Politics & Policy

Armed and Diverse

A first-time gun owner loads her pistol at a gun range in Springville, Utah. (George Frey/Reuters)
People of all races and both genders are taking advantage of loosened gun laws.

So much for the small-penis theory.

We’ve all heard that argument being made: “If you own a firearm,” the case runs, “it must be because you’re poorly endowed.” Guns, you see, are long and phallic — like portable, miniature Washington Monuments, there to be worn about the belt. In the 1960s, weak and diffident men would make up for their shortcomings by purchasing a Jaguar E-Type. Now they buy an AR-15. That must explain the buying spree of the last decade.

A related case is made in concert: That guns are being snapped up by “scared white men” who are terrified that their privilege is being diminished. Sure, firearms owners tell pollsters that their purchases were driven by general interest or by terrorism or by a desire to defend themselves. But progressives know better than that, natch; they know that the real reason is race or gender or the panoply of isms. For years, white men have ruled the roost. But now women are doing better in college and the president is black. That must explain the surge.

It doesn’t, of course. In fact, neither theory explains anything much at all — except, perhaps, the paucity of the gun-control movement’s brief. Indeed, to look at the most recently available statistics is to learn that gun ownership — and, indeed, the “bearing of arms” in general — is an increasingly diverse, rather than monochrome, thing. Over the last few years, the United States has seen the stirrings of a pro–Second Amendment rainbow coalition, comprised of all sorts and popping up in all places. Penises? Penises don’t enter into it, matey.

RELATED: The Case for More Concealed Handguns

As he does each year, John Lott Jr. has taken a good look at the government’s most recent concealed-carry numbers – and boy, are they interesting. As one might expect, concealed carry has grown dramatically in popularity over the last decade or so, and, as one might expect, that growth has coincided with a remarkable drop in crime. Between 2007 and 2015, Lott reports, the “murder rates fell from 5.6 to 4.7 (preliminary estimate) per 100,000,” while “violent crime fell by 18 percent.” Over the same period, “the percentage of adults with permits has soared by 190%.”

Well, then.

As for those “adults with permits” . . . well, they are most certainly not all old and white and male. On the contrary: Lott notes that in the “eight states where we have data by gender . . . since 2012 the number of permits has increased by 161% for women and by 85% for men.”

That has meant a dramatic leap in the share of carry-permit holders who are women, a figure that has increased by almost half in Tennessee and Texas and a third in Florida. Is it penis envy, perhaps?

#share#A similar dynamic has developed within minority communities — at least, it has in the one state that keeps data by race. “Texas,” Lott records, “provides detailed information on both race and gender from 1996 through 2014.” And that information shows that

permitting has increased fastest for blacks, followed closely by Asians. While whites still hold the vast majority of permits, the number of black permit holders has grown more than twice as quickly as the number of white permit holders.


When permit data is broken down by race and gender, we find that rates of permit holding among American Indian, Asian, black, and white females all grew much faster than the rates for males in those racial groups. Concealed carry has increased most rapidly among black females. From 2000 to 2015, the rate of growth was 3.81 times faster than among white females.

This is a complicated area, but it seems important to note that as the cost of obtaining a carry permit has dropped in Texas, the pool of carriers has become more diverse. “The growth in permit-holding by Asians, blacks, and American Indians,” writes Lott, “was by far the fastest after the minimum training requirements were reduced from 10 hours to four in 2013 . . . reducing the cost of obtaining permits seems to have had its biggest impact on minorities.”

RELATED: The Bizarro Morality of America’s Gun-Control Debate

And why wouldn’t it? As progressives routinely insist when the question is of voting or abortion, it is minorities, not rich white men, who are disproportionately affected by legal obstacles that are placed in their way. By reducing its mandatory training from ten to four hours, Texas has ensured both that its carry classes will be less expensive and that those who take them will need to take less time off work. The salutary result: That less “privileged” members of society are able take advantage of their constitutional rights. (One might expect to see a similar result if permitting fees were reduced across the board. New York City charges $429.75 for a carry permit; Idaho charges $20. In which place do we imagine it is easier for the poor to defend themselves?)

Typically, this argument is met with what is little more than a primal scream: “But guns are dangerous and voting is not!” cry the naysayers. For now, I shall leave aside the obvious rejoinder, which is that this argument rests upon the presumption that the poor and the brown must be kept away from guns in the name of “public safety,” and I will instead point out that anybody who is worried about concealed carriers needs his ruddy head looked at. As Lott drily confirms, “concealed carry permit holders” are not only more law-abiding than the population at large, they “are even more law-abiding than police.” “Among police” in general, the FBI records, “firearms violations occur at a rate of 16.5 per 100,000 officers,” whereas “among permit holders in Florida and Texas, the rate is only 2.4 per 100,000” (and many of these “violations” are as innocuous as the permit holder’s forgetting to carry his permit on his person). This trend is borne out elsewhere.

At times, watching the American gun debate can feel like attending the call-and-response segment of an especially dreary Anglican church service:

“And on July 1st, Florida will issue forth carry permits.”

“There will be blood in the streets.”

“And there was no blood in the streets.”

“There will be blood in the streets.”

“As it was in the beginning, in the middle, and the end, there was no blood in the streets.”

“Let us change tack: Peaceful as they may be, carriers are all white men.”

“Carriers are not all white men.”

“Twitter hear us: Carriers have small penises.”


#related#At this rate, it will not be too long before the gun-controllers cry that concealed carriers may be impressively diverse, unusually peaceful, and continually growing in number, but they represent a serious problem to be solved because . . . well, because they just do.

Progress, of a sort.

— Charles C. W. Cooke is the editor of National Review Online.

Editor’s Note: This piece originally stated in error that women in several states have been obtaining carry permits at twice the rate of men since 2012.  It has been corrected. 


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