SEPTEMBER 4, 2017
Which political party wants to take your guns?
I hadn't thought about that question until the last election. Sure, I'd seen the usual campaign photographs of political candidates wearing hunters-orange and carrying a long gun. That picture changed when Secretary Hillary Clinton said the NRA was her enemy. Now I've looked at the data. The Democrats are out to disarm us.
I recently looked at why the concealed carry rate varies across the fifty states. Fewer people receive their carry permits when politicians mandate long hours of training. Fewer people get their permits when the application is cumbersome and expensive. As you'd expect, fewer of us are willing to pay these higher costs.
Rules matter more than money.
Fees and training only explains part of what we see. The larger factor than the price of the permit is if we may apply for a permit at all. States fall into three broad categories when they regulate concealed carry of a firearm in public.
Some states grant permits on a "may issue" basis. In those states, a judge or sheriff can deny your application for any reason..or for no reason at all. Politicians, judges, and retired law enforcement officers are the usual permit holders in "may issue" states.
Some states give permits on a "shall issue" basis. Law abiding citizens are granted a permit in those states. There may be mandatory training and fees, but an ordinary citizen can apply.
Some states said their firearms laws weren't effective at disarming criminals. Rather than disarm their honest citizens, these states adopted "unrestricted carry" also called constitutional carry. There, you're allowed to carry any firearm that you're legally allowed to own.
The carry rate varies from a high of about 15 percent down to zero in some states. The number of us who will get our permit is determined by the issuing scheme and the costs. These factors explain how many, but they don't explain why.
Why do we see these large variations in fees and issuing regulations?
The answer is politics. Some states have Democrats as their governor, attorney general, and in control of their legislatures. Others have Republicans in those positions. The degree of Democrat control is strongly linked to the decline in carry permits. Look at the next figure. All the states in the upper left corner are Republican controlled while all the states in the lower right corner are all Democrat controlled.
On average, the permit rate is about three-and-a-third times higher in Republican controlled states than in Democrat controlled states. Said another way, about 70 percent of us are disarmed as we move from Republican to Democrat controlled states. To put a number on it, 10.9 million of us are disarmed by state regulations today.
On average, Democrat controlled states impose higher fees and mandate longer training hours before they will issue a carry permit. In some states, Democrats refuse to grant permits to any ordinary citizens. All the states with an effective zero percent licensing rate us a "may issue" licensing scheme. The states that use a "may issue" licensing scheme are all Democrat controlled. They are shown in blue in the figure below. In contrast, most of the states that recognize "unrestricted carry" are Republican controlled or neutral. They are shown in red. Vermont is the single exception and has never required permits.
I didn't believe it at first, but Democrats really are out to disarm honest citizens.
Widespread firearms prohibition is a fairly new political phenomenon. Both parties used to support the right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. There also was a time when Democrats supported the working middle class. Today, the middle class wants to protect themselves at home and in public. We will be better served when both political parties address our needs and recognize the right to bear arms.