Many gun control advocates have argued that civilian gun ownership and concealed carry shouldn’t be legal because it breeds more violence, and believe that guns, even in the hands of law-abiding citizens, result in more violence. In an attempt to address these concerns, I decided to do some research on gun owners and concealed carry permit holders, and I found some very interesting information.
First off, I want to give you some statistics regarding gun owners. A nationwide survey in 2010 showed that of the 307 million people in the United States at the time, 40-45 million adults owned a handgun, and there were 300 million firearms owned by civilians in the USA (100 million of which were handguns). When asked why they owned firearms, 67% stated protection against crime as the reason, 66% for target shooting, and 58% for hunting.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about how all those millions of US citizens use those firearms. In 2000, a study showed that law-abiding citizens use a firearm to defend themselves or someone else at least 989,883 times per year. When you compare that to the 10,886 firearm related murders (of the 16,272 murders in 2008), it seems that firearms in the hands of the right people can do a lot more good than bad. And according to statistics from 2008, in only 8% of the 5,340,000 violent crimes committed that year did the offender have a firearm visibly displayed.
There is always the concern about firearm accidents that result in the tragic loss of innocent lives, and I agree that they are tragic incidents that should be prevented; however, I don’t believe the firearm is at fault. Of the 123,706 fatal accidents in 2007 in the United States, only 613 (0.5%) were firearms related, and of the 27.7 million emergency room visits for non-fatal accidents in the same year, only 15,698 (0.05%) involved a firearm. So, while these accidents do occur, and every effort should be made to prevent them, it may be more beneficial to focus on the other 95% of fatal accidents.
And what about the media’s constant comments about the “gun show loophole”? There are approximately 2000-3000 gun shows per year in the USA. Virginia statistics show that between 1989 and 2012, Virginia State Police made 12,956 arrests related to the purchase or attempted purchase of firearms by prohibited persons, at gun stores, gun shows, and other retail sales. At one gun show in Henrico County in January, seven people were arrested for trying to buy guns illegally; five of these were felons, one was under felony indictment, and one was prohibited due to mental health issues. All seven lied on the firearm transaction forms, but were still caught. Between 2007 and 2012, transaction denials involving mental health issues went from 109 to 340, and due to felonies from 420 to 609. What does that tell you about the loophole?
There have also been studies regarding the criminal use of firearms purchased at gun shows. In 1997, a survey of 14,285 prison inmates who had a firearm when they committed the offense showed that 0.7% got their gun at a gun show, 1% at a flea market, 3.8% from a pawn shop, 8.3% from a retail store, 39.2% illegally, and 39.6% from a family member or friend. Another study conducted by the National Institute of Justice in the mid-1980’s, showed that criminal acquisition of firearms at gun shows was so irrelevant that it wasn’t even worth reporting as a separate figure!
Finally, I think we should look at the statistics on concealed carry permit holders. As of this year, approximately 9,497,787 people in the United States have a concealed carry permit, which equals roughly 4.9% of the population over the age of 21. In 1987 Florida’s right-to-carry law became effective, and since then, they have issued 1,825,143 permits of which 746,430 are still active, which means that 5.4% of the population over the age of 21 have a concealed carry permit. Since 1987, Florida’s murder rate dropped 36% while the national murder rate only dropped 15%. Also, between 1987 and 2010, the state of Florida has only revoked 5,674 (0.3%) permits. Of these, 9% were revoked due to crimes committed before licensure, and 91% for crimes committed afterwards. Of the 4,955 crimes that were committed after licensure, only 3.3% involved a firearm. This means that a whopping 0.2% of concealed carry permit holders committed a crime that prohibited them from carrying a gun in a span of 23 years, which compared to the 3.2% of US population which is under some form of correctional control, is a miniscule amount. Similarly, between 2012 and 2013, Michigan revoked 1,402 permits, which is 0.4% of the active permits at the time. North Carolina has reported that only 0.2% of licensees have had their permit revoked in the 10 years since they adopted the law. Utah has a revocation rate of about 0.4%, Kentucky of 0.8%, and Indiana, Virginia, Wyoming, and Oklahoma of just 0.2%.
A study in Texas showed that concealed carry permit holders were 5.7 times less likely to commit a violent crime, and 14 times less likely to commit a non-violent crime. Numerous independent researchers in Georgia also found that concealed handgun permit holders were five times less likely than the general population to commit violent crimes. When you look at these statistics, it seems quite obvious that for the most part, concealed carry permit holders tend to remain law-abiding citizens, and as a group tend to have a lower crime rate than the general population.
So next time someone tries to tell you that guns kill people or that the gun show loophole needs to be closed, or questions the reason you carry a concealed handgun, remember that the numbers don’t lie. I can’t think of a better way to say it than the Virginia Citizens’ Defense League does…Guns Save Lives.