State Gun Laws And Public Opinion

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School Poll, Public

Summary

Let’s begin with some general context: Nationwide, 66% of those with an opinion favor a Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment includes a right to possess a gun outside the home. When it is presented as a matter of state policy choice (law), 62% favor allowing concealed carry of handguns with a permit or license required. So public opinion substantially favors allowing “licensed concealed carry” of handguns.

In contrast, there is substantial majority opposition to laws allowing concealed carry without a licensing requirement. Concealed carry without a license requirement is supported nationwide by 19% and opposed by 81%.

In fact, even in the 25 states with “permitless concealed carry” laws, a minority of 28% of adults favor such laws, while 72% are opposed to them, based on a May 2022 Marquette Law School Poll national survey conducted last month (before the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas). And state surveys, by other polling entities, in Texas and Tennessee (states with permitless concealed carry laws) found 34% and 39% favored these laws, respectively, with 59% opposed in both states.

State gun laws

In the following analysis, state gun laws are grouped into four categories.

  • Twenty-five states have adopted laws allowing “permitless” concealed carry, requiring no license or permit to have a concealed weapon. (This includes states that have adopted such a law that will go into effect by Jan. 1, 2023.)
  • Ten states have “shall issue” laws, which give no discretion over issuing a license or permit to an applicant meeting the criteria specified by law.
  • Seven states have “shall issue” laws, which allow some discretion over issuing a license or permit if the applicant is judged to raise some public safety concerns.
  • Eight states and the District of Columbia have “may issue” laws, which give authorities greater latitude in determining when to issue a license or permit.

Classifications of states were based on these websites, which were checked for consistency:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry_in_the_United_States

https://giffords.org/lawcenter/gun-laws/policy-areas/guns-in-public/concealed-carry/

https://concealedguns.procon.org/state-by-state-concealed-carry-permit-laws/

Public opinion on gun laws

The Marquette Law School Poll surveyed 1,004 adults nationwide May 9-19, 2022. The margin of error is +/-3.9 percentage points. The survey focused on the U.S. Supreme Court and included three items on opinion about the Second Amendment and concealed carry laws. The survey began before the mass shooting that killed 10 people in Buffalo, N.Y., and was completed before the mass shooting that killed 21 in a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.

Full results of the Marquette Law School poll are available at https://law.marquette.edu/poll/2022/05/26/detailed-results-of-the-marquette-law-school-supreme-court-poll-may-9-19-2022-2/.

Second Amendment

The Supreme Court is set to decide, this summer, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, which addresses whether the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a gun outside the home.

The Marquette Law School Poll’s national survey asked this:

Do you favor or oppose the following possible future Supreme Court decisions, or haven’t you heard enough about this to have an opinion?: Rule that the 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” protects the right to carry a gun outside the home.

Among those with an opinion, 66% favor such a ruling and 34% are opposed.

Opinion on this extension of Second Amendment interpretation to include guns outside the home is more supportive in states with less restrictive gun laws, with large majorities favoring expanded rights to possess a gun, and less supportive in the most restrictive states, where opinion is evenly divided. These results are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Favor or oppose Court ruling that the 2nd Amendment right to ‘keep and bear arms’ protects the right to carry a gun outside the home, by state gun laws, among those with an opinion, May 2022 (all table numbers are percentages)

State gun laws Favor Oppose
Permitless 77 23
Shall issue 70 30
Shall issue w limits 64 36
May issue 48 52

Concealed carry with a license

The Marquette Law School Poll also asked about state laws concerning concealed carry. Respondents were asked about “licensed concealed carry” laws:

Do you favor or oppose laws that allow most people to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns?

These laws were favored by 62% and opposed by 38% nationwide.

Let’s break it down by the sorts of gun laws a state has: More than 60% majorities favor such laws in most states, with a narrower majority favoring them in the states with the most restrictive laws concerning concealed carry, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Do you favor or oppose laws that allow most people to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns, by state gun laws, May 2022

State gun laws Favor Oppose
Permitless 65 35
Shall issue 66 34
Shall issue w limits 64 36
May issue 53 47

Concealed carry without a license (“permitless”)

Half of the states now allow concealed carry without requiring a license or a permit. Respondents were asked

Do you favor or oppose laws that allow most people to carry concealed handguns without needing to obtain a license?

Opinion on this law is much more opposed than for licensed concealed carry, discussed above. Nineteen percent favor unlicensed, or “permitless,” carry laws, while 81% are opposed to such laws.

Table 3 shows opinion on these laws by state gun laws. It is striking that even in the states that allow permitless concealed carry, 72% of adults are opposed to such a law. Opposition to these laws increases in states with more-restrictive gun laws.

Table 3: Do you favor or oppose laws that allow most people to carry concealed handguns without needing to obtain a license, by state gun laws, May 2022

State gun laws Favor Oppose
Permitless 28 72
Shall issue 19 81
Shall issue w limits 16 84
May issue 10 90
Comparison with other national and state polls
National Polls

In the Pew American Trends Panel wave 87, April 5-11, 2021, respondents were asked

Please indicate whether you would favor or oppose the following proposals about gun policy: Allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit

In the Pew survey, such unlicensed or permitless concealed carry was favored by 20% and opposed by 79%, with 1% refusing to answer.

The May 2022 Marquette Law School Poll national survey question asks

Do you favor or oppose laws that allow most people to carry concealed handguns without needing to obtain a license?

In the Marquette Law School Poll, permitless carry was favored by 19% and opposed by 81%.

Pew does not publish the state code as part of the public dataset, so it is not possible to merge the Pew data with state laws.

State Polls

The following is not a comprehensive collection of state polls on unlicensed concealed carry but is illustrative of public opinion in one “shall issue” state (Wisconsin) and two states (Texas and Tennessee) with permitless concealed carry laws.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a “shall issue” state, requiring a license for concealed carry. The Marquette Law School Poll’s surveys of Wisconsin registered voters have asked about both licensed and unlicensed concealed carry. The results for licensed concealed carry are shown in Table 4 and for unlicensed carry in Table 5.

Table 4: Do you favor or oppose Wisconsin’s current law allowing residents to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns?, Wisconsin registered voters

Poll dates Favor Oppose Don’t know Refused
1/21-24/16 63 31 5 1
1/8-12/20 70 25 5 0
10/26-31/21 62 29 8 1
4/19-24/22 69 26 5 0

Table 5: Do you favor or oppose a proposed law that would allow residents to carry concealed handguns without needing to obtain a license?, Wisconsin registered voters

Poll dates Favor Oppose Don’t know Refused
10/26-31/21 20 76 3 0
4/19-24/22 16 82 2 0
Texas

Texas allows concealed carry without requiring a license.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll conducted in April 2021 asked

Should adults be allowed to carry handguns in public without licenses or permits?

This was supported by 34% and opposed by 59%, with 6% saying they don’t know.

Link: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/03/texas-voters-legislature-poll/

Tennessee

Tennessee allows concealed carry without requiring a license.

A Vanderbilt University Tennessee poll in May 2021 asked

Do you approve or disapprove of a law that would make it legal for people age 21 and older to carry a handgun without a permit in Tennessee?

Thirty-nine percent approved of this law, while 59% disapproved, with 1 percent saying don’t know.

Link: Q22 https://www.vanderbilt.edu/csdi/Spring_2021_topline_final.pdf

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