Concealed carry hits a new high, underscores need for national law

Information collected by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) indicates an unprecedented surge in the number of concealed carry permits, with the largest one-year increase on record occurring between May 2016 and May 2017, the NRA reported.

The CPRC tracks permit numbers across the country and publishes an annual report on concealed carrying in the United States. As of late last year, the number of Americans with carry permits hit the 15 million mark, and the current estimate of permittees is at 15.7 million – almost double the number from 2011.

The NRA-ILA stated:

Apart from the accelerating rate at which carry permits are being issued, this development is significant for other reasons. The drivers of this wave are increasingly women and minorities: according to the CPRC’s 2016 report, “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.”

This growth is particularly striking when considered in the context of the upswing in “permit-less carry” jurisdictions.  Just this year, North Dakota and New Hampshire joined other states that allow concealed carrying without a state-issued license or permit. While the new carry statistic is impressive on its own, there is no doubt that it under-represents the actual change in concealed carrying since last year.

This also reinforces the need for a national concealed carry reciprocity law. Despite the expansion of permit-less carry, many gun owners continue to seek permits in order to have their carry rights recognized in other jurisdictions. As more and more Americans become legally qualified to carry, it makes less and less sense to subject the right to carry a firearm for self-defense to the existing patchwork of inconsistent reciprocity laws that change from state line to state line.

Senate bill S. 446The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), and H.R. 38, The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, authored by Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC), would allow law-abiding permit holders to carry a concealed handgun when traveling interstate.

Gun-control groups like Everytown oppose any national reciprocity law, claiming it “would have a profound impact on state public safety laws,” “present serious risks to law enforcement,” and would let “criminals and other dangerous people carry concealed guns in every state in the country.” In fact, the first operative section in both bills plainly states that the scope of the proposed reciprocity law excludes persons who are “prohibited by Federal law from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm” – felons, persons with mental illness disqualifications, illegal drug users, and others. Such claims also ignore the unfortunate detail that criminals and other dangerous people pay no mind to permitting or other laws and already carry guns and other weapons illegally (and undoubtedly, will continue to do so).

The prediction that existing permit holders will run riot should a national reciprocity law pass likewise overlooks reality, being hard to square with the CPRC’s analysis concluding that concealed carry permittees are “extremely law abiding.” (According to the CPRC, law enforcement officers commit crimes at a rate that is a tiny fraction – 1/37th – of the rate of the general population; the crime rate for permit holders is even lower.)

As for the “risk” the legislation allegedly presents to law enforcement, it’s the peculiar one of exposing officers to a greater “danger of being sued for trying to confirm the validity of an out-of-state permit.” Police officers themselves, given their front-line experiences with violence and guns, appear to have a more receptive and informed attitude towards concealed carrying rights. A 2013 survey of over 15,000 police professionals across all ranks and department sizes asked questions about firearms, including concealed carrying. Over 91% of respondents supported the concealed carry of firearms by civilians who had not been convicted of a felony and/or not been deemed psychologically/medically incapable “without question and without further restrictions.” When asked to rate, on a scale of one to five, “how important … legally-armed citizens are to reducing crime rates overall,” over 75% of respondents answered by giving this the highest or next highest rating.

The CRPC’s next annual report on concealed carrying is expected in July, with updated statistics. As the number of America’s law-abiding concealed carry permittees moves towards new highs, we hope that elected officials, like the police, recognize that these armed citizens are “an asset in reducing violent crime and not a liability.”

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Fmr. Sgt, USAF Intelligence, NSA/DOD; Studied Cryptology at Community College of the Air Force

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