Sunday, April 22, 2012
How Many People Have a License To Carry?
How many licenses to carry (LTC) a concealed weapon exist in the United States? I have often wondered what this number might be because I have believed for a long time that LTC holders have become the largest constituency for change in gun laws across the nation, a constituency that is overlooked by most in the media in favor of the more visible NRA, and a constituency that is studiously ignored by the anti-gun organizations because the number of LTC holders dwarfs the embarrassingly small numbers of members and direct supporters that anti-gun organizations can claim.
Calculating the number of LTC holders is more difficult than it seems. While presumably every issuing authority knows how many LTCs it has issued and how many are active, not all are required by law to report LTC statistics to the public. This is particularly true in those states that issue LTCs through county sheriffs offices, but it is also true in several other states as well. In addition the number of active LTCs is constantly changing as more people apply for LTCs and are approved, as more states become shall-issue, and as LTCs are revoked. Many people hold more than one LTC because the lack of nationwide reciprocity prevents one LTC being used in every states. Arizona, Florida, and Utah non-resident LTCs are very popular for this purpose. No estimate of LTCs will include the number of people legally carrying concealed weapons in those states that do not require a permit to do so, which include Arizona, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming. Any attempt to calculate the number of active LTCs in existence will result only in an estimate.
The best source for an estimate of the number of LTCs that I have seen is the CCW Statistics page of the Legally Armed website. All fifty states are covered, and sources are cited. The authors of this site have gone to great lengths to contact issuing agencies that do not publish statistics publicly to obtain LTC statistics from an official source. When that is not possible, a news media article is cited instead. The site is also updated regularly when new information becomes available. Adding all the numbers for the states listed on this page one arrives at a figure of 7,412,049.
It is the nature of anti-gun rights organizations to dispute all claims about the popularity of firearms and legal carry. Their view is that these activities are engaged in by an increasingly smaller group of citizens and that guns will someday be so rare as to be unusual in society. They certainly do not want to admit or encourage guns to become normalized in modern American society. In order to come up with a number of LTCs that could be defended by citing authoritative sources, I attempted to repeat the exercise of the Legally Armed CCW Statistics page, but to use only publicly available sources from issuing authorities. Naturally this number would be smaller than the Legally Armed figure, but it may be more authoritative because it can be checked by anyone. Using the Legally Armed CCW Statistics page as a starting point, I attempted to find more up to date numbers from issuing authorities and arrived at the number 4,410,564 active LTCs nationwide.
What can we conclude from this? First, the legally armed populace in the United States is a large group. It is at least 7,400,000, and not smaller than 4,400,00 perhaps as high as 8.5 million. This compares to an reported NRA membership of 4.3 million, AARP membership of 40 million, and labor union membership of 14.8 million. While not the largest political demographic, numbers this large can and do have an effect on elections, and it while is may not be publicly acknowledged, I think politicians are paying attention to these numbers. Why is it that President Obama has stayed away from covert anti-gun efforts? These numbers are one good reason, besides the NRA, politicians avoid controversy on this issue.