Useful numbers

I find some numbers very useful.

From pages 12 and 13 in Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2021 (alternate link here):

There are three relevant sets of numbers from the Pew survey:

— 30% of American adults say that they own a gun.

— 72% of the people who own a gun, say they own a handgun or a pistol.

— 11% of handgun owners say that they carry all the time, 26% say they carry most or all the time, and 57 percent say that they carry at least some of the time.

With a little multiplication, we find that:

— 2.4% say that they carry all the time.

— 5.4% carry most or all the time.

— 12.3% carry at least some of the time.

To summarize, the total number of permits in the US is at least 21.52 million. Add in people who legally carry without a permit, and the number clearly becomes much larger. While 8.3% of the adult population has permits, the percentage of Americans who say that they carry most or all the time is about 5.4%.

What does this mean in practice? It means that in most places where people are allowed to carry a concealed handgun, there will be someone carrying a concealed handgun. If the probability that any one person has a concealed handgun permit is 5.4%, in a room with 10 people (assuming that the probabilities are independent), the probability that at least one person will have a permitted concealed handgun is 43%. In a room with 20 people, that probability goes up to 67%. With 40, that probability rises to 89%.

I usually express it a little differently. I would translate and distill the numbers above into, “On average, about one out every 19 people you pass on the street is carrying a firearm.”


9 thoughts on “Useful numbers

  1. Based on my experience of gun owners saying “it’s none of your damn business” when asked if they own or carry guns, I’d say the poll numbers are probably on the low end.

    • That point is brought up in the paper in regards to ownership. It’s interesting how the authors compensate for that.

  2. I see they also point out that NH doesn’t provide permit numbers except approximate ones for non-resident permits, even back before Constitutional Carry was approved. The paper says that “NH does not track” those. Not quite accurate: the actual answer is that NH treats the non-disclosure rules of permit information seriously enough not only to block release of individual permit details, but also to block release of the total number of resident permits.

    By the way, some elementary statistics (birthday paradox) says that, given the numbers you calculated, a group of 29 or more people has at least a 50% chance of containing a person who always carries; a group of 13 or more has at least a 50% chance of containing a person who carries “most or all the time”. That reminds me of roughly the same numbers I calculated at the time of the Aurora movie theater murders: they show that the number of carriers is more than ample to deter mass shooters in any place that isn’t a disarmed victim zone.

    • Very good! We could also increase those numbers by deporting those who reject constitutional carry?
      Africa has plenty of room to grow in that regard.

  3. In Kentucky you do not need a permit to carry in state now. It will be interesting to see if the number of permit holders drops, remains the same or increases.

    Most of the people I know will renew their permits because they travel outside the state from time to time.

  4. That’s a national average of course. The concentrations of legal “heat packers” will vary tremendously. The (“legal”) gun universe, like the general one, it is a lumpy universe, with heavy concentrations (as a percentage of people) here and there, and occasional large voids. In some places I suppose most of the people carrying guns are criminals— Gun restrictions deter only those who obey them.

    It would be interesting to know how many otherwise law-abiding folks carry guns “illegally” (constitution says it’s legal but state or locality violates it), but I don’t suppose we can ever, in this world, really know.

    Also, carry your guns, people! After having seen dozens of actual armed encounters on Active Self Protection and elsewhere, one must conclude that if you have a gun, you should KEEP IT ON YOUR PERSON! It’s no good having a gun if you’re not armed! “Excuse me, Mr. Deadly Threat, while I go to the other room, open my safe and fetch my heater, load it, and then I’ll come back and we can resume this little argument” rarely ends well.

  5. The odds of whether or not someone in a specific location is legally armed or not depends to a HUGE degree on where that location is. In most of Kalifornia the odds would be less than 1%, probably much less. Somewhere like say Elko Nevada…the odds would be extremely high. It’s not just a function of how many people own guns…it’s a function of state CCW laws.

  6. There is another factor that tends to be ignored in the context of this discussion.
    I’ve heard/read people state that unless the threat is between them and the exit, they are not getting involved in stopping a mass shooting, even when they are legally packing. That the gun they carry is entirely for their own direct protection, period. I wonder how widespread this thinking is?

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