Fact Sheet: Weakening Requirements to Carry a Concealed Firearm Increases Violent Crime

Gun Rights

Every state allows people to carry concealed weapons in public, but half of them require a permit.

  • Permitless carry: 25 states allow individuals to carry loaded, concealed handguns in public without first undergoing a background check, obtaining a license, or receiving any firearm training.
  • Shall issue: 10 states require a permit but allow authorities no discretion to deny a permit if the applicant meets minimum requirements. Seven additional states allow authorities limited discretion to withhold permits for individuals who meet basic requirements but exhibit public safety concerns.
  • May issue: Eight states and the District of Columbia allow authorities wide discretion to deny a permit.

The 42 states with permitless carry and shall issue laws are commonly referred to as right-to-carry states, accounting for approximately three-quarters of the U.S. population.1 These laws reflect a relatively recent trend in which states are removing or weakening permitting standards for concealed carry.2 In 2010, Arizona became the third state after Vermont and Alaska to allow permitless carry. In April 2022, Georgia became the 25th state to enact legislation eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry3 and the 21st state to do so in the past seven years. 4

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25 states

have enacted legislation eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry. In April 2022, Georgia became the 21st state to do so in the past seven years.

By making it easy for almost anyone to carry a concealed handgun in public, right-to-carry laws increase violent crime, firearm robberies, gun thefts, workplace homicides, and mass shootings. Right-to-carry laws make it harder for law enforcement to solve violent crimes and are opposed by many law enforcement leaders across the country. Similarly, permitless carry harms public safety by removing essential safety measures designed to ensure that those carrying handguns in public have been properly trained and vetted. Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the removal of concealed carry permitting systems is associated with higher rates of gun homicide and violent crime.

This fact sheet provides data that shows the link between states weakening requirements to carry a concealed firearm and rising violent crime; increased gun thefts; disputes escalating into shootings; and more officer-involved shootings.

In April 2022, Georgia became the 25th state to enact legislation eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry5 and the 21st state to do so in the past seven years. 6

Weakening requirements to carry a concealed firearm increases violent crime

Recent studies have concluded that right-to-carry laws are associated with double digit increases in homicides and violent crime.

  • A 2022 study found that right-to-carry laws increase firearm homicides by 13 percent and firearm violent crimes by 29 percent.7
  • A 2019 study concluded that the adoption of shall issue or right-to-carry laws were associated with a 13 percent to 15 percent increase in violent crime rates a decade after implementation.8
  • A 2017 study found that shall issue laws were associated with a 10.6 percent higher handgun homicide rate.9
  • A 2022 study found that states weakening concealed carry laws and allowing individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors to obtain a license to concealed carry was associated with a 24 percent increase in the rate of assaults with firearms.10 “In general, violent crime increased after states loosened concealed carry permitting requirements,” said lead author Mitchel Doucette. “Allowing more individuals to carry concealed guns in public—including some who would have previously been denied carry permits due to prior arrests or restraining orders—can increase inappropriate use of firearms in response to interpersonal conflicts, disputes, or other situations.”11

States with more permissive concealed carry laws have higher gun homicide rates than states with regulations that provide law enforcement agencies the discretion to deny concealed carry weapon licenses.

  • A 2021 study concluded that firearm homicide rates are higher in states with more permissive concealed carry laws. 12 The study found that more permissive concealed carry legislation is associated with an 11 percent increase in firearm homicide rates. “Permissive concealed carry legislation is a significant contributor to our nation’s gun violence epidemic,” said study author Dr. Emma Fridel.13
  • A 2022 analysis found that states with permitless carry laws saw a 22 percent increase in gun homicide for the three years following the law’s passage.14
  • A 2019 study found that right-to-carry laws were associated with a 29 percent increase in firearm workplace homicides.15
  • An analysis of 111 mass shootings from 1966 to 2015 where six or more people were fatally shot found that states who implemented right-to-carry laws saw the average death toll in high-fatality mass shootings increase from an average of 7.5 before the law to 8.4 after.16

Seventy-four percent of firearms researchers who are knowledgeable about concealed carry literature disagree with the claim that weakening concealed carry requirements have reduced crime rates.17

  • “In the last five years, the research has tipped very, very, very strongly in only one direction—and that is that these laws increase violent crime,” said Stanford University Law Professor John Donahue.18

Permitless carry increases gun thefts and violent crime

Opportunities for gun thefts increase when states weaken requirements to carry a concealed firearm and allow more people to legally carry firearms outside the home without a permit.

  • The dramatic rise in gun thefts from vehicles has increased the supply of illegal firearms, making it cheaper and easier for prohibited individuals to illegally obtain guns.19
  • A 2020 study using five years of data from Charlotte, North Carolina, found that right-to-carry laws are associated with increased gun thefts and violent crime.20
  • A 2017 study found that gun owners who carried their guns during the previous months were three times more likely to have their firearms stolen than other gun owners.21
  • A 2022 study by leading researchers Philip Cook and John Donahue found that a state passing a right-to-carry (RTC) law “elevates gun thefts by roughly 35 percent, introducing tens of thousands of guns into the hands of criminals or illegal gun markets each year. We also show RTC laws cause statistically significant increases in crime.”22
  • Thirty-seven percent of U.S. households are in the Southern region, but two-thirds of guns stolen in the U.S. are from the South.23 A 2017 Harvard study found that Northeast states with strong gun laws such as Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have the lowest rates of gun theft and are net importers of crime guns from states with weaker gun laws, including the South. “The Southern region has the highest percentage of households with firearms and the least safe storage practices. Not surprisingly, most Southern states are ‘exporters’ of guns traced in crime,” the study concluded.24

Loose gun laws that encourage carrying firearms outside the home is fueling the increase in firearm robberies, which are more frightening, costly, and deadly than nonfirearm robberies.

  • A 2022 study found that firearm violent crime rises 29 percent after a state introduces a right-to-carry law, with firearm robbery rates experiencing the largest increase.25
  • “The most rigorous and recent studies are showing that states deregulating civilian gun carrying tends to elevate violent crime, particularly with guns,” explains Daniel Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. “The people who get permits or licenses to carry tend to be in a pretty law-abiding group, but what we’re finding is that as gun-carrying gets deregulated and more people are doing it, a lot more guns are being stolen, particularly from motor vehicles.”26

Increased gun carrying leads to disputes escalating into shootings

  • As states rollback requirements to carry firearms in public, road rage incidents are becoming much deadlier. Injuries and deaths from gun-related road rage incidents increased from 263 in 2017 to 522 in 2021.27
  • Two of the three states with the fewest rates of road rage incidents are states with may issue laws—with stronger requirements—while all five states with the highest rates of road rage incidents were right-to-carry states, with weak concealed carry requirements.28
  • During a July 2022 press conference, Mayor Van Johnson (D) said most shootings in Savannah, Georgia, are not random acts of violence but are the result of disputes escalating into gun violence. Johnson explained that a permitless carry law signed in April 2022 by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is undermining the city’s efforts to reduce violent crime. “Tempers are raging in our community. And when tempers are raging, and a gun is introduced into the situation, you have violent acts of gun violence that are irreversible and changes lives forever,” Johnson said.29
  • The following month, a football game was cancelled before halftime after individuals fighting in front of the stadium fled from Savannah police into the stands, causing fans to panic. “From initial reports, I’m thankful that no shots were fired and no one was shot. However, the panic that was caused by the thought of such an act occurring, it is concerning,” Mayor Johnson said. “In light of the insane constitutional carry laws that we have in Georgia, I think that cities have to take a hard look at public events where many people are gathered, to balance safety versus fun.”30
  • Following a violent June 2022 weekend in downtown Savannah, including a triple shooting in City Market and the fifth officer-involved shooting of the year, Mayor Johnson said the permitless carry law was to blame for the shootings in busy areas of the city. “We cannot control that when you have a situation of gunfire, everyone’s pulling out guns,” Johnson said. “This handcuffs our law enforcement efforts and it makes all of our public areas at any time a potential crime scene.”31
  • At a June 2022 Washington Post event, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said increased gun carrying is leading to disputes escalating into shootings:

[T]here are some who believe that if more people, law‑abiding citizens, could carry guns, then they could participate in self‑defense, but what happens is then we move to an area of conflict resolution where that’s the only option. Well, we’re already seeing that with the criminal offender who has poor conflict resolution skills and are using firearms to settle many conflicts. Here’s what we know about Baltimore, and here’s what I hear other chiefs say. The majority of our shooting crimes, while those individuals might be tied to a drug organization in some way, large or small, at the point the trigger is pulled, it’s usually some conflict, and the conflict is not drugs. It’s some disrespect. It’s some social media issue. It is the ex‑boyfriend, the new boyfriend. It is what somebody had to say, and it’s a conflict or it’s a retaliation from a previous conflict, which is still conflict. And people are solving it with guns and shooting and killing each other, and all more guns will do is cause people to use those guns to solve their conflict.32

  • Ed Flynn, then-Chief of the Milwaukee Police Department, criticized the Michigan legislature for weakening concealed carry laws, saying, “Stupid disputes that would have been fistfights are now shootings. Facebook fights are now shootings. Road rages are now shootings. It’s an irresponsible law passed by irresponsible legislators. That’s what’s driving the violence.”33

A majority of U.S. voters and gun owners support basic requirements to carry firearms

  • A May 2022 Marquette Law School national survey, conducted before the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, found that 81 percent of U.S. adults oppose laws allowing concealed carry without a licensing requirement.34 The same poll found that 72 percent of adults in the 25 states with permitless carry opposed the laws.35
  • An April 2021 Pew Research poll found that only 20 percent of U.S. adults favored allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit. This includes only 8 percent of Democrats and 35 percent of Republicans.36
  • A 2017 Johns Hopkins University poll found that 83 percent of gun owners agreed “… that a person who can legally carry a concealed gun should be required to pass a test demonstrating they can safely and lawfully handle a gun in common situations they might encounter.”37
  • Seventy percent of Pennsylvania voters opposed a 2021 bill approved by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to carry a concealed handgun without a license according to a March 2022 Franklin and Marshall College poll.38
  • More than 60 percent of Ohio voters opposed a law to allow permitless carry according to November 2020 poll.39
  • A majority of Texans oppose allowing legal gun owners over the age of 21 to carry handguns in most public places without a license or training, according to an October 2021 poll.40
  • Two-thirds of Iowans opposed a permitless carry law signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) in 2021.41
  • Fifty-nine percent of Tennessee voters disapproved of a 2021 bill signed by Gov. Bill Lee (R) that removed the requirement for adults to obtain a permit to carry a handgun.42

Permitless carry makes law enforcement jobs harder and more dangerous

  • Relaxing restrictions on civilians carrying concealed guns in public increases officer-involved shootings. A 2022 study found that 10 states who removed requirements to carry a concealed handgun from 2014 to 2020 experienced a 12.9 percent average increase in officer-involved shootings.43
  • Baldwin County Sheriff’s deputy Curtis Summerlin—who was shot in an officer-involved shooting that killed a fellow sheriff deputy—opposed Alabama’s 2022 permitless carry bill. “I don’t want to see another deputy harmed, and I sure don’t want to have to go back through what I went through for three years when the next guy decides ‘I’m going to pull this gun and shoot at a cop.’ I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. It’s very emotional for me,” said Summerlin.
  • Right-to-carry laws make it harder for law enforcement to solve violent crimes. According to a 2022 study, right-to-carry laws are associated with a 13 percent decline in the rates that police clear violent crime, “suggesting that RTC laws strike at the very heart of law enforcement’s abilities to address criminal conduct.”44
  • A 2019 study suggests a police “pull-back” effect following states passing right-to-carry laws. “Police may be less enthusiastic about investigating certain suspicious activities or engaging in effective crime-fighting actions given the greater risks that widespread gun carrying poses to them, whether from permit holders or the criminals who steal their guns,” the study states.45
  • Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey warned that Ohio’s new permitless carry law would lead to increased violent crime because it makes it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs. “To vote for people to be able to concealed carry without a license, without any training, without any documentation, it makes it exponentially harder for law enforcement to prevent gun crimes,” McGuffey said. “It is going to promote lawlessness. I think that there will be people who carry weapons concealed for the purpose of being vigilantes.”46

Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins expressed concerns that Nebraska’s legislation weakening concealed carry requirements would embolden armed bystanders to intervene when they see a crime, making it difficult for law enforcement to identify which person carrying a weapon is the active threat. “As a police officer, you’re putting the pieces together as you get on the scene and you only have seconds to make a decision,” Ewins said. “If someone feels the right to go into a business or a coliseum or an arena [while concealed carrying], then there’s going to be an argument. Then law enforcement will have to respond and try to deescalate. This is just another layer of difficulty for them because it’s hard to understand who has a gun, who doesn’t have a gun and then having people who are not trained.”47

Law enforcement organizations across the country have publicly opposed laws weakening concealed carry requirements.

  • Law enforcement organizations opposed to Tennessee’s right-to-carry law signed by Gov. Bill Lee (R) in 2021 included the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association, the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.48 Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake opposed the bill, saying, “I felt we would begin to see a sharp increase in gun thefts and the likely outcome would be increased gun violence.” Drake said his fears have come true in 2022 as gun thefts and stolen guns recovered at violent crime scenes have dramatically increased.49
  • Ohio’s Fraternal Order of Police opposed a permitless carry law signed by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) in 2022. “Putting more gasoline on a fire doesn’t put the fire out, and that’s what they’re doing here,” said Michael Weinman, director of governmental affairs for the union representing around 24,000 officers. “If we put more guns on the street, you’re going to have people who don’t know what their rights and responsibilities are, and it just doesn’t help.”50
  • Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police Vice President Patrick Flannelly believes the 2021 permitless carry bill signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) threatens the safety of police and the community. “What we have done now is we’ve taken away the one tool that police officers had out on the street to be able to act quickly and efficiently for not only their personal safety but for the safety of our communities.”51
  • Alabama’s permitless carry law—signed by Gov. Kay Ivey (R) in 2022 and going into effect on January 1, 2023—was opposed by the Alabama Sheriffs Association, the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police, the Alabama District Attorneys Association, the Alabama Association of School Resource Officers, and multiple local law enforcement agencies.52
  • In 2021, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) vetoed a permitless carry bill opposed by law enforcement, including the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police and multiple Sheriffs. “This is an absolutely terrible bill, not only for the men and women who wear this badge and serve the public, but it’s a terrible bill for the public as well,” said East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux III. “This poses an exponential threat to every law enforcement officer in this state.” The permitless carry bill was reintroduced in 2022 and St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre says the lack of training requirements will make it harder for law enforcement and make people less likely to become a police officer. “There’s a fascination with guns now with young people,” Tregre said. “Now, we’re just going to open the doors for everybody to carry a gun. How are my officers going to know who’s carrying legally and illegally? How do I train for that?”53

Murders and aggravated assaults in Arizona increased after permitless carry

  • Arizona was only the third state to allow permitless carry but many states quickly followed suit. “All we’re doing is handcuffing good people, restricting their constitutional, God-given right to carry and perhaps their ability to defend their families,” said Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R), sponsor of Arizona’s permitless carry bill.54
  • Janet Napolitano (D) vetoed Pearce’s previous attempt to remove concealed firearm requirements, but it became law in 2010 when Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed the NRA-backed bill.55
  • Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police lobbyist John Thomas testified that the permitless carry law “will take Arizona back to the Wild West … with no consideration of officer safety.”56
  • The repeal of Arizona’s concealed carry requirement led to an 11 percent increase in gun injuries and deaths and a 24 percent increase in the probability that an individual involved in a violent crime would be fatally shot.57
  • The number of aggravated assaults committed with a firearm went from 3,422 in 201058 to 7,149 in 2020,59 more than doubling.
  • Violent crimes in Arizona increased by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020. According to state crime reports, there were a total of 23,823 violent crimes committed in Arizona in 2010, or one violent crime every 22 minutes.60 By 2020, that number had grown to 28,777, or one violent crime every 18 minutes.61
  • The total numbers of murders in Arizona increased by 19 percent from 354 murders in 201062 to 423 murders in 2020.63 That places the 2020 intentional homicide rate in Arizona ahead of states with strong gun laws like California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.64
  • Despite this increase in firearm violence, the Arizona House approved two bills in 2022 with no Democratic support to further expand concealed carry rights, including allowing guns in libraries and on school grounds. State Sen. Wendy Rogers (R) sponsored a third bill in 2022 to weaken Arizona’s concealed carry laws by allowing carrying on college campuses, “I am a believer that guns save lives, and if a student has a concealed weapons permit than he or she should be able to carry on campus and thus make the campus safer.”65

Concealed carry is linked to increased violent crime in Wisconsin

  • In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed a concealed carry law that allows anyone who can meet relatively minimal eligibility requirements to get a permit to carry a concealed firearm.66
  • While advocates of Wisconsin’s concealed carry law argued that it would promote public safety, the reality is that the lax legislation has contributed to higher rates of violent crime in the state.
  • Baraboo, Wisconsin, Police Chief Mark Schauf opposed the law at the time, saying “as police officers, we’re required to have training before we get our weapons and a certain number of training hours throughout the year. If we have to be trained, it would only make sense that a person in public would want to be trained, as well.”67
  • After a four-year decline in aggravated assaults with a gun from 2007 to 2011, trends shifted upward after 2011.68 While the annual average of aggravated assaults with firearms from 2004 to 2011 was 1,700, this increased to 2,600 aggravated assaults per year from 2012 to 2019, a 56 percent increase.69
  • A Center for American Progress analysis of the five largest cities in Wisconsin found that the annual value of stolen guns reported to police increased 50 percent following the law’s passage.70
  • Gun-related homicides and aggravated assaults of police officers rose after the weakening of requirements. While three officers were killed with a gun from 2004 to 2011, seven officers were murdered with a gun from 2012 to 2019.71
  • Gun-related assaults against law enforcement officers also increased considerably. From 2004 to 2011, an average of 19 officers were assaulted with a gun in Wisconsin every year. This figure rose to 31 officers assaulted with a gun per year from 2012 to 2019. In other words, the number of gun-related assaults against police officers rose by 63 percent.72

Georgia’s new permitless carry law is dangerous and unpopular

  • A January 2022 poll found that 70 percent of registered voters in Georgia oppose allowing adults to carry concealed handguns in public without a license.73
  • Despite public opposition, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a permitless carry law in April 2022. During the bill signing, Kemp said the bill “makes sure that law abiding Georgians—including our daughters and your family, too—can protect themselves without having to ask permission from state government. The Constitution of the United States gives us that right—not the government.”74
  • A Washington Post article explains the dynamic in Georgia a month before:

As violent crime jumps in the state, residents are arming themselves at record levels, which is leading to more crime and spurring new efforts by state GOP lawmakers to loosen permitting requirements for carrying concealed weapons. It’s a trend that has echoed across the country, as gun violence continues to rattle communities.75

  • Permitless carry bill sponsor State Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R) argued, “Georgians should not need a permit to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights, defend themselves and protect their families. This law will keep safeguards in place to ensure that only law abiding citizens can purchase and obtain a firearm while eliminating the bureaucratic red tape that infringes on Georgians’ constitutional rights.”76
  • “Less checks means more guns, more violence, more deaths and more bloodshed,” Georgia State Sen. Elena Parent (D) said about the bill. “In eliminating this requirement, you’re basically saying we won’t have this check on these criminals, now that check will no longer exist.”77 Parent added, “This is a dangerous agenda of right-wing gun groups. We have a majority that is in thrall to gun extremists.”78
  • “I think it would probably cause an increase in gun crimes,” said Col. Henderson Carswell of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.79
  • Savannah Police Chief Roy W. Minter Jr. said more than 100 guns were stolen out of unlocked vehicles last year in the city. “One of the concerns I have [with the legislation] is more people leaving their guns in cars, people leaving their guns in other places, because now there is more freedom to have that gun with them,” he said.80
  • At least 460 firearms were reported stolen to Columbus, Georgia, police from January to October of 2021. City leaders said many guns were taken from vehicles and organized gangs searched cars in shopping centers and neighborhoods because many residents travel with firearms.81
  • In 2021, 2,008 firearms were stolen from vehicles in Atlanta and another 148 vehicles were stolen that contained a weapon.82 Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said that weakening concealed carry requirements will increase the number of illegal guns used in violent crimes and impede law enforcement’s ability to reduce crime. “It reduces our ability to intervene early in getting an illegal gun off the street until something more catastrophic has happened,” Bryant said.
  • Atlanta’s Midtown Music Festival was cancelled in August 2022 over concerns that the recent permitless carry law and a 2014 “guns everywhere” concealed carry law meant that festival organizer Live Nation couldn’t prohibit guns at the 50,000-person festival. House Minority Leader James Beverly (D) said the event was canceled “because artists don’t feel safe to perform in a state with senseless gun laws.”83

Conclusion

Right-to-carry laws increase violent crime, firearm robberies, gun thefts, workplace homicides, and mass shootings by making it easier for almost anyone to carry a concealed handgun in public. Conservative state legislatures weakening requirements to carry a concealed firearm is a recent trend that makes policing more difficult and dangerous, resulting in law enforcement leaders across the country publicly opposing these laws. Scientific research consistently shows that the removal of concealed carry permitting systems is associated with higher rates of gun homicides and violent crime.

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