Why Do Gun Owners Love Their Guns? Not Because They Protect Us From Anything.

One thing about the gun debate I find interesting is how quickly and easily gun owners get riled up when politicians, or anyone else for that matter, begin talking about taking away their guns.  From the way they talk, you’d think the world was about to come to an end.  What was Heston’s famous line?  “From my cold, dead hands.”  Here’s a guy who made more forgettable movies than anyone could ever remember, but five words uttered at the NRA convention and he’s immortalized forevermore.

I see the same intensity of feelings in comments on my blog.  “You’re a traitor,” is one of the less-angry ones; “Mike the Gun Guy is Enemy #1,” crops up from time to time.  I have never once advocated any legislative or legal response to gun violence, but God forbid I say that maybe some of what the NRA claims to be true isn’t so true and you’d think I was calling for the confiscation of every, single gun.

heston                Maybe  I just don’t appreciate how gun owners think about their guns. So yesterday I decided to get a better understanding of the average gun owner by conducting a survey on how frequently gun guys (and gals) actually walk around with a gun.  After all, if you listen to the NRA, you quickly learn that nobody understands the problems faced by gun owners like they do, and nothing is more important to gun owners than being able to protect themselves and their loved ones by walking around with a gun.

So yesterday I sat down and sent an email to 650 people who took the required safety course from me that my state requires for issuance of the LTC.  And if they had, in fact, received the LTC, I asked them to tell me how often they carried a concealed weapon with the choices being: always, usually, sometimes, frequently or never at all.  Obviously, the folks who said they always or usually carried a concealed weapon were embodying Wayne LaPierre’s “good guys” dictum; the rest were pussies or worse.

Within 24 hours I received back more than 130 responses, of whom 102 stated they had received their LTC.  And how did the NRA do in convincing MR or MS gun-owner that they would be fulfilling a sacred trust by walking around with a gun?  Not very well, I’m afraid.  Only 29 of 97 LTC-holders reported that they ‘always’ or ‘usually’ carried a gun, of whom 22 were guys and 6 were gals.  The rest just weren’t convinced that they needed to carry a gun, and 53 of the respondents, 39 men and 10 women reported that they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ carried a concealed weapon at all.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The latest numbers indicate that there are roughly 8 million active concealed-carry permits in the United States, so if the results of my poll are representative, that means there may be about 2 million people walking the highways and byways of our beloved country ready at any moment to yank out and use their guns.  But 2 million doesn’t even represent 1% of the country’s population so it’s not like there’s some huge, gun-toting army out there just waiting to protect the rest of us from the criminal hordes.

On the other hand, a couple of million people who believe that something’s about to happen in DC that will directly affect them can make a lot of noise.  They can contact their Representatives, or make a telephone call, or send a nasty email to me.  I have never done any of those things because I can’t recall that Congress ever debated a law which would have any direct impact on me.  But the NRA, to their credit, has managed to make its membership feel that any discussion about gun control is a discussion about them.  Why pass up the opportunity to let everyone know what is the most important thing to you?  I wouldn’t, that’s for damn sure.

4 thoughts on “Why Do Gun Owners Love Their Guns? Not Because They Protect Us From Anything.

  1. I was really interested in this post because one of my enduring questions concerns what percentage of those who are licensed to carry concealed weapons actually carry weapons concealed in public and how often.

    Everyone I have spoken to about this issue estimates that it is a small minority of permit holders who carry daily and a minority regularly carries. This aligns with your finding that only 29 of your respondents (28-30% depending on whether your denominator is 97 or 102) carry “always” or “usually.” (And of these 29, 22 are men and 6 are women, so 1 is intersexed?)

    Add to these the 15 to 20 who carry “sometimes,” and you have 43-45 percent who carry with some level of regularity. Extrapolating this out to the country, that would be nearly 4 million people who legally carry weapons in public sometimes or more frequently. When I think about that number, I think it sounds like a lot of people.

    Of course, a sub-20% response rate adds some challenges to interpreting the results here. Your numbers could overestimate the carry-rate if people who carry regularly were more likely to respond to your query (because they care about the issue so much), or could underestimate it if people who carry regularly are less likely to respond to your query (because people who carry regularly don’t want people to know they carry regularly).

    That question aside, this leaves the 53 respondents (just over half) who carry infrequently or never at all. I think it is a bit strong to say that pro-gun people would think these individuals are “pussies or worse.” Every gun trainer I have heard has said that if you can’t safely and confidently carry a firearm and have the ability to use it, then you should not carry it. Perhaps some portion of this group has made that conscious decision not to carry.

    At worst, this might make them a “sheeple,” but even Dave Grossman of “sheepdog” fame says that 98% of the population are sheep who have no capacity for violence, which simply makes them healthy, productive citizens. (http://gunculture2point0.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/lt-col-dave-grossman-on-sheepdogs-and-violence/)

    Based on my nonrepresentative but systematic observations based on North Carolina, I would add two more reasons why people who have a concealed carry permit would carry “infrequently” or “not at all”:

    (1) Difficulty: It’s not easy to carry a concealed firearm every day, in a practical sense. This is especially true if your daily life requires you to cycle in and out of gun free zones (you have kids in school, you work somewhere they don’t allow guns, you need to shop/eat/socialize).

    I’m really interested in how concealed carriers negotiate these difficulties.

    (2) I don’t know how common this is nationally, but in North Carolina we have an antiquated permit requirement to purchase a handgun. You have to go to the Sheriff’s office and apply and pay for a pistol permit, BUT having a Concealed Handgun Permit allows a person to buy handguns without a separate pistol permit. So, some unknown but non-negligible portion of the licensed but non-carrying public falls into this category.

    I wonder if in Massachusetts and other states having a concealed carry permit gets you other advantages beyond simply being able to carry a concealed weapon.

    Again, great question, and suggestive answers. It would be great to have some fresher nationally representative data on gun carry frequency.

    • I have to keep my blogs brief so I’ll fill in a little more data for you here. The responses to my email questionnaire are still coming in and sometimes I get a chance to edit and other times not. No, there were no multi-sexuals, just I forgot to add one more to the male total (23.) The “sometimes” group are not carrying in any regular sense. From comments that people added to their replies they are people who take a gun to the range from time to time or other non-regular shooting events.

      I did not specify concealed-carry in the questionnaire, nor did I ask respondents if they carried for “personal defense” which always opens up all kinds of nonsense and heated rhetoric. The bottom line is that you can’t shift some of the “sometimes” group into the “good guys protecting us with guns” group. Roughly 25% of the LTC people in Mass. are carrying because they want to protect themselves, but twice that percentage never carry.

      There is no separate LTC in MA. If you meet the legal requirements to own/buy a gun, the license is automatically a LTC as well. The “issuing authority,” which is the local police chief can re strict where and how you can carry a gun and this happens in some jurisdictions, but mostly near Boston: I’m at the other end of the state so restrictions on LTC are very rare. Massachusetts is a good state to use for this kind of study because you don’t have ti jump through any hoops to get LTC.

      North Carolina had 240,000 valid LTCs at the end of 2011; the state population at that time was 7 million. Massachusetts had 250,000 LTCs with a population of 5 million. http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592552.pdf. (see pps. 75-76.)

      I wasn’t at all surprised at the numbers because I sold 14,000 guns in my retail store between 2000 and 2014 and very few people who walked into my shop had a gun in their pocket even though they all had LTCs.


      • Thanks for these clarifications. A couple more questions if I may as one of my goals is to understand the nuances of concealed carry laws in the different states.

        (1) In your reply, you say you didn’t ask respondents about concealed-carry in the questionnaire, but in the original post you wrote, “I asked them to tell me how often they carried a concealed weapon.” To fully understand the responses (not being able to see any open-ended comments that were added) I think we need to know how the original question was phrased.

        (2) If the local sheriff can restrict where and how you can carry a gun, and the sheriff’s in the Boston area are more restrictive, and most of the state population is in the Boston area (guessing here), then might those restrictions affect the frequency with which people carry more than their desire to carry?

        (3) In light of your clarification that if you are permitted to purchase a pistol in Massachusetts that the permit is also a License to Carry, could you say a bit more about the safety course the state requires you to teach for issuance of the LTC? It seems like the course is basically required to buy a gun and the LTC comes with it. If that is the case, then some number of people who get a LTC don’t intend to carry in the first place, do they?

        (4) Whether my understanding in 3 is right or not, why would so many people get a LTC and not carry? Why are they taking the class?

      • The questionnaire was very simple. Two questions:

        1. Did they apply and receive their LTC? Yes or No,

        2. If the answer to Question #1 was ‘yes,’ then how often did they carry a concealed weapons/ Always, frequently, sometimes, infrequently, never.

        In Massachusetts the “licensing authority” is the chief of police in your town of residence, not the sheriff (who is a county, not town official.) The license that you need to own/purchase a gun is also the LTC. One and the same. Once you have the LTC, you can but as many guns as you want and can carry any handgun on your person as long as your license is not restricted. Boston has 750,000 people which is 15% of the state’s population and it is harder to get CCW there than in other parts of the state but not impossible. Usually means an extra interview.

        I did not ask people if they wanted to carry a gun when they come for the course because many people don’t know; they just want the license.

        The State Police decide which safety course qualifies as the license safety course. Right now the list of approved courses includes 5 different NRA courses and about a dozen other courses that various organizations and/or individuals have gotten approved over the years. You can use any of them. In order to be an authorized instructor you apply to the State Police and show some kind of certification which the State Police believes validates your “expertise.’ It’s a completely vague and stupid process and none of the approved courses require any live fire. You can get LTC and buy and carry and handgun without ever having shot a gun. That’s right.

        Most of the women who take the class are doing so because their husbands own guns and in MA the lock law is strict so if the wife also has a license she can be in the home with a gun that isn’t locked away because she has the legal right with her LTCF to have access to it. The number of women who buy and keep guns on their own for self-defense is minimal. Out of 100+ responses so far only 5 women indicated that they were doing concealed-carry on their own.

        I have no issue with concealed carry; you want to carry a gun – fine. You want to carry a phone – fine. You want to carry your lunch – fine. I have a big issue with two things: (1). That guns make us ‘safer;’ and (2). that people can walk around with guns who haven’t been trained at all. There is absolutely no study of any kind that proves that there is a link between the number of people walking around with guns and crime rates – John Lott and Gary Kleck are both completely full of shit. I am writing a very detailed study of both of their arguments and will send It to you when it is finished; it’s part of Volume 4 of my gun book series. By the way, much of what the gun control says they have ‘proven’ about the risk of guns is also full of shit and my book deals with them too. As for walking around with a gun without any training, or going to Thunder Ranch for a week, or buying one of those stupid videos; give me a break. I was in combat, I had plenty of training, I still don’t know if I hit anyone and God knows I pulled the trigger enough times. Have you ever taken out a gun and shot someone with it? Of course not.


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