Last updated on: 12/23/2020 | Author: ProCon.org

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 concealed carry deters crime, keeps individuals and the public safer, is protected by the Second Amendment, and protect women and minorities who can’t always rely on the police for protection.

Opponents of concealed carry say concealed carry increases crime, increases the chances of a confrontation becoming lethal, is not protected by the Second Amendment, and that public safety should be left to professionally qualified police officers.  Read more background…

 

Pro & Con Arguments

Pro 1

Concealed handguns deter crime.

In a landmark study that analyzed FBI crime data, John R. Lott, Jr., PhD, found that states that implemented shall-issue concealed carry laws reduced murders by 8.5%, rapes by 5%, aggravated assaults by 7%, and robberies by 3%. 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]

John Malcolm, JD, Vice President of the Institute for Constitutional Government, and Amy Swearer, JD, Visiting Legal Fellow at the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, stated, “Between 2007 and 2015, murder rates dropped 16 percent and violent crime rates dropped 18 percent, even though the percentage of adults with concealed carry permits rose by 190 percent.” They continued, “Regression estimates show a significant association between increased permit ownership and a drop in murder and violent crime rates. Each percentage point increase in rates of permit-holding is associated with a roughly 2.5 percent drop in the murder rate.” [92]

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Pro 2

Carrying a concealed gun keeps the individual carrying the gun and the public safer.

Larry Keane, JD, Senior Vice President for Government & Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, stated, “Although the news stories rarely get coverage beyond their immediate media market, individuals with legally concealed carry firearms have successfully protected themselves and have come to the assistance of their fellow citizens on numerous occasions. They have also aided law enforcement officers who were in grave danger. As the number of permits holders has risen there has not been a ‘Wild West’ of reckless gunfire that the anti-gun activists have long predicted.” [95]

According to Amy Swearer, JD, Legal Fellow at the Meese Center, and Cooper Conway, a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation, “Americans defend themselves with their firearms between 500,000 and 3 million times every year. It’s unclear how many of these defensive gun uses involve concealed-carry permit holders carrying in public places, but our own records show that concealed-carry permit holders can and do save lives.” They continue, “Moreover, concealed-carry permit holders have intervened to stop many scenarios that likely would have turned into mass killings but for their actions.” [96]

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Pro 3

The right to carry concealed handguns is protected by the Second Amendment.

The 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 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.” [55]

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Hawaii’s restrictive carry policies in July 2018. The ruling stated, “We do not take lightly the problem of gun violence. But, for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense.” [98]

Joseph Greenlee, JD, Director of Research at the Firearms Policy Coalition, explained, “The Supreme Court has elucidated that the scope of the Second Amendment is defined by the founding-era understanding of the right, as informed by American history and tradition. A historical analysis shows that both concealed and open carry are protected by the right, and that a government may only restrict one if the other remains available for law-abiding citizens to exercise.” [99]

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Pro 4

Concealed handguns protect women and minorities who can’t always rely on the police for protection.

David French, senior writer at the National Review and a veteran of the Iraq War, explained, “when you [concealed] carry your weapon, you don’t feel intimidated, you feel empowered. In a way that’s tough to explain, the fact that you’re so much less dependent on the state for your personal security and safety makes you feel more ‘free’ than you’ve ever felt before.” [100]

John R. Lott, Jr., PhD, found that, “between 2012, and 2018, the percent of women with permits grew 111% faster for women and the percent of blacks with permits grew 20% faster than for whites. Permits for Asians grew 29% faster than for whites.” [101]

Women who have been victimized as adults were more likely to own a gun, more likely to own more than one gun, and more likely to carry a gun for protection. [102] According to Pew Research, women are slightly more likely to report owning a gun for protection (71% to 65%), but men report owning guns for more activities (hunting, sports shooting, etc) and men report owning more types of guns (shotguns and rifles rather than just a handgun) than women, so women are more likely to own handguns only for protection. [103]

Jim Curcuruto, Director of Research and Market Development at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said, of the increase in gun sales during the 2020 civil rights movement, “The highest overall firearm sales increase comes from Black men and women, who show a 58.2% increase in purchases during the first six months of 2020 versus the same period last year,” [104] As Bruce Tomlin, a Black gun owner, explained to NPR, “I just feel like in my viewpoint, every Black person in America, especially Black males, needs to have some type of protection with them as often as [they] can, because I think the political climate [is] getting to the point where it’s just going to be a lot of violence coming our way. I just feel safer now having a gun. And I didn’t always feel that way. I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of guns, but I just don’t feel safe without one… I’d rather go to trial than go to the cemetery” [105]

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Con 1

Concealed guns increase crime.

A 2018 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded, “There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC [right-to-carry] laws reduce violent crime. Indeed, the weight of the evidence from the panel data estimates as well as the synthetic control analysis best supports the view that the adoption of RTC laws substantially raises overall violent crime in the ten years after adoption.” The authors found, “Ten years after the adoption of RTC laws, violent crime is estimated to be 13 [percent to] 15 percent higher than it would have been without the RTC law.” [93] [94]

A 1995 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 study found that “shall-issue” laws were associated with increased numbers of aggravated assaults between 1977 and 2006. [33]

Former 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]

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Con 2

Carrying a concealed handgun increases the chances of a confrontation becoming lethal.

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]

John J. Donohue III, JD, Professor of Law at Stanford University explained, “For example, the Philando Castile case in St. Paul, Minnesota. [After he was stopped by police,] he immediately told the officer that he was a right-to-carry holder and had a gun, which you’re advised to do. And then the officer shot at him seven times. It scares the hell out of people when they think someone has a gun. Obviously, that right-to-carry holder wasn’t doing anything wrong, but he ended up getting killed anyway. When more people are carrying guns, things can get more heated. There are times in which the gun could be involved in a way that thwarts a crime, but for the same reason that the officer shot Castile, guns tend to escalate the situation.” [94]

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Con 3

The Second Amendment does not guarantee concealed carry.

The 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]

There is no mention of concealed guns in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. [71]

US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the court’s majority opinion in DC 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.” [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]

In 2016, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to a 9th Circuit ruling that stated, “Based on the overwhelming consensus of historical sources, we conclude that the protection of the Second Amendment — whatever the scope of that protection may be — simply does not extend to the carrying of concealed firearms in public by members of the general public.” [97] [98]

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Con 4

Private citizens with little or no expert training jeopardize public safety.

Economics PhD student, Anna E. Kyriazis, found that switching from permitted carry to constitutional carry (no-permit carry), “increases the rate of people fatally shot by police by 5.2%. This effect is due to the fact that citizens considered unqualified under RTC can carry concealed weapons under PC, increasing the risk that police officers face when interacting
with the public.” [105]

The current trend in concealed carry laws is to move toward constitutional carry: 16 states have constitutional carry as of Dec. 2020. [107]

When a permit is not required, or when permit laws are lax, crucial screenings, background checks, and gun safety training are not required.

When he vetoed a permitless carry law in 2017, Montana Governor Steve Bullock stated, “While I will fiercely defend the 2nd Amendment rights of our citizens, I cannot support an absurd concept that threatens the safety of our communities by not providing for the basic fundamentals of gun safety or mental health screening.” [107]

Mark Schauf, Police Chief of Baraboo, Wisconsin, 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]

Everytown for Gun Safety explains, “Permitless carry laws and legislation… often allow carry by irresponsible and dangerous people, such as violent criminals and weapons offenders, people who pose a safety risk, and teenagers. Permitless carry legislation is part of the NRA’s broader agenda to weaken and repeal important gun safety measures, allowing more guns in public and undermining public safety.” [108]

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Did You Know?
1. Carrying a concealed handgun in public has been permitted in all 50 states since 2013, when Illinois became the last state to enact concealed carry legislation. [1]
2. State laws on concealed carry can fall into four categories: no-issue, may-issue, shall-issue, and unrestricted (also called no permit or constitutional carry). [1] [48]
3. 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. By 2000, 30 states had shall-issue laws. [39][49]
4. "There were 2.7 million concealed handgun permit holders in 1999, 4.6 million in 2007, 8 million in 2011, 11.1 million in 2014, and now 19.48 million in 2020," according to the Crime Prevention Research Center in Nov. 2020, [91]
5. As of Nov. 2019, 16 states allowed carrying a concealed weapon on public college or university campuses and 23 states allow each college or university to make decisions on concealed carry on campus. [90]

 
 

Our Latest Updates (archived after 30 days)

Texas Governor Signs Permitless Carry Law
6/17/2021 -

19 states now have constitutional carry laws allowing for concealed carry without a permit.

Archived Notices (archived after 30 days)