Due in part to recent mass shootings, Democrats have begun to embrace gun control again. The Hill, a newspaper covering Congress, noted that this amounts to Democrats “betting that a shift in voter sentiment has turned a once-toxic issue into a political winner.”
There’s good reason to think Democrats are wrong, particularly if their calculations are driven by the stereotype that guns-rights supporters are mostly rural, working-class whites who seldom vote Democrat anyway.
A recent paper by John R. Lott, Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, shows that those obtaining concealed carry permits extend far beyond rural white males.
For one thing, in the eight states that identify the gender of permit holders, Lott found the number of permits has increased by 161 percent for women since 2012, nearly double the 85 percent increase for men.
In Arizona, women now account for 21.2 percent of concealed carry permit holders. The numbers are similar elsewhere: Florida (24.1 percent), Indiana (22.7 percent), Louisiana (24.8 percent), North Carolina (27.5 percent) and Texas (25.8 percent).
The state with the highest share of female concealed carry holders is Tennessee with 31.2 percent. The share of women obtaining concealed carry permits surged dramatically between 2010 and 2014 in North Dakota, rising from 11.2 percent to 24.9 percent. In Washington state, the growth rate for women getting new permits was twice as fast as that of men between 2005 and 2014.
Political stereotype holds that women are generally fearful of guns and more supportive of gun control than men. In reality, many women are embracing gun ownership for personal protection.
Demographic data regarding the racial composition of concealed carry permit holders isn’t as readily available. But Lott found that permit holders are increasingly diverse in Texas, which provides data on both race and gender from 1996 through 2014.
“The state’s data indicate that permitting has increased fastest for blacks, followed closely by Asians,” Lott writes. “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.”
Lott found minorities became more likely to obtain permits when the process was simplified and associated costs were reduced. Texas cut the minimum training requirements from 10 hours to four in 2013. Lott writes that “growth in permit-holding by Asians, blacks, and American Indians was by far the fastest” thereafter.
He added, “Reducing the cost of obtaining permits seems to have had its biggest impact on minorities.”
Lott also found 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.” (Emphasis added.) The most rapid increase was noted among black women.
Given that lower-income individuals are disproportionately minority, and those individuals often live in areas with higher crimes rates, the above data are not surprising.
Law-abiding citizens of all races, men and women alike, are embracing the right to self-defense. (And permit holders are so law-abiding, Lott found they were convicted of misdemeanors and felonies at less than a sixth of the rate for police officers in Florida and Texas.)
In short, if gun control is a “wedge issue” this year, it may be one that drives a wedge between Democrats and (demographically speaking) their own base voters.
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