With the U.S. government issuing a record number of concealed carry permits in 2015, more than one out of every 20 American adults are licensed to carry a concealed firearm.
Overall, the number of Americans legally permitted to carry hidden heat has exceeded 14.5 million, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center's annual report. That's a dramatic jump from the estimated eight million Americans with concealed carry permits in 2012, U.S. Government Accountability Office records show.
Those numbers were pushed up during the eight years of President Barack Obama's administration. Despite Obama's pro-gun control stance, or perhaps because of it, there's been a 215 percent increase in the number of approved permits, the research center said.
While some Americans rushed to acquire permits and buy guns because of the perception that Obama would pass newer, more restrictive gun control laws, Obama's influence isn't the only factor spurring Americans to stock up, said John R. Lott Jr., a gun rights advocate and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.
“Part of it is just Obama," Lott told the Washington Times. "We have had a big increase in people buying guns, but it’s pretty clear it’s broader. It’s not just the number of guns, it’s clear more people are using guns."
But the number of people carrying concealed weapons is probably higher, experts say, because 11 states do not require residents to obtain permits. Without a formal process, those states don't have data on how many are armed.
Six states, including Maine, Arizona, Kansas, Wyoming, Alaska and Vermont, don't require permits at all. Other states don't have a central permitting authority, meaning individual counties might require residents to apply for permits or take gun safety courses, but large swaths of those states do not.
In a trend that might surprise some, the number of women who have obtained permits more than doubled between 2012 and 2016, the Crime Prevention Research Center said. While most permit holders are men, women are outpacing men in terms of obtaining new permits.
In the wake of several high-profile mass shootings, including the June 12 massacre at an Orlando nightclub that claimed 49 lives, gun control has become a central issue in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia featured several speakers on July 27 who urged greater gun control, including the mother of one of the Orlando victims, and the daughter of a victim of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Erica Smegielski, daughter of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, told the convention crowd that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would lead the fight to gun use and availability in the U.S., per The Guardian.
“What we need is another mother who’s willing to do what’s right," Smegielski said, "whose bravery can live up in equal measure to my mom’s."
Sources: Crime Prevention Research Center, The Washington Times, The Guardian / Photo credit: St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office/Wikimedia Commons