From the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) this week comes bad news for President Obama and the big gun control push he has chosen to be the faltering finale of his domestic agenda. But it’s no surprise to anyone who knows anything about those responsible gun owners who legally carry a firearm for self-protection.
In the typically meticulous and granular detail criminologist John Lott is famous for, Lott and his CPRC researchers determined in a 2014 report the number of concealed carry permit holders at 11.1 million. They compared that updated total to another report completed by the federal Government Accountability Office, which had found there were at least 8 million license holders as of December 31, 2011.
Now Lott’s group, using a state-by-state analysis, found the number has by 2015 increased to over 12.8 million. Further, they noted that for several reasons their study likely undercounts the number of license holders. None of the licenses in New York State were counted, since numbers are not available for that state. And as of this report, ten states don’t even require a license or permit to carry (permitless or constitutional carry; details of the laws vary by state). A new wave of constitutional carry laws has begun, much the same as the wave of shall-issue licensing laws in recent years.
Another interesting side note of the study—murder and violent crime rates in constitutional carry states are much lower than in states with the lowest percentage of permit holders. By the predictions of concealed carry opponents, the streets of those states that allow permitless concealed carry should be running with blood compared to states like California that severely restrict the right to carry. But in fact the opposite is true.
The increase in both the number of concealed carry licenses and states adopting constitutional carry has happened along with a rapid increase in gun sales as measured by the federal government’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). And invariably the increase has surged ever stronger every time President Obama has threatened new gun control measures, leading some to grant him the title of “Gun Salesman of the Year.”
But what Obama and his gun-grabbing supporters can’t explain is the drop in violent crime during all of this. The CPRC’s report includes this graph showing the rise in licenses and drop in crime from 1998 to 2014.
Indeed, Obama’s central theme is that firearms are the cause of crime, that they pose a generalized hazard to the public that qualifies them as a public health problem. More guns “on the street” must mean more deaths and injuries from their criminal misuse, not to mention accidental firearm deaths.
Of course, the real experience of the states is that concealed carry license holders represent our best citizens, despite a recent advocacy piece from the Violence Policy Center. The CPRC even finds, consistent with previous experience, that permit holders have a lower rate of violent crime than police (page 13).
Desperate to gain traction, gun prohibitionists have resorted to ugly tactics in an attempt to turn public opinion against gun owners. The worst smears so far show a recent trend of trying to paint gun owners as racists, as my colleague Dr. Robert Young pointed out earlier this year. But the naysayers can’t even pull off this character assassination—the greatest growth in numbers of concealed carry permit holders has been among African Americans (see also sociologist Jennifer Carlson’s observation of this phenomenon). In fact, the CPRC research uncovers another fact that torpedoes gun prohibitionists’ crass stereotyping of license holders as old white men–the fastest growing demographic of concealed carry license holders is African-American women (page 10).
What can we take away from the CPRC’s latest report? First, the authors are careful to caution against seeing any causative connection between the increasing numbers of concealed carry license holders and falling violent crime rates noted in this report. They simply note the two trends and point out that they occurred simultaneously. Readers are referred to the much more in-depth treatments of the complex factors entering into such a causal relationship found in the 2nd and 3rd editions of Lott’s book More Guns, Less Crime. Each successive edition after the first includes new data and analyses.
What the report clearly does is put to rest categorical objections to the whole notion of concealed carry. The experiment has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. It’s time for President Obama, Michael Bloomberg, and the whole host of disbelievers to face the facts and to accept concealed carry license holders as the above-average citizens they have proved themselves to be.
[Editor’s note—This blog entry was edited on 7/17/15 to correct an error. The original entry discussed CPRC’s report with the same title published in June 2014. The author has updated concealed carry license numbers and other findings based on the latest CPRC report, which was released 7/16/15. The basic conclusions of the blog entry, however, are unchanged. The author apologizes for the confusion.]
—Timothy Wheeler, MD is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.