Concealed Carry / Personal Defense

Explaining the Success of the Concealed Weapon Carry Movement (and the Failure of Its Opponents)

I’ve previously written two posts on the history of concealed weapons laws in the United States based on Brian Anse Patrick’s book, Rise of the Anti-Media: In-Forming America’s Concealed Weapon Carry Movement. In the first post, I noted that this book was “unfortunately named.” The main title suggests a focus on “anti-media” and the subtitle uses an unfamiliar formulation, “in-forming.” But the most interesting parts of the book are a history of the concealed carry movement, especially the rise of shall-issue concealed carry laws, which a lot of people who are potentially interested would never see due to the title.

Rise of the Anti-Media Book Cover

Attending a film screening and discussion on gun violence recently moved me to revisit Patrick’s work on this topic. In the post-film discussion, a local representative from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA) talked about their legislative strategy to fight the NRA. She gave the examples of a Connecticut legislator post-Sandy Hook who received hundreds of calls against further gun control and only a handful of calls in favor. So, MDA – and now Everytown for Gun Safety – has taken to the grassroots to fight legislative fire with fire.

So, even though the NRA was criticized for being funded by the gun industry and not its members and for advocating policy positions not in line with its members, at the end of the day when the NRA Institute for Legislative Action says “jump,” a certain portion of the membership says “how high?” At the same time, we don’t want to naively conclude that just because the NRA is pro-gun and the concealed carry legislation is pro-gun, that the one causes the other.

In light of this discussion about the NRAs lobbying power, I went back to Patrick’s book to look at his explanations for the success of the concealed carry movement in pressing for shall-issue carry laws in the United States, arguably the greatest liberalization of gun laws in the history of the country.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of



Patrick offers 4 major explanations for the success of the concealed weapon carry movement:

(1) The use of what he calls the “anti-media.” Proponents of concealed carry bypass the traditional news media and use horizontal media and communication strategies instead. The diffusion of shall-issue concealed carry and of the World Wide Web from the 1990s on is not a mere coincidence by this argument.


(2) Gun culture is stronger than anti-gun culture. In his words, “gun culture is more robustly concrete-organic, if you will, than anti-gun culture” (p. xvi). He elaborates, “saying that American gun culture is organic means it is a true group, or set of true groups, with members quite often in direct interpersonal contact with one another, and the association is based largely on mutual interests in guns and gun politics” (pp. xvi-xvii).

Anti-gun groups, by contrast, are more purposive and issue-oriented, the members don’t have relationships beyond their advocacy, and there are no behavioral correlates to it. In this sense, anti-gun culture is not really even a culture. It is a collection of people with a common attitude toward guns. Hence, the mobilization problem historically faced by gun control advocates.

Patrick characterizes the groups that constitute the new gun culture as “horizontal interpretive communities,” which are “relatively small groups of people connected to one another as equals, practicing the living democracy of the small group” (p. 63), which is facilitated by anti-media. “Modern anti-gun advocates,” by contrast, “have functioned mainly as professionally administered vertical bureaucracies, sometimes temporarily exciting mass attitudes or simulating mass support, but essentially lacking meaningful horizontal mobilization” (p. 64).

This is not just Patrick being critical of the anti-gun movement, either. The MDA representative’s comments noted above affirm that this is a challenge they are trying to address.

(3) A bridge to Gun Culture 2.0. In addition to being rooted in gun culture, the concealed carry movement has been seen and used as a mechanism of recruitment of new members into gun culture. Patrick describes these people as “previously unavailable or unaligned with the traditional gun culture. While traditional gun culture has tended to replicate through generations — the sons and daughters of gun owners and shooters carry on its practices and beliefs — the concealed carry movement represents something new and different. It propagates. Many women, minorities, and professionals, a collection of persons with no direct ties to any family tradition of gun ownership, have come into the fold of shall issue concealed carry” (p. xvii). Here we see both the distinction and connection between Gun Culture 1.0 and Gun Culture 2.0.

(4) Last, and most broadly, Patrick argues that the concealed carry movement represents a successful new social construction of reality. Specifically, the social construction of the reality that owning and carrying a personal sidearm is an individual, not a collective, right (p. xviii). This reality motivates the political involvement of pro-gun communities, and also becomes a reality against which anti-gun culture must fight.


To return to my thought at the outset: it is interesting to note that none of Patrick’s explanations for the rise of shall-issue concealed carry center on the importance of the National Rifle Association. In fact, he argues that the diffusion of concealed carry was the result of a bottom-up social movement not a centrally coordinated effort.

Because shall-issue concealed carry is enacted at the state level, the movement became more organized at the state level, in the form of groups like the United Sportsmen of Florida, Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, Buckeye Firearms Association, the CalGuns Foundation, Grass Roots North Carolina, and so on. In fact, in many places state and local gun activists have been none too pleased at the NRA coming in and claiming credit for the victories they won at the state level. Patrick observes, when the Florida shall-issue law was signed by Bob Martinez, “there was no fanfare over a great gun movement victory. … If anyone at the NRA headquarters understood what was happening, they certainly weren’t officially talking about it” (p. 83).


19 thoughts on “Explaining the Success of the Concealed Weapon Carry Movement (and the Failure of Its Opponents)

  1. Let me offer another thought on “gun culture”.
    It used to be that most High Schools in the USA had shooting ranges or access to shooting ranges. Students could bring their own guns to school to participate in marksmanship courses. They carried their rifles on the New York subways, on the school buses and kept them in their lockers.
    Students were taught adult responsibility with firearms. They were taught safe handling, mature behavior and were inculcated with a Gun Culture that made them into the sorts of children who could carry guns around without causing undue concern in others.This extended to their adult lives as well.
    Now, if a child were to carry a rifle to school just about anywhere in the USA, the predictable response would be sheer terror in much of the teaching staff, calls to police, SWAT teams arriving, a school lock-down, arrest and punishment of the student. Many school teachers today seem to lack the maturity that the CHILDREN had just a few decades ago. When immature, cowardly sorts impose their fears upon our children, the outcome is predictably a deterioration of the level of maturity in society.
    I submit to you that what has been lost is the Gun Culture and accompanying Maturity that once made our society sane and safe with firearms, even in the hands of children. In schools.
    Concealed Carry is proven to reduce violent crime, though it does obligate one to develop a skill set. I’m a big advocate of training and want everyone carrying a firearm for self defense to develop the skills to effectively do so while minimizing the risk to others. Find a local trainer at:
    And as we are improving societal safety by expanding concealed carry, let’s see what we can do about restoring our Gun Culture as well. It begins at home. Schools are also critically important to teaching it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment. Many people who are younger or not familiar with guns personally/historically — myself included — have no idea how common it was for people to have long guns in and around schools (and other public places) not so long ago. My wife regularly talks about the hunting rifles/shotguns in her high school classmates’ cars in the school parking lot back in the 1980s. And up until 1968 people used to be able to buy long guns by mail order?!?!

      Also, I think about the number of firearms-related deaths for juveniles declining from 392 in 1993 to 83 in 2009 (Table provided here: This says to me that most gun-owners are practicing (and hopefully teaching) safe behavior with their firearms, and initiatives like the NRA’s Eddie Eagle Program might make a good situation even better.

      Both of these thoughts highlight the fact that we don’t really have a gun problem in America, we have some very serious social problems that manifest themselves in violence and that violence is often enacted with guns.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. a successful new social construction of reality. Could you tell me exactly what this “new reality” is? I carry my wallet and keys in my pocket because I need my credit cards, driver’s license, etc. That’s a reality. What reality is being fulfilled by carrying a gun? Does the author explain that? Can you? I await your response.


    • Sorry for the delayed response to this. I believe Patrick’s argument is that the concealed carry movement both reflects and fosters a new reality — for some in our society, not all, to be sure — that owning and carrying firearms is an individual, not a collective right (tied to militia service). I would guess that if we studied people’s ideas about this over the course of history, this notion of the individual right is relatively now. Hence, I think Patrick’s argument that this is a new social construction makes some sense.


  3. I was actually going to read Patrick’s book in a couple of weeks when I write a chapter for my next book on John Lott but I downloaded it last night and began looking at it. I’ll hold off most of my comments until I finish it but in the early pages I noticed two statements that I wanted to bring to your attention:

    “As the U.S. Constitution is now being interpreted by the Supreme Court and other Federal and state level courts, the people, as individuals, have the right to keep and bear arms in the form of concealed weapons inside and outside of their homes, for their own protection.”

    That statement is simply not true. Or to put it more concisely, it is false. The 2008 Heller decision explicitly states that the 2nd Amendment gives citizens the “right” to own and keep a gun in their home. These aren’t my words or my interpretation, this is a direct quote from Scalia. Since 2008 there have been 4 appellate decisions and 1 district decision in the Federal court system as to whether the 2nd Amendment should be extended to CCW; 3 of the 4 appellate courts said no, as did the district court; the SCOTUS has refused to hear any of these cases. If the dopes who walked around Target with their assault rifles want to believe that the Constitution “guarantees” them the “right” to behave in that way, fine. But a University professor like Patrick should know better and should stop promoting such bullshit.

    “They [mainstream media] still decry licensed Concealed Carry despite incontrovertible empirical data gathered by the state-level agencies, data that clearly support it;”

    I notice that this statement does not carry a footnote or a source. Know why? Because it isn’t true. There is no ‘incontrovertible” evidence that demonstrates any social utility for CCW. Don’t get me wrong. There’s also no incontrovertible evidence that proves otherwise. And the reason is very simple; because nobody has ever done a study to determine how many people really re walking around carrying a gun. That is, nobody except me. And unless you really can determine the size of the CCW population, not the number of licenses but the actual number of people, any attempt to create a representative sample of people to interview is an exercise in futility, if not stupidity.

    I’ve read about 1/3 of Patrick’s book and for all his reference to Aristotelian logic, etc., I’m afraid that it’s turning out to be just another bromide for the gun lobby. But I’ll hold off until I finish it before saying anything further. So far I’m not impressed.


    • There is substantial evidence supporting the social benefit of widespread CCW issuance. That is why nearly all US States have adopted “shall issue” policies for concealed weapons permits – the evidence is overwhelmingly positive. As more and more people carry guns around in public, violent crime declines. One need not be a genius to understand the cause and effect in play here.
      A terrific reduction in violent crime came after the massive gun-buying spree of 2008. It has dropped by 15% since then.
      Not per capita violent crime, I’m talking about the raw number of offenses. This information is freely available on the FBI website.
      Real world experience shows that guns “on the streets” reduces violent crime. Why? Criminals have explained this again and again in prison interviews. The one thing they fear most is the likelihood that the man or woman they are about to assault is going to pull a gun and shoot them.
      That’s why they flock to places like Chicago.
      Those predatory criminals who DO have such an experience often don’t live to commit more violent crimes or they have an epiphany and decide it’s not worth the risk to try kicking in someone’s door again. It’s a matter of “gun violence” being a benefit to the law-abiding Citizens.
      …. During 2008, with national gun sales rising dramatically, the national murder rate declined by 7.4% along with other categories of crime which fell by significant percentages (FBI). 450,000 more people bought guns in November 2008 than November 2007 which represents a 40% increase in sales. The drop in the murder rate was the biggest one-year drop since 1999, when gun sales soared in the wake of increased calls for gun control after the Columbine shooting and the Y2K scare. From 2008 to 2012, violent crime including murder declined by 15%.


      • Guntrainers – Thanks for taking time to comment on this post. It is hard not to notice the dramatic expansion in shall-issue concealed carry from 1986 on, and the decline in homicide from 1993 or so on. I wasn’t aware of the dramatic increase in gun sales during 2008, but know that homicide rates continued to decline from there forward. These things do seem to go together. The challenge is trying to determine if there is a CAUSAL relationship between one and the other. That is methodologically very difficult to do, as we see in the back and forth between John Lott and his critics. There has been a long-term trend toward a decline in violence — discussed by Steven Pinker in his book *The Better Angels of Our Nature* — and so homicide rates might have declined after the crack induced rise through the 1980s even without an increase in the number of guns/carry. The more specific connections you mention — lost of gun sales in 2008 and a big drop in the murder rate that year — suggest a more tight connection. But for me, at least, the jury is still own on the causal argument. I am convinced, however, that an increase in the number of guns owned by law abiding citizens and an expansion of the right-to-carry them for self-defense in public does not clearly and consistently cause an INCREASE in homicide. But do I do have much more to learn and I appreciate your contribution to the discussion here.


    • Mike – Thanks for the comment and apologies for delayed response. To your second point first: I agree there is no incontrovertible empirical data that establish a clear and consistent causal link between concealed carry and crime. For a multitude of political and methodological reasons, I don’t think there will ever be.

      There has actually been at least one study that I know of that did attempt to figure out how many people carry guns for protection, a paper published by Kleck and Gertz in 1998 in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency ( I know there is alot of dispute about the Kleck-Gertz estimate of defensive gun USES, but I have not seen any criticism of their estimates of defensive gun CARRY (though there may be). They estimate that in the preceding year, about 3.7 percent of American adults carried a gun on their person. (If you can’t access the paper, let me know and I can help.) I can’t look at the paper right now, but there is also a more recent paper by Felson and Pare that looks at weapon carrying using a different dataset than Kleck and Gertz (2010 Social Forces article:

      To your first point, I am not a major court watcher, so I will see whether Professor Patrick might want to respond to this criticism.


      • I am intrigued by studies that attempt to determine rates of gun ownership, gun carry, etc. They have a serious flaw in that they depend upon respondents’ answers to be accurate.
        Question: Do you carry a gun on your person regularly?
        Respondents may do so even when the laws forbid it. I have encountered many such persons, especially in California. Or, the respondent may be a prohibited person. Or, the respondent may simply be concerned about being listed in a government database or publicly exposed.
        As a result of blatant political targeting of gun owners, such studies tend to drastically underestimate the actual number of people carrying guns, the number with guns in their homes, the number of guns in the home, etc.


      • Guntrainers – It is becoming harder and harder to do any sort of representative polling, especially on an issue like gun ownership and carry. So, I agree that this method is likely to undercount the frequency of both. Of note, however, is that Kleck-Gertz estimated 3.7 percent of American adults carried a gun on their person back in the mid-1990s. Since shall-issue concealed carry was not as common as it is today, certainly fewer than 3.7 percent of American adults had licenses to carry then, so it would seem that some part of that 3.7 percent were not carrying “legally” (i.e., with a license).

        This reminds me of a story that Tom Givens told once about police officers in Memphis pulling people over and not asking IF the person had a gun in the vehicle but WHERE the gun was. He estimated 40% of the time there was a gun in the car. Back in the 1970s.

        Bottom line is you always have to scrutinize the methods and not accept any statistic at face value. Point well taken.


  4. We can hope & pray that the “gun culture” that reflects our agenda & opinions will do so in a positive manner. I can’t say I am all warm n fuzzy over much of the pro gun agenda I see these days. Some of the OC stuff that has & is taking place doesn’t exactly paint a stellar reputation of pro gun folks.
    While the Internet has positive aspects, it has become an outlet for all manner of YouTube experts who in my opinion do more damage than anything else.
    As for point #2 : (2) Gun culture is stronger than anti-gun culture…… I “somewhat” tend to be skeptical. I submit that these anti gun cultures have more strength than we may care to realize, or admit to. With people like Bloomberg on their side pouring millions into anti gun campaigns,,, who knows what lays around the bend. While it “appears” at this time pro gun is stronger than anti gun, I see a danger in becoming too complacent to anti gun cultures. But much larger than Bloomberg, the antis have Big Brother on their side. Oh we may talk big,,,” I will this and that”,,,,, but when it comes doing time, it may be a horse of a different color.
    Erosion often happens slowwwwwllllyyyy folks.


    • Ron – Thanks for this comment. It is interesting to think about whether a huge influx of money can foster a grass-roots culture of gun control, or whether Brian Anse Patrick’s argument for why gun culture is stronger (in terms of being FOR something and “organic”) is more enduring. The “anti-media” that Patrick describes (which now includes a vast social media) is as robust as ever, but is also something at the disposal of both sides. And money can definitely buy social media influence — again, whether that translates into grass-roots mobilization as a culture is an open question.

      One consideration is this equation is whether what people call “Gun Culture 2.0” is going to be politically active or not. If Gun Culture 2.0 is more diverse in background and ideology than Gun Culture 1.0, then it may not have the political focus or will to fight the gun battle that the earlier gun culture did.

      I guess in the end I think of Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”


      • Gun culture is already at a powerful disadvantage, due to the politically controlled media as well as focused attacks on anyone promoting the benefits of firearms. With their power of control, they have banned firearm commercials from television and other media. News anchors will not talk about positive use of firearms by regular Citizens.
        Money does not matter much when top-down control prevents its effective use to freely speak on a matter.
        Notice how many political acts today are to prevent one group or another from spending its money on defending its own point of view (political speech).
        And, notice that money cannot stop States like California from progressively eliminating firearms Rights, violating the US Constitution. By eradicating Americans’ ability to arm themselves to defend their very lives, California is eradicating the “gun culture” that has been of great benefit in other States.
        Need we even mention the horrific consequences of “gun control” in Chicago?
        Political power trumps money.


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  6. I honestly don’t even know any more whether the lion’s share of my financial commitment to the gun lobby (membership dues, PAC contributions) is a product of my belief that *regardless of the original intent of the Constitution*, people have an individual right to possess the means of self-defense, or whether, at this point, it is pure spite.

    There was probably a time I could have an interesting conversation about this topic with an anti-gunner, but the same thing which has made polling unreliable (as per how many people actually own or carry weapons), and the same thing which has led to a polarized fight where our side is not going to give even an inch of compromise, is a huge component of why I reliably donate and keep my memberships up-to-date: I really just dislike the opposition on a visceral level and enjoy it when they lose. I especially like the sputtering disbelief of coastal liberals who can’t seem to process that they’re losing to the inbred rednecks and frothing reactionaries they imagine the whole of the pro-gun side is.

    One of the recent tactics of anti-gunners is to assert that gun proliferation is actually dropping and that a smaller number of people are owning larger numbers of weapons. Whether true or not, I cannot say (though I suspect it’s not nearly as true as they indicate: I would never, ever admit to owning firearms if someone called my home to poll me).

    What’s curious here is why this should matter to anyone. I’m not sure what it is I’m supposed to take away from this, even if true. All it says to me is, if true, I really need to take more people shooting.

    Or is the point to somehow make me feel marginal because “other people” aren’t doing what I’m doing. And, taking into account the individualist orientation of many of us in the gun movement, it is indicative how little the other side understands us. If I’m the last guy with a gun on earth, so be it. Does this sort of logic work in anti-gun social circles? “No one is doing that anymore, so you’re uncool if you do it?” You could not use a worse argument to persuade a movement who largely thrives on being out of step with what they perceive to be the liberal zeitgeist.

    Or is this targeted to people who don’t own guns, but are on the fence? I can’t tell.

    What becomes clear to those of us who listen to the other side (lurk in their forums, get their mailings), is how little effort they’ve spent understanding us. Apparently, their strategy largely amounts to portraying us as paranoid and scared (an ironic position from our standpoint), or crazy. Either they’re interested in winning us over and are terrible at it, or they have some other motive. Just in terms of pure propaganda and persuasion, the anti-gun crowd is terrible at it.

    But that’s not just my opinion: look at how badly they’ve lost.

    At this point, I dislike them enough that even were I to agree with them on some minor point, I’d probably argue against them anyway.

    The feeling may well be mutual; but that is unimportant. What we’re doing works. What they’re doing doesn’t.

    I can only pray they keep doing exactly the same thing they’ve been doing. Draft Hollywood. Get wealthy Hollywood liberals who work on security-intensive sets in wealthy patrolled communities often with private armed security to make propaganda videos.

    Don’t research firearms or learn proper terminology. Incidents like the “thing that goes up” bit with Carolyn McCarthy are adorable.

    Most of all, keep rich guys with private security teams like Bloomberg at the head of the movement. Better yet, keep rich guys with private security teams who support racial profiling and a war on soft drinks as the head of the movement.

    If I were to try to launch an impotent social movement, I could not do better than the current anti-gun movement. Let’s hope they don’t get smart and switch directions.


    • I do believe that people who own guns today own more guns than they used to own. I don’t have any evidence for that — it may exist, I just have not looked. But there is good reason to believe it is true. Just like people own more phones, TVs, computers, etc. All commodities.

      I also think it MAY be true that a smaller proportion of the American population has guns in their households, given some significant changes in the composition of households today (especially the rise of female headed single parent households — see Richard Legault’s book on “Trends in American Gun Ownership”).

      But even if that is true, even the low estimates of household gun ownership rates (33%) mean ALOT of homes have guns. As big and diverse as the United States is, that is alot. If 33% of households owned tennis rackets or golf clubs, the United States Tennis Association and United States Golf Association would be ecstatic. If 33% of households had baseball bats or treadmills. And so on.


  7. Pingback: Brian Anse Patrick, R.I.P. | Gun Culture 2.0

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