Every state in the United States allows individuals to carry a concealed handgun by following a specific set of training, licensing, and ownership rules. Illinois became the last state to join this trend, passing laws in 2013 to allow individuals to carry their weapons legally while in public. Some states require owners to obtain a permit for this activity, while others have unrestricted carry laws that do not require a permit or any training to be in possession of a firearm.
The proponents of concealed carry laws believe that the unknown presence of a gun in public makes it less likely for someone to commit a crime. Using the right to keep and bear arms as ruled by the Supreme Court in the United States, most adults are law-abiding citizens who primarily use their weapon for self-defense purposes. With an increase in high-profile mass shootings across the country, having a gun can make people feel safer as they go about their lives.
Opponents of concealed carry laws say that an increase in firearm ownership creates more opportunities for unintentional gun injuries, more gun-related crime, and an increase in suicides and homicides related to this weapon. They would suggest that our society would be safer if there were fewer guns around.
There are important points of information to consider on both sides of the debate, so these are the critical pros and cons of concealed carry permits and laws to review.
List of the Pros of Concealed Carry
1. There are multiple categories available in most states for concealed carry.
State regulations might vary across the country when implementing concealed carry laws, but there are multiple categories of permit implementation that work to ensure a firearm doesn’t get into the hands of someone who might commit a crime. These are the regulations that are currently in place in the United States.
- May issue laws are in California and only apply to residents. You can receive a permit at the discretion of the local authorities.
- May issue regulations to non-residents is possible in a handful of northeastern states, including New York and Massachusetts.
- Shall issue laws require the authorities to issue a concealed carry permit if the applicant meets specific minimum requirements, such as age, conviction history, and mental health evaluation, which may be to residents or non-residents.
- Unrestricted carry options do not require a permit at all.
2. It may deter crime from happening.
When FBI crime data was evaluated in 2000 by Dr. John Lott, he calculated that the presence of shall-issue laws in the United States contributed to a 8.5% reduction in murders, a 7% reduction in aggravated assault, a 5% reduction in rape, and a 3% reduction in robbery. His review suggests that up to 1,570 murders could have been prevented if every state had adopted this level of concealed carry permission between 1977-1992. A study in Applied Economic Letters also found that the states with more restrictive laws saw gun-related murder rates that were 10% higher than those without such restrictions.
3. Law enforcement officials support the idea of concealed carry laws.
The Chief of Police in Detroit, Larry Craig, once said that the presence of concealed firearms in his city were welcome because they acted as a deterrent. The idea of having good people with a concealed permit license translated into a reduction in crime. A 2013 survey of 15,000 current and retired law enforcement officials found that over 90% support the idea of concealed carry in their community.
4. It allows responsible citizens to have the right to defend themselves.
Violent criminals may not always have a gun, but they typically have a weapon that will be used in the commission of a crime. Even a person’s fists can be deadly under the right set of circumstances. Instead of allowing themselves to become a victim while waiting for law enforcement officials to respond, the ability to concealed carry provides someone with the right to protect themselves if they go outside at night or find themselves in a dangerous situation.
The National Opinion Research Center found that 59% of people who carry a gun outside of their home will do so because it makes them feel safer. There was a significant increase in the number of women securing these permits in Florida for that very reason, going from 15% in 2004 to 23% of holders in 2014.
5. Court rulings suggest that it is an implied right of the Second Amendment.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is well-known in conservative circles for its history of ruling more on the side of liberal idealism, but a 2014 case found them deciding that the Second Amendment requires a state to permit some form of concealed carry for self-defense purposes outside of the home. That case followed a 2012 ruling from the 7th Circuit that the right to bear arms must be interpreted in such a way that it includes the right to have a concealed gun in public and to have it ready for use should one’s safety be threatened.
6. Most concealed carry permit holders follow the law.
William Sturdevant studied the behaviors of the general population in the United States and compared it to that of concealed carry permit holders. His work found that the average person is 14 times more likely to be arrested for a non-violent offense when compared with someone who is legally permitted to carry a concealed firearm in public. Sturdevant’s work also found that the average person is 5.3 times more likely to be arrested for violent conduct.
Concealed carry permit holders are also 5.5 times less likely to commit a crime with their firearm and almost 7 times less likely to get behind the wheel of their vehicle when they’ve had too much to drink. The actual number of incidents where a concealed firearm carrier kills innocent people makes up less than 1% of homicides in the United States each year.
7. Concealed carry allows for a faster response during an emergency situation.
The average response time to an emergency call for police officers is about 11 minutes. When there are specific emergencies reported, such as a school shooting, there may be laws in place that require a response in four minutes or less. In some cities, however, the time it takes for officers to arrive can be exceptionally high. The response time in Detroit in 2013 was almost an hour.
Most officers do very little to actually prevent a violent crime from occurring. Their role is to investigate what happened after the fact. The Supreme Court has even ruled that a police officer does not have a legal duty to protect citizens against the commission of a violent crime. Because that is the legal standard in the United States, having a concealed carry system makes it possible for the average citizen to respond as necessary should a dangerous incident occur.
8. It is a policy which a majority of Americans support.
Although the presence of a gun can make a majority of the general population feel uncomfortable, that emotional response is often due to a lack of training or awareness of the firearm than what it can do as a tool. CBS polls found that 65% of Americans opposed a federal law which would have required a nationwide ban on the concealed carry permit process. In 2012, Thomson Reuters found that 75% of the country supported laws which would allow a law-abiding citizen to carry a concealed weapon in public.
9. Only 8 states in the U.S. have may-issue laws.
The vast majority of the United States works with shall-issue laws instead of may-issue requirements, which means anyone who is old enough and eligible to own a firearm can do so and apply for a concealed carry permit. If you meet the minimum standard, then you get the permit. That means it is the states where local governments or police departments have discretion in offering a denial that the minority of this structure takes place, skewing the data because the sample size is much smaller.
10. You can carry the firearm in a way that reduces draw time disadvantages.
Knowing how you will wear your gun will help you to reduce the significant draw disadvantages that concealed carry can cause. That is why your selection of a holster or carrying mechanism is one of the most critical components of this decision. You must choose something that doesn’t leave a print (an outline) in your clothes that shows you are carrying, but there must also be a way for you to reach the weapon quickly if you have an emergency. Most people choose a waistband or OWB holster, but there are shoulder and purse options available as well/.
List of the Cons of Concealed Carry
1. Concealed carry might lead to an increase in crime.
The states that passed shall-issue laws between 1977-2010 saw a 2% increase in their homicide rate, 9% increases in the incidents of aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, rape, and other serious crimes, and increases in burglary and larceny too. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology published a report in 1995 that showed firearm-related homicide rates increased on average by 4.5 per 100,000 people after the enactment of these laws. By allowing more guns to be on the streets, there is an argument to be made that there is an increased risk of experience firearm-related violence in some way.
2. It increases the chances that a confrontation could escalate and become lethal.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that an individual carrying a gun for self-defense was almost 5 times more likely to be shot during an assault as a victim compared to those who did not have a firearm present at the time of the incident. In 2014, a retired police officer shot and killed someone in a movie theater because of an argument over texting. Shootouts at bars, sporting events, or even in traffic occur because of the escalation of other disagreements.
Concealed carry doesn’t mean that the person with the gun is a “good” guy either. On March 10, 2009, Michael McLendon killed 10 people, including the 18-month-old daughter of a local sheriff’s deputy, after going on a rampage in Alabama. He owned numerous how-to DVDs on how to commit acts of violence – and McLendon is one example of many.
3. The Second Amendment does not provide an unlimited right to firearm ownership.
When the Heller decision came down from the Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that the rights secured by the Second Amendment are not unlimited. Most of the courts in the 19thn century felt that prohibitions on being able to carry a concealed weapon were lawful in the United States and most state analogues. New Jersey only issues a concealed permit to individuals who can prove they have a justifiable need and the Supreme Court refused to hear that case.
Although states have the right to set their standards for concealed carry, it is a question in the U.S. that should be left to each community.
4. Criminals carry guns more often if they think someone else is armed.
The idea that a good guy with a gun deters violent crime may or may not be accurate, but convicted felons report that they bring a firearm to an intended crime more often if they think someone else will have a gun there. The Consortium for Political and Social Research found that 75% of convicted criminals who reported carrying a gun while committing a crime said that they did so because of the chance that their victim might be armed.
No one is saying that you don’t have a right to defend yourself. After the stand your ground laws became the legal standard in the United States, it switched society away from a duty to retreat. There are other ways to minimize victimization that go beyond having a gun somewhere on your person.
5. There are not always rules that require firearm training to obtain a concealed carry permit.
States like Maryland and Georgia do not require individuals to have any firearm training completed before they apply for and receive a concealed carry permit. You don’t even need a license if you live in Vermont, Wyoming, Arizona, or Alaska to keep a firearm on your person. Then there are the states like Wisconsin that say applicants must receive training, but then lack a minimum standard as part of the process. Law enforcement officials must receive specific gun training to use their firearm in the line of duty, so it only makes sense that concealed carry permit holders should have a specific number of training hours each year too.
6. It makes people who don’t have a gun feel less safe.
After Illinois became the final state to allow concealed carry permits in 2013, a poll the following year found that over 52% of the general public felt less safe in their homes and community because of the new law. 79% of students in 15 colleges in a survey published by the Journal of American College Health said that they would not feel safe if visitors, students, or faculty received permission to carry a concealed weapon on campus. Registered voters across the United States even found that 57% of them felt less safe when learning that a concealed firearm can be lawfully carried in public.
7. You must be prepared to take a life.
You should always ask yourself if you’re ready to take someone’s life if you want to apply for a concealed carry permit. If a situation arises where you must use your firearm to protect yourself, your family, or the general public, then there cannot be any hesitation. You must pull the trigger instead of being caught in some sort of moral dilemma. This responsibility is a significant component of self-defense, so you must be prepared in every way to ensure that your investment makes sense. There are some people who can’t pull the trigger – and that is okay.
Larry Bell says that one of the questions he asked himself before finishing the application for his concealed carry permit was this: “Would I be likely to have both the psychological composure and shooting skill to handle a potentially deadly encounter?” If you have a temper, react quickly to situations, or lack training, then this choice is not the wisest to make.
8. There can be issues with traveling with a concealed carry permit.
If you have a legal concealed carry permit, then there are still some places where you cannot take the firearm with you. Churches, schools, and federal buildings are typically “no go” areas, so trying to navigate around town with your firearm in the holster can be challenging. Traveling to a different state requires reciprocity, which might not be possible if you live somewhere that doesn’t require a permit for this action. You’ll also need to stay up-to-date with the current TSA regulations and know what customs will expect if you wish to travel internationally with your firearm.
Conclusion of the Pros and Cons of Concealed Carry
President Barack Obama is one of only a handful of politicians who received a F grade from the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He received both of these marks because of his voting record on firearms and the presence of an amendment in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 that allowed for the carrying of a concealed gun in national parks respectively. Although some people think that Democrats and Obama were trying to take away gun rights, the opposite actually occurred.
Concealed carry holders might be statistically less likely to commit a crime, but at least 600 people and 14 law enforcement officials were killed between 2007-2014 in the United States by private individuals who were legally allowed to carry a concealed gun.
There is a cost element to consider with this practice since you must purchase the firearm and pay for the license or permit fees. That may be a prohibitive factor of ownership for some households. You might decide to take advantage of the open carry laws in your state instead if you want to avoid the paperwork.
The pros and cons of concealed carry can give you a tactical advantage and an element of surprise, but it can also decrease your draw time significantly. You’ll receive less harassment from law enforcement when compared to an open carry perspective, but there is a higher risk f an accidental discharge as well. Since no one knows that you’re armed until you display your gun, it may not be a full deterrent. Once you evaluate each key point, then it is up to you to determine if this option is the way to go.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.