Concealed Guns
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Should Adults Have the Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun?
Concealed Handguns
Carrying a concealed handgun in public is permitted in all 50 states as of 2013, when Illinois became the last state to enact concealed carry legislation. Some states require gun owners to obtain permits while others have "unrestricted carry" and do not require permits.

Proponents of concealed carry say that criminals are less likely to attack someone they believe to be armed. They cite the 2nd Amendment's "right of the people to keep and bear arms," and argue that most adults who legally carry a concealed gun are law-abiding and do not misuse their firearms.

Opponents of concealed carry argue that increased gun ownership leads to more gun crime and unintended gun injuries. They contend that concealed handguns increase the chances of arguments becoming lethal, and that society would be safer with fewer guns on the street, not more. Read more...
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Concealed Guns ProCon.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit website that presents research, studies, and pro and con statements on questions related to whether or not adults should have the right to carry a concealed handgun.
Did You Know?
  1. Carrying a concealed handgun in public is permitted in all 50 states as of 2013, when Illinois became the last state to enact concealed carry legislation. [1]

  2. 42 states have "shall-issue" laws where police do not have discretion in issuing concealed weapon permits as long as individuals meet minimum requirements, such as a minimum age, no prior felony conviction, and no recent commitments to a mental institution (as of Mar. 14, 2014). Eight states have "may issue" laws where concealed weapon permits are approved based on the discretion of local police departments or governments. [45]

  3. The National Rifle Association (NRA) gave presidential candidate Barack Obama an "F" rating based on his voting record on guns. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence also gave President Obama an "F," in part because he signed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 which included an amendment to allow the carrying of firearms in national parks. [18] [19]

  4. Between May 2007 and Mar. 11, 2014, at least 14 law enforcement officers and 622 other people were killed nationally by private individuals legally allowed to carry concealed handguns. [14]

  5. Seven states allow carrying a concealed weapon on public college or university campuses, 21 states ban concealed weapons on campus, and 22 leave the decision up to the individual college or university. [46]
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Pro & Con Arguments: "Should Adults Have the Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun?"
PRO Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun

  1. Concealed handguns deter crime. States that implemented "shall-issue" concealed carry laws reduced murders by 8.5%, rapes by 5%, aggravated assaults by 7%, and robbery by 3%, according to a 2000 analysis of FBI crime data by economist and political commentator John R. Lott Jr., PhD. Lott calculated that 1,570 murders, 4,177 rapes, 60,000 aggravated assaults, and 12,000 robberies could have been prevented between 1977 and 1992 if concealed carry had been legal in every US state during that time period. [8] In addition, a 2013 peer-reviewed study in Applied Economic Letters, found that between 1980 and 2009, "states with more restrictive CCW [carrying concealed weapons] laws had gun-related murder rates that were 10% higher." [52] Detroit Chief of Police Larry Craig said permitted concealed weapons are "a deterrent," and "Good Americans with CPLs [concealed permit licenses] translates into crime reduction." [64] A 2013 survey of 15,000 current and retired police officers found that 91.3% support the concealed carry of guns by civilians. [80]


  2. Responsible citizens should have the right to arm themselves against criminals with guns. Violent criminals will always have guns. Rather than being victims, concealed handgun carriers have a sense of safety and security, especially when going outside at night or in dangerous areas. According to a 2001 study by the National Opinion Research Center, 59% of people who carry a gun outside the home do so because it makes them feel safer. [56] In Florida, the percentage of concealed handgun permit holders who are female rose from 15% in 2004 to 23% in 2014. One of these female permit holders stated that women "need to be able to defend their home and defend themselves if they go out. It's just a safety issue." [58] In addition, a study by criminologist Gary Kleck, PhD, concluded that "robbery and assault victims who used a gun to resist were less likely to be attacked or to suffer an injury than those who used any other methods of self-protection." [9] A peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology found that when someone draws a concealed gun in self-defense, the criminal retreats 55.5% of the time. [32]


  3. The right to carry concealed handguns is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. The entire Second Amendment states: "a well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." [53] The federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Dec. 11, 2012 case Moore v. Madigan, ruled 2-1 that the Second Amendment's right to bear arms "must be interpreted to include a right to have a concealed gun in public, to have it ready for use, and to have it for self-defense." [54] The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Peruta vs. San Diego by a 2-1 vote on Feb. 13, 2014 that the Second Amendment requires states to "permit some form of concealed carry for self-defense outside the home." [55]


  4. Most adults who carry concealed handguns are law-abiding and do not misuse their firearms. According to a 2000 report by engineering statistician William Sturdevant, in Texas the general public is 5.3 times more likely to be arrested for violent offenses and 14 times more likely to be arrested for non-violent offenses than concealed carry weapon permit holders. [30] An analysis of crime data by Nick Leghorn, blogger at "The Truth About Guns," found that concealed carry permit holders in North Carolina are five times less likely to kill someone than the general public, 5.48 times less likely to commit a violent crime with a firearm, and 6.6 times less likely to drive drunk. [59] The Christian Science Monitor reported that "the number of incidents in which concealed-gun carriers kill innocent people is a fraction of 1 percent of all gun-related homicides." [60]


  5. Carrying a concealed handgun could help stop a public shooting spree. After the Apr. 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the state of Colorado enacted the 2003 Concealed Carry Act to allow law-abiding citizens the right to carry a concealed weapon. The CATO Institute concluded that this law helped to stop a massacre at the New Life megachurch in Dec. 2007 when a volunteer security guard for the church who was carrying a concealed handgun shot an attacker who had opened fire in the church. [61] According to John R. Lott Jr., PhD, "when states passed concealed carry laws during the 19 years we studied (1977 to 1995), the number of multiple-victim public shootings declined by 84%. Deaths from these shootings plummeted on average by 90%, injuries by 82%." [62]


  6. Concealed handguns protect people who cannot always rely on police forces for protection. A 2013 research article in the Wall Street Journal reported that the average police response time to an emergency call is 11 minutes, with some responses taking much longer. In Detroit the average response time is 58 minutes. [81] Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack said, "police do very little to prevent violent crime. We investigate crime after the fact." [82] In addition, the Supreme Court has ruled more than once that police officers have no legal duty to protect citizens from violent crime. [63]


  7. The majority of Americans support allowing the concealed carry of handguns. According to an Apr. 2012 poll conducted for Thomson Reuters, 75% of Americans support "laws allowing law-abiding citizens to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon." [65] A 2013 CBS News and New York Times poll found that 65% of Americans "oppose a federal law requiring a nationwide ban on people other than law enforcement officers carrying concealed weapons." [17]
CON Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun

  1. Permitting concealed handguns increases crime. States that passed "shall-issue" laws between 1977 and 2010 had a 2% or more increase in the murder rate, and at least 9% increases in rates of rape, aggravated assault, robbery, auto theft, burglary, and larceny, according to an Aug. 2012 paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. [66] A 1995 peer-reviewed study of five urban cities, published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, concluded that gun homicide rates increased "on average by 4.5 per 100,000 persons" following the enactment of "shall-issue" laws. [12] A May 2009 peer-reviewed study in Econ Journal Watch found that "shall-issue" laws were associated with increased numbers of aggravated assaults between 1977 and 2006. [33] Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said, "I have seen far too much gun violence in my lifetime to think that more guns is a solution... a gun is more likely to be used against you than you use a gun in self-defense." [83]


  2. Carrying a concealed handgun increases the chances of a confrontation escalating and turning lethal. A Nov. 2009 peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that someone carrying a gun for self-defense was 4.5 times more likely to be shot during an assault than an assault victim without a gun. [11] According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "members of the public who carry guns risk escalating everyday disagreements into public shootouts, especially in places where disputes frequently occur—in bars, at sporting events, or in traffic." [67] For example, on Jan 13, 2014, a retired police officer with a legally concealed handgun shot and killed another man during an argument over text messaging in a movie theater. [84]


  3. Second Amendment rights have limits. The entire Second Amendment states: "a well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." It does not mention concealed handguns. [71] US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the court's 5-4 majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller: "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited… the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues." [70] In May 2014 the US Supreme Court declined to hear Drake v. Jerejian, a case challenging New Jersey's issuance of concealed weapons permits only to citizens who can prove a "justifiable need." [85]


  4. Concealed carry application requirements and background checks do not prevent dangerous people from acquiring weapons. Between May 2007 and Mar. 11, 2014, 14 law enforcement officers and 622 other people were killed nationally (not in self defense) by private individuals legally allowed to carry concealed handguns. [14] Between 1996 and 2000, the Violence Policy Center states that concealed handgun permit holders in Texas were arrested for weapon-related offenses at a rate 81% higher than the rest of the Texas population. [34] In 2007 the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reviewed a list of concealed gun permit holders in Florida and found that 1,400 had pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony, 216 had outstanding warrants, and 128 had active domestic violence injunctions. [72]


  5. Criminals are more likely to carry a gun if they suspect that victims may also be armed. Felons report that they often carry firearms to deter victims from resisting. According to a survey of incarcerated felons by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, 75% reported carrying a gun while committing a crime because "there's always a chance my victim would be armed." [73]


  6. Public safety should be left to professionally qualified police officers, not private citizens with little or no expert training. Some states, such as Georgia and Maryland, do not require any training before receiving a concealed carry permit. In Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, and Vermont, a permit is not necessary to carry a concealed gun. [75] In states that do require training, it can be inadequate. For example, while Wisconsin requires that concealed weapons permit holders have training, there is no minimum training time requirement. [76] Mark Schauf, Police Chief of Baraboo, WI, said, "as police officers, we're required to have training before we get our weapons and a certain number of training hours throughout the year. If we have to be trained, it would only make sense that a person in public would want to be trained, as well." [74]


  7. Concealed weapons laws make the non-carrying public feel less safe. A Mar. 10, 2014 poll of Illinois citizens concluded that 52.3% of the public felt less safe following the July 2013 passage of a law allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns in public. [77] A July 2013 peer-reviewed study of 1,649 students at 15 colleges published in the Journal of American College Health stated that 79% would not feel safe if faculty, students, and visitors carried concealed weapons on campus. [78] An Apr. 2010 poll of registered voters across the United States found that 57% feel less safe after learning that concealed guns may lawfully be carried in public. [79]
Comment Comment
Background: "Should Adults Have the Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun?"

(Click to enlarge image)
Source: "Concealed Carry Permit Information by State," usacarry.com, (accessed Feb. 25, 2014)
Carrying a concealed handgun in public is permitted in all 50 states as of 2013, when Illinois became the last state to enact concealed carry legislation. Some states require gun owners to obtain permits while others have "unrestricted carry" and do not require permits. [1]

Proponents of concealed carry say that criminals are less likely to attack someone they believe to be armed. They cite the 2nd Amendment's "right of the people to keep and bear arms," and argue that most adults who legally carry a concealed gun are law-abiding and do not misuse their firearms.

Opponents of concealed carry argue that increased gun ownership leads to more gun crime and unintended gun injuries. They contend that concealed handguns increase the chances of arguments becoming lethal, and that society would be safer with fewer guns on the street, not more.

Categories of Permits

State regulations on concealed carry fall into four categories. The first is "no-issue," which does not allow citizens to carry a concealed handgun. The second category is "may-issue," which grants concealed carry permits at the discretion of local authorities. The third category is "shall-issue," which requires police to issue concealed carry permits as long as the applicant meets certain minimum requirements such as a minimum age, no prior felony conviction, and no recent commitments to a mental institution. The fourth category is "unrestricted carry," where no permit is required to carry a concealed handgun. [48]

In 1813 Kentucky and Louisiana passed the first laws prohibiting the concealed carrying of deadly weapons. [36] By 1850 most Southern states had prohibited concealed carry in an attempt to reduce high murder rates. [20] In the 1880s, non-Southern states began restricting the concealed carry of weapons. [37] After WWI, the focus of gun control efforts switched from the state to the federal level. Congress imposed an excise tax on weapons in 1919 and prohibited the shipping of handguns through the US postal system in 1927. In 1934 the federal government began regulating possession of weapons with the National Firearms Act. [38] "May-issue" laws were dominant in the post-World War II period.

NRA Influence

Gun owners rally at the Illinois State Capitol in support of proposed legislation to allow concealed carry.
(Click to enlarge image)
Gun owners rally at the Illinois State Capitol in support of proposed legislation to allow concealed carry.
Source: Seth Perlman, "The Debate Over Gun Rights," www.csmonitor.com Mar. 11, 2009

In 1989 the National Rifle Association (NRA) launched a nationwide campaign to increase the number of states with "shall-issue" laws. At the time nine states had such laws, including Vermont (1903), New Hampshire (1923), Washington (1961), Connecticut (1969), Indiana (1980), Maine (1985), North Dakota (1985), South Dakota (1986), and Florida (1987). [39]

Intensive lobbying of state legislators by the NRA increased the number of shall-issue states from nine in 1987 to 30 by the year 2000. [49] Four of these "shall-issue" states (Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, and Wyoming) are considered "constitutional carry," states where they allow for concealed carry without a permit as long as the person is legally able to own a firearm. [45] Those "constitutional carry" states can issue permits for non-residents and for residents traveling out of state. [45] Vermont, also considered a "shall-issue" state, does not issue permits at all. Its laws are sometimes referenced as "Vermont carry." [45] Eight states (CA, CT, DE, HI, MD, MA, NJ, NY) have "may-issue" laws which give law enforcement discretion in issuing permits (as of Mar. 14, 2014). [45]


Impact of "Shall-Issue" Laws on Crime

In 1998 John Lott, PhD, published More Guns, Less Crime which concluded that the "shall-issue" laws correlated with a decrease in violent crime. Lott argued that if states that did not permit concealed handguns in 1992 had permitted them in 1977, 1,570 murders, 4,177 rapes, 60,000 aggravated assaults, and 12,000 robberies would have been prevented between 1977 and 1992. [6]
Sign posted on a Hermann, MO, courthouse forbidding the carrying of concealed guns
(Click to enlarge image)
Sign posted on a Hermann, MO, courthouse forbidding the carrying of concealed guns
Source: "A Sign Of No Concealed Guns Allowed," www.worldofstock.com (accessed Mar. 29, 2010)


Following the release of Lott's book, researchers began issuing studies both supporting and criticizing Lott's results. An Oct. 2001 peer-reviewed study found that concealed carry had a deterrent effect on crime in some states and contributed to increases in crime in other states. [40] In Apr. 2003, Ian Ayres, PhD, and John Donohue, PhD, wrote in a peer-reviewed study published in the Stanford Law Review that "small increases in crime associated with the adoption of shall-issue laws." [21] However, Carlisle Moody, PhD, and Thomas Marvell, PhD, concluded in a Feb. 2008 study that a "shall-issue law is generally beneficial with respect to its overall long run effect on crime." [41] The National Research Council, the working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded in 2004 that "it is impossible to draw strong conclusions from the existing literature on the causal impact of these laws." [7]

Concealed Handguns and the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment features prominently in the concealed handgun debate. The Second Amendment states (in its entirety), "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." In 1897, the US Supreme Court ruled in Robertson v. Baldwin that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons." [50] On June 26, 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees "the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment." [31] The US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in McDonald v. Chicago on June 28, 2010 that the findings in District of Columbia v. Heller apply to the state and local governments in addition to federal jurisdictions like DC. [42]

President Obama and Guns

Following the election of President Barack Obama in Nov. 2008, Ohio issued 56,691 new concealed weapon permits in 2009, a 67% increase from the 33,864 licenses issued in 2008. [26] According to Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, this increase in concealed weapon permits is a result of "President Obama being anti-gun and the fear that he was going to do something to affect gun ownership." The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave President Obama an "F” rating for his first year in office for his efforts on gun control, in part because Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 on May 22, 2009 which included an amendment to allow the carrying of firearms in national parks. [19] The National Rifle Association also gave presidential candidate Barack Obama an "F" rating on gun rights. [18] Obama was quoted in an Apr. 2, 2008 article saying, "I am not in favor of concealed weapons. I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could (get shot during) altercations." [27]

Contemporary Legislation

States and counties frequently restrict where concealed weapons can be carried to exclude schools, government buildings, and establishments where alcohol is served. Some states allow businesses to post signs prohibiting the carrying of concealed firearms within the establishment.

On July, 22, 2009, the US Senate rejected a bill in a 58 to 39 vote (60 votes were needed) by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) that would allow an individual who holds a concealed weapons permit in one state to travel with a loaded concealed weapon to any of the other 47 states that also issued permits at the time. [22]

Children protest at Seattle's Pike Place Market over Starbucks' policy of allowing the open carrying of guns in stores
(Click to enlarge image)
Children protest at Seattle's Pike Place Market over Starbucks' policy of allowing the open carrying of guns in stores
Source: Joshua Trujillo, "Starbucks Sticks to its Guns," www.seattlepi.com, Mar. 3, 2010


On July 8, 2011, Wisconsin became the 49th state to allow concealed carry. [51] Wisconsin citizens who go through training and obtain a permit are able to carry a concealed handgun in most public buildings and private businesses (including bars and churches) unless establishments post a sign forbidding it. On Dec. 11, 2012, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Moore v. Madigan struck down an Illinois state law passed in 1962 that prohibited carrying a gun in public. On July 9, 2013, Illinois legislators overrode the governor's veto and passed a bill allowing concealed handguns. The law permits residents to purchase a concealed-carry license for $150 ($300 for non-residents) if they are 21 or older, pass a background check, complete 16 hours of gun safety training, and are not addicted to narcotics. [43][44]

Seven states allow carrying a concealed weapon on public college or university campuses, 21 states ban concealed weapons on campus, and 22 leave the decision up to the individual college or university. [46] In 2013, 19 states introduced legislation to allow carrying concealed weapons on campus. Two bills passed, one in Kansas that allows concealed carry for everyone and one in Arkansas that allows university faculty only to carry handguns. [46] Five states introduced legislation in 2013 to prohibit carrying concealed weapons on campus, but none of the bills passed. [46]

On July 26, 2014, Senior US District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. overturned Washington, DC's complete ban on carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense. [86] Judge Scullin wrote in his 19-page opinion that "there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia's total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny." [87] The judge initially declined to stay his ruling pending the city's appeal, but on July 29, 2014 he issued a 90-day delay before implementing his decision. DC Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier had instructed the city's police officers not to arrest people for carrying legally registered handguns in public, but rescinded that order immediately following the stay.[88] [89]

Video Gallery  (click to watch video)
Scott Lewis of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus debates Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Source: Fox News, "SCCC's Scott Lewis Debates the Brady Campaign on Fox News," www.youtube.com, Feb. 16, 2008
Full Disclosure interviews law enforcement officials including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and former Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton about concealed carry permits
Source: "Sheriffs & Top Cops Favor Citizens Concealed Carry Guns?," www.youtube.com, May 6, 2008
Glenn Beck interviews Arizona State Senator Karen Johnson on CNN Headlines News about her bill to allow concealed guns on Arizona college campuses
Source: "Guns on Campus," www.youtube.com, Mar. 13, 2008
US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) delivers a speech in the Senate against the Thune Amendment which would have allowed concealed permit holders to carry concealed weapons into other states
Source: "Menendez Speaks in Senate Against Concealed Guns Amendment," www.youtube.com, July 22, 2009


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