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Taxing Our Rights Away- Government Fees Discourage Concealed Carry- part two

August 22, 2017

Part two of four-

How do politicians justify denying the right of self-defense? Obtaining your concealed carry permit can be easy.  It can also be impossible, depending on where you live.  I collected publicly available information on the cost of obtaining a permit.  The rate at which people apply for a license varies in very predictable ways.  As you would expect, the two states with the highest costs also have the smallest fraction of license holders.

I used the recent information about concealed carry holders provided by Dr. John Lott.  I filtered out the permits issued to out-of-state residents when that data was available.  I combined the number of in-state permits with the population to calculate a raw rate of concealed carry for each state.

The more it costs, the fewer of us apply for a permit.  Politicians usually cite public safety concerns as they infringe on the right to bear arms.  They say it might make us safer if we required a gun owner to have a state issued “Firearms Owners ID card”.  It might make us safer to require prospective concealed carriers to publish their name and address in the local newspaper and to announce that they want to carry a gun.  It might make us safer if we require an employer’s permission before issuing a permit.  It might make us safer to charge hundreds of dollars for a permit.  ..or it might not.

There is always another infringement that can be rationalized in the name of public safety.  There is no evidence that these infringements actually reduce crime.

How do the permit fees vary from state to state?  Illinois imposes the highest monetary costs at 465 dollars.  Those fees include a Firearms Owners Identification Card, mandatory fingerprints, 16 hours of training and range time, and the permit application fee.  Alabama has the lowest fees and charges $20.  Several states are under fifty dollars.  Remember that some thirteen states offer unrestricted or constitutional carry where a permit is not required for state residents to carry a concealed weapon in public.

In shall-issue states, the  population-weighted average fee is 283 dollars.  About 14 million people received their carry permits in those shall-issue states.  If each applicant paid the full price, then they paid almost 4 billion dollars in total to get their permits.  In practice, some states reduce their fees for retired law enforcement, military and the elderly.  Four billion dollars is a large incentive and it changes our behavior in significant ways.

Is the rate of concealed carry sensitive to the fees states charge?  We see the rate of concealed carry fall as states charge more. It is easy to compare the extremes.  The rate of concealed carry in shall-issue states varies by a factor of over eight-to-one.  How else can we explain the decline?  Are the citizens of Illinois and Delaware that much less concerned about their physical safety and the safety of their family when compared to their neighbors living in Alabama or Indiana?  People are broadly similar, but governments imposes widely varying costs to obtain a permit.  The monetary costs vary by a factor of more than 20-to-1.  Figure 2 shows the relationship between fees and the rate of concealed carry.  The variation in fees for government licensing and mandated training explain about 54 percent of the change in the concealed carry rate.

Cultural influences also affect the rate of concealed carry.  Some counties in Pennsylvania have over half the adults population obtaining permits.  Pennsylvania averages about $26 to obtain a permit from the local sheriff, though some charge more and some less.

Why do some people get a permit despite the high costs?  It is easy to understand why fewer people want a concealed carry permit when the price is expensive.  In some cases, the price of the permit exceeds the price of the gun they might carry.  What is harder to understand is why some people persist in getting their permit despite the higher taxes they face.

How are these persistent carriers different?  Some people face extraordinary dangers.  Consider the Chicago shopkeeper who has been robbed before.  He thinks of his personal firearm as part of his required safety equipment, just like a smoke alarm and a fire extinguisher.  The delivery driver in Chicago talks with other drivers who’ve been robbed.  He wears his seat belt when he drives, and he pays the higher tax to get his carry permit because he wants to arrive home uninjured tonight.

In theory, there is a price that is high enough that no one would ever bother to get a concealed license.  That price varies from person to person because of the wildly different lives we live.  People who hire armed security and who live in a gated community might never bother to get a permit even if the concealed carry permit were cheap and convenient.  The convenience store clerk who works at night would probably get his permit even if the permit were quite expensive.

Money isn’t the only cost, and it isn’t the most important cost in determining the rate of concealed carry.  We’ll talk about the effects of mandated training in part three.

Part one- state imposed costs to obtain a permit
Part two- the effect of monetary fees on the rate of concealed carry
Part three- the effect of mandated training on the rate of concealed carry
Part four- deregulating concealed carry and the true cost of infringement

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