Concealed-carry permits down, but number of people carrying concealed up

Across the United States, fewer US citizens applied for new concealed carry permits. That is what the numbers say, and it is true from a certain perspective. It is also true that more people are legally carrying concealed firearms than ever before. That may seem like a contradiction, but it is also very good news.

We’ve seen a considerable number of states recently adopt constitutional carry laws. Those laws typically say that you don’t need a license to carry a concealed firearm if as long as you would have qualified to get one. That means you don’t have a criminal record so you don’t need to get a permission slip from the state to carry concealed in public. Even with constitutional carry in your state, you’ll often want a carry permit if you often drive to another state and want to carry there.

Check it out: Traveler's Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States

Back to the report from John Lott, we now have a record number of people legally carrying a personal firearm, but fewer of them had to apply for and pay for a state license in order to do so. That might be good news, and in fact it is fantastic news.

People who don’t have a carry permit often worry that more people are now carrying a gun but they don’t have the training that the state previously required. That concern sounds obvious, but let me show you one flaw in that thinking.

Suppose you want to learn something new. Let’s say you wanted to speak a foreign language or to learn how to drive a motorcycle. Like everyone else, you only have so much time and money that you can invest in your new studies. For the sake of argument, let’s say that you have enough time and money to buy ten hours of training.

You start the class, and then discover that we’re going to pay you extra money to take that training class. We’re going to pay you to buy the language books. We’re going to pay you extra for your language classes. We’re going to pay some of the cost of your motorcycle and pay for some of your motorcycle driving instruction. It wouldn’t surprise anyone that you took more language or driving classes when someone paid you to take them. You get more of what you subsidize and you get less of what you tax.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that self-defense students take less instruction when the state taxes them.

The politicians didn’t call them a tax on firearms training, but that is what they are when you have to pay for a carry permit, for fingerprint fees, and for the state mandated classes. Those classes usually have little to do with actual self-defense. If it acts like a tax then we should call it a tax. We could call it a “processing fee” but we have better intuition on what it will actually happen if we simply call it a tax.

We get less of something once we tax it. That is what politicians told us would happen when they taxed alcohol, gasoline, and cigarettes. We also get less concealed carry and self-defense instruction when we tax them too. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that we had more people take firearms safety instruction when we stopped taxing it. Our neighbors spent more money on firearms training when they didn’t also have to pay a additional state fee as well as paying for their firearms training. That is some of the good news for constitutional carry, but that certainly isn’t all of the good news.

I remember applying to buy a gun and needing several letters telling the police officers that I was a good guy. My friends had to explain how long they knew me. Fortunately, I’d been in that town long enough to meet the requirements so I could get a firearm. The application scheme worked for me, but it doesn’t work for everyone. It certainly doesn’t work if you’re new in town. What if you travel for a living like a contractor or a trucker? I don’t see how we’re safer if people who travel for a living are disarmed.

Carry permit schemes pretend that a stranger in town could be a danger so they should be disarmed. Those permit schemes were originally put in place to keep recent immigrants disarmed. Those schemes ignore the fact that the criminals don’t actually apply for carry permits. The criminals simply buy their guns from the drug dealer down the street. Licensing and permit schemes were a way to control who got to exercise their right of armed defense. They were a way for politicians to reward their friends and punish their enemies.

Anything that reduces political corruption is a step in the right direction even if the mayor and chief of police complain about it.

There is a wide variation in how states treat carry permits. Alabama has the highest carry rate at 27.8% of the adults with their concealed carry permits. One county in Alabama has almost 2/3rds of the adults with their carry permits even though Alabama is already a Constitutional Carry state. In Pennsylvania, a five year permit only costs $20 and over 15% of adults have their carry permits. The fingerprint fee is %12.95 in Indiana and the permit is free.

There are a number of states where the permit is now free. It will be fascinating to see how many people apply. In contrast, some cities in California drove the carry permit costs to over a thousand dollars.

Rob Morse writes about gun rights at his SlowFacts blog and hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast.

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