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Women and Minorities Bear Arms
They are fueling growth in the number of concealed handgun permits.
By John R. Lott Jr.
Each year brings a new record increase in the number of concealed handgun permits. The rate of growth in permits among women and minorities has far outpaced growth among white men. The data paint a picture of incredibly law-abiding permit holders, the vast majority living outside America’s insular media capitals.
A new report from the Crime Prevention Research Center shows that there are now more than 16.3 million concealed handgun permits in the U.S., up 1.83 million since last July. Far more people carry guns today than in 2007, when there were only 4.6 million permits. Thirteen states now no longer require a permit to carry in all or most of the state. Eight of those 13 states made the change in the last two years.
Did the antigun agendas of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton drive demand? Maybe not. The growth in permits has hardly slowed since the election.
Women are largely fueling the increase. Among the eight states that had data from 2012-16, permits for men grew by 22% and permits for women soared by 93%. In the 14 states with 2016 data on sex, women now make up 36% of permit holders.
Over those same years, the number of blacks with permits increased 30% faster than the number of whites with permits. Blacks now make up 11% of permit holders. A few states provide a breakdown for Asian-Americans, and in those states they accounted for the largest percentage increase in permits.
The numbers show how out of sync the media capitals—California, New York and the District of Columbia—are with the rest of the country. In those places, where public officials decide who get permits, only a few adults out of every thousand have permits, mostly in rural counties. In the rest of the U.S., 8% of adults have permits. People in most states don’t think twice about being surrounded by concealed carry in restaurants, theaters and stores. New Yorkers must be terrified to visit Pennsylvania, where 13% of adults have permits. In Potter County, Pa., on the New York state line, more than half of adults have a permit.
In Los Angeles County, by contrast, as of January there were 226 permits for almost eight million adults. Only the political elite get them: judges, reserve deputy sheriffs and a small group of very wealthy, well-connected individuals. As of 2012, Hispanics made up almost half the county, but they only got about 6.5% of the permits. Women got about 7%, and blacks 5%.
Where officials decide who gets permits, explicit death threats often aren’t enough for a law-abiding person to get one. Living in high-crime neighborhoods is considered irrelevant.
My research has demonstrated that the two groups that benefit the most from carrying guns are the likeliest victims of crime (poor blacks in high-crime urban areas) and people who are physically weaker (women and the elderly). Dozens of published peer-reviewed studies find similar results.
If the media elites spent more time outside their protective bubbles, they might realize how misplaced their fears of permit holders are. According to a study in Police Quarterly, criminal convictions of police are rare compared with the general public. But permit holders are convicted at less than one-sixth the rate of police officers.
Police are the most important factor in stopping crime, but the police almost always arrive on the scene after an offense has occurred. In the past few years those who benefit the most from carrying concealed handguns have been getting them.
Mr. Lott is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author, most recently, of “The War on Guns” (2016).
Appeared in the July 20, 2017, print edition of the Wall Street Journal.