At least 1 in 10 U.S. adults carries a concealed handgun!

I’m generalizing a bit from this paper, which reports that 8% of U.S adults now have a concealed carry permit. The true number carrying concealed is much higher, as this astonishing graphic shows:

Constitutional carry means a state resident can carry a concealed handgun by right, without applying for a permit; in right to carry states you need a permit that the authorities must issue unless e.g. you’re a felon. I had no idea 21 states were now constitutional carry! So the 8% figure, based on the actual number of CCW (concealed carry weapon) permits, must be a serious underestimate.

As the paper points out, this doesn’t mean all of these people are necessarily carrying. I have a CCW but have yet to carry on my person; besides the additional training, I wanted the permit to protect myself from gun charges if I’m pulled over by the police while traveling to and from the range (in North Carolina, having a CCW also makes it easier to purchase weapons).

But a 2017 Pew Research Center Survey makes it possible to estimate the percentage of American adults who carry guns and how frequently they carry them (“America’s Complex Relationship with Guns,” Pew Research Center, June 22 2017). The Pew numbers include both concealed and open carry. In most states, permits are not required for open carry. It might be rare for someone to openly carry a handgun on a regular basis, but open carry may account for a large share of those who carry a gun on occasion. The survey also counts people no matter their reason for carrying, even if it is simply for sport on their way to or at a shooting range or hunting. What it means to carry "some of the time" is also not clearly defined.

The Pew survey thus likely overestimates the number of people who carry, especially those who carry occasionally. There are three relevant sets of numbers from the Pew survey:
-- 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.

With a little multiplication, we find that:
-- 2.4% say that they carry all the time.
-- 5.4% carry most or all the time.
-- 12.3% carry at least some of the time.

That’s 20% of the population who carry at least some of the time, so we’re talking somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 people carrying.

What does this mean in practice? It means that in most places where people are allowed to carry a concealed handgun, there will be someone carrying a concealed handgun. If the probability that any one person has a concealed handgun permit is 5.4%, in a room with 10 people (assuming that the probabilities are independent), the probability that at least one person will have a permitted concealed handgun is 43%. In a room with 20 people, that probability goes up to 67%. With 40, that probability rises to 89%.

Carry rates among minorities are also skyrocketing.

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 a 6.3 times greater percentage increase in permits than white males from 2002 to 2020. Oklahoma data from 2002 to 2020 indicated that the increase of licenses approved for Asians and American Indians was more than twice the rate for whites. North Carolina had black permits increase twice as fast as whites from 1996 till 2016.

And if you’re a leftist who is horrified by people exercising their rights under the 2nd Amendment, don’t visit Alabama.

Alabama has the highest concealed carry rate — 32.1%. Indiana is second with 21.6%, and Iowa is third with 16.5%.
By Stephen

About me

Professor and quant guy. Libertarian turned populist Republican. Trying to learn Japanese and play Spanish Baroque music on the ukulele.

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