The Year of the Gun: Carry Permits, Sales Figures Explode in 2016

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The number of persons in the United States with concealed carry permits has reached an all-time high of close to 15 million. John R. Lott, Jr. of the Crime Prevention Research Center explains:


As of the beginning of this year, there were over 14.5 million concealed carry permits in the US. That represents a 215% increase in the number of permits since 2007. Since then there has been an increase of about 100,000 permits in just Florida alone, so the total is probably near to 15 million now. Yet, those numbers are clearly an underestimate of the number of people who can legally carry because there are 12 states now where you don’t need a permit to be able to carry, and while some people in those states still get a permit to be able to carry outside their state, the number of permits in these Constitutional Carry states does tend to fall.

The biggest increases in permit have been for women and for minorities. The number of women with permits has increased twice as quickly as the number of men with permits. Some evidence suggests that permit-holding is increasing about 75% more quickly among minorities than among whites.

As Dr. Lott mentions, this escalation is particularly compelling given the rising number of states that have adopted “permitless” concealed carry laws, with such laws passed recently in Missouri, West Virginia, Mississippi and Idaho. More than six percent of adults in the United States have a permit to carry a concealed weapon; in ten states, more than ten percent of the adult population are concealed carry permit-holders. 

This year is also on track as record-setting for firearm sales. National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figures from the FBI show that to date, the figures for each month this year have eclipsed monthly totals of a year ago, often by significant margins. This November has been no exception, with an increase of over 14 percent compared to the previous November, and November 25, “Black Friday,” is now the highest ranking day for NICS checks since the NICS system was established.


Although NICS checks data doesn’t correlate exactly with the number of firearms acquired in a given timeframe (there are other reasons why NICS checks may be performed, and the same person may buy several guns in a single transaction subject to one background check), NICS checks are required before a firearm may be acquired legally from a licensed firearm dealer and are a fairly reliable indicator of sales.

Yet, contrary to the apprehension and alarm expressed by gun-control groups, this expansion in gun ownership, permit-holders and permitless carry laws doesn’t correlate with an increase in violent crime. Permit holders, as a class, tend to be substantially more law-abiding than the general population. The Crime Prevention Research Center notes that the crime rate for the general population is 37 time higher than the rate for police officers, yet concealed carry permit holders “are convicted of felonies and misdemeanors at less than a sixth the rate for police officers.” Another source indicates that “more people were murdered by fists and kicks in 2015 alone than were murdered by firearm-wielding concealed-carry permit holders in the last ten years.” Overall, gun crime victimization is lower than it was 20 years ago. 

This may explain why gun-control efforts keep failing – most Americans understand that criminals are unlikely to bother obtaining a carry permit or indeed, to follow any other law. An August poll found that 58 percent of Americans believe gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime than it puts people’s safety at risk. 


The next milestone? Legislation that would respect the rights of individuals who possess concealed carry permits in their home state, or who are not prohibited from carrying concealed in their home state, to exercise those rights in any other state. The concept of national reciprocity of carry permits has been formally endorsed by President-Elect Trump, and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina, has already announced plans to push forward a Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 when the new Congress meets next year.

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