. “Police officers are very, very rarely convicted of firearms-related violations. But permit holders are virtually never convicted of firearms-related violations.”