Relaxing Conceal Carry Permit Restrictions Significantly Increases Firearm Assaults

The study comes against the backdrop of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in July that found New York’s state law requiring that permittees have a proper cause or special need to obtain a concealed carry weapons permit as unconstitutional. Permits will still be required, but the decision narrows New York’s authority to deny them. Similar laws with proper cause requirements in other states, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, have been revised or are under review.

The study also found a significant average increase in the rate of homicides without a firearm—8.8 percent—in states that relaxed restrictions on civilians carrying concealed firearms in public during the same period.

Currently, 25 states do not require civilians to have a permit to carry a concealed firearm, referred to as permitless carry. The other 25 states require state or local law enforcement to issue civilians a permit to carry a firearm if they meet criteria based on criminal history or training requirements. Most of the states included in the study adopting shall issue laws had previously required a good or proper cause for needing a license to carry a concealed firearm.

For their analysis, the researchers used data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The researchers identified state laws using databases and by reviewing the state’s legislative history.

In what is thought to be the first analysis of its kind, and working with the same set of 34 states that had relaxed their laws from 1980 and 2019, the researchers examined the impact of shall- issue laws with the following provisions: live-firearm training; discretion to deny a permit if an applicant is unstable or immoral; and discretion to deny a permit if an applicant has a history of violence and/or a history of other violent misdemeanor convictions.

The analysis found that states that changed their laws without including one or more of these three provisions had an average increase of 10.26 gun assaults per 100,000 population annually (a 21.6 percent increase) and an additional 1.44 per 100,000 gun homicides (34.9 percent increase) per year compared to their forecasted trends. For states that did not require live- firearm training, the average rate of gun assaults increased to 8.28 per 100,000 people (18.3 percent increase).

The researchers note that requiring live firearm training is an important step but needs further study to understand the impacts of this provision.

“States are actively reevaluating their laws after the Supreme Court’s decision,” says Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, Bloomberg Professor of American Health and co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at the Bloomberg School. “Our findings suggest that the more you can make this more objective for states issuing conceal-carry licenses, the better the outcomes in terms of screening potentially dangerous people out.”