The number of concealed carry handgun permits has skyrocketed since President Obama was first elected, while murder rates have fallen, according to a new report released Wednesday.
Since 2007, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared from 4.6 million to over 12.8 million, and murder rates have fallen from 5.6 killings per 100,000 people to just 4.2, about a 25 percent drop, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center.
And the number of permits issued is increasing faster every year. Over 1.7 million new permits were issued last year — a 15.4 percent increase over 2013, the largest such single-year jump ever, according to the report from the center led by President John R. Lott and research director John E. Whitley.
The number of concealed carriers is likely even higher, since permits are not required in eight states.
Gun rights advocates say that the findings in the report fall in line with their personal experiences and research and directly refute the liberal argument that more guns lead to more violence.
“It puts the lie to the myth promulgated by anti-gun individuals that somehow more law-abiding citizens carrying guns will lead to more crime. In fact, quite the opposite is the case,” said Larry Keene, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “More law-abiding citizens own firearms for self-protection, and crime continues to decline.”
But gun control advocates denounced the report, pointing to other studies showing concealed handguns are more frequently used for non-self-defense killings.
“Concealed carry killers are a threat to public safety. The evidence is clear that all too often, private citizens use their concealed handguns to take lives, not to save them,” a statement from the Violence Policy Center’s Concealed Carry Killers page reads.
A spokesperson for the center did not reply to multiple requests for comment.
According to the center, there have been 561 incidents in 36 states and the District of Columbia involving concealed handguns that have resulted in 743 deaths. “Only a tiny fraction of these cases are ever ruled to be in self-defense,” the website states.
But according to the latest report, concealed carriers are among the most law-abiding citizens in the country, even more so than police officers.
In Florida and Texas permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors of felonies at one-sixth the rate that police officers are convicted, according to the report.
“The citizen concealed carrier I don’t think ever forgets the fact that he’s a citizen on display, and he knows that he’s representative of a group of people,” said Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. “The last thing a concealed carrier wants to do is get into a situation where they have to use the gun. Even if it were a legitimate use, they know just what kind of horrible mess their life will become once they use that gun.”
Data on gun sales and recent opinion polls indicate that more people are warming up to the idea of gun ownership. A 2000 Gallup Poll found that 35 percent of Americans thought that owning a gun made their home safer. By 2014 that number soared to 63 percent.
A Dec. 2014 Pew Research poll found, for the first time in more than two decades, there was more support for gun rights than gun control, with 52 percent of respondents saying it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership.
NCIS background checks increased from 11.2 million to 21 million between 2007 and 2014, according to the report, and the sale of guns has skyrocketed over the last two years. About 14 million guns were sold between 2008 and 2011, while over 20 million were sold between 2012 and 2013, and about a quarter were sold to first-time buyers, Mr. Keene said.
“The public increasingly understands that gun control is a failed social experiment, and it doesn’t work,” Mr. Keene said. “All gun control ever does is infringe upon the rights of the law-abiding citizens and does nothing to stop criminals from illegally acquiring firearms, and it doesn’t stop them from misusing them in crime.”
Researchers attributed the uptick in permits and gun sales to President Obama’s election.
Between 1999 and 2007 the number of permits increased by about 240,000 per year. But in the next four years, during Mr. Obama’s first term in the White House, the number of new permits issued jumped to 850,000 per year. From 2011 to 2013, the number increased by 1.5 million, rising to 1.7 million last year, according to the report.
Following the killings of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, last month, Mr. Obama called for more gun control, a move that Mr. Keene said prompts Americans to head to local gun retailers.
“Whenever we see calls by politicians to take away the ability to exercise a fundamental civil liberty protected by the Second Amendment, people react,” Mr. Keene said.
Mr. Pratt also speculated that the spike in permit and gun sales can be attributed to a reaction to riots and looting that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore during protests over police killings of unarmed black men.
“What this really is is a reaction to Ferguson and Baltimore. Every time the authorities demonstrate that things can happen that they can’t control, that your life could be in danger and your property could be taken away from you in an instant, people get it,” Mr. Pratt said.
The report found that women and minority populations are getting more permits than white men, the most commonly stereotyped gun owners.
Since 2007 permits for women have increased by 270 percent and for men by 156 percent.
Although white males are still the largest concealed carry permit-holding group, the number of permits obtained by blacks accelerated the most, with Asians and American Indians following in second.
Between 2012 and 2014 the number of black permit holders increased from 10,389 to 17,594, according to the report.
Black females were the fastest-growing concealed handgun permit group, increasing 3.44 times faster than white females.
“The stereotype of the gun owner being a middle-aged male white guy from the South is simply not correct anymore,” Mr. Keene said.
Gun rights advocates say that the uptick can be attributed to more minority populations and women in urban areas seeking to protect themselves from violent criminals.
Mr. Pratt called the findings very encouraging for conservatives, and said they indicated a shift from liberal ideologies among minority groups.
“That is probably one of the most encouraging findings in that whole survey,” he said of the data on black permit holders. “That ought to give liberals and anti-Second Amendment folks a lot of reason to cry.
“I would go and have a sign out for carry permits in the middle of as many black communities as I could. This is going to be a very worrisome finding for the liberals. They ain’t got nothing if they haven’t got the blacks. They lose. That’s the only margin of victory they reliably have,” he added.
• Kellan Howell can be reached at email@example.com.
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