Driven by safety concerns and reports of terrorist attacks, more Americans than ever have applied for and received permits to carry concealed pistols, and in one Pennsylvania county dubbed "God's Country," over half of all adults are licensed to carry, according to a new report.

The research from economist John Lott's Crime Prevention Center shows that permit granting has continued to surge under President Trump, dispelling expectations that having a pro-gun chief executive in the White House would lead to a dramatic downturn in applications.

Lott said that 16.36 million Americans have permits, and there were an unprecedented 1.83 million approved last year. That means that 6.53 percent of all American adults have a carry permit.

Women and minorities are also getting them at record numbers. Of states that broke out gender and race of permit holders, his latest annual report said that the number of permits granted to women jumped 93 percent in recent years and blacks are getting them at a rate 30 percent higher than whites.

And, he noted, the number of concealed carry adults is much higher because there are 14 states that do not require a permit and many are big gun states such as Arizona, Wyoming, and Maine.

"The two things that stand out in this year's report is the huge increase in permits for women and minorities as well as how extremely law-abiding the over 16.3 million permit holders continue to be," Lott, the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, told Secrets.

Using state statistics, he found that in states requiring concealed carry permits, Alabama has the highest rate, at 20 percent. Of all counties, Potter County in north central Pennsylvania, which calls itself "God's Country" due to the abundance of open space, wildlife, and fishable waterways, leads the way with 50.3 percent of adults having a permit.

The surge in permitting has sparked its own industry. Many gun makers like Smith & Wesson, Glock, and Sig Sauer focus part of their business on producing concealable guns. Clothing and purse firms make products to hold the pistols.

And a support industry for permit holders has begun, providing training and insurance, including the U.S. Concealed Carry Association and the National Rifle Association. The NRA is holding a three-day expo in Wisconsin focused just on concealed carry issues and products.

Lott made the case that states with concealed carry rights have lower crime and that those with permits are extremely law abiding, having a lower conviction rate that for police officers.

The key highlights from the report:

  • Last year, the number of permit holders grew by a record 1.83 million. This is more than the previous record increase of 1.73 million, set just the year before. Each of the last four years that we have been recording this data has set a new record. Despite expectations that permits were primarily driven by fears of Democratic presidencies, the growth in permits has continued at a similar pace after the November 2016 election.
  • 6.53% of American adults have permits. Outside the restrictive states of California and New York, about 8% of the adult population has a permit.
  • In eleven states, more than 10% of adults have permits. Alabama has the highest rate — 20%. Indiana is second with 15.8%.
  • There are four counties in Pennsylvania that have between 30% and 50% of their adult populations with concealed handgun permits: Potter (50.3%), McKean (34.6%), Warren (34.6%), Cameron (31.3%), and Armstrong (30.1%).
  • Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas each have over 1.2 million residents who are active permit holders.
  • Another 14 states have adopted constitutional carry in all or virtually all of their state, meaning that a permit is no longer required. Some people in these states still choose to obtain permits so that they can carry in other states that have reciprocity agreements with their states. However,
  • because of these constitutional carry states, the nationwide growth in permits does not paint a full picture of the overall increase in concealed carry.
  • In 2016, women made up 36% of permit holders in the 14 states that provide data by gender. Eight states had data from 2012 to 2016 and they saw a 326% faster increase in permits among women than among men.
  • From 2012 to 2016, in the five states that provide data by race over that time period, the number of black people with permits increased 30% faster than the number of whites with permits. Asians appear to be the group that has experienced the largest increase in permitted concealed carry.
  • Concealed handgun permit holders are extremely law-abiding. In Florida and Texas, permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors and felonies at one-sixth of the rate at which police officers are convicted.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com