Rural areas lead in concealed weapons permit rates

Posted July 12, 2012
Updated October 1, 2013

Pro-gun measures moving through legislature

Editor's Note: Effective Oct. 1, 2013, North Carolina state law requires that county sheriffs keep confidential the list of those who apply for and are granted permits to carry a concealed weapon.

In the spirit of that law, and because the law would preclude the ability to keep any data on concealed carry permits current, WRAL has removed removed data related to concealed handgun permits from this page.

Charles Elrod knows handguns can make some people nervous.  

"We get women who are terrified, who come in and say, 'My husband said I need to learn to shoot this,'" Elrod said, demonstrating how some first-time shooters hold a gun by its butt end between his thumb and index finger. 

Elrod sells and repairs guns at the Bear Creek Gun Shop, tucked inside NC Hunter Supply on Millbrook Road in Raleigh. Along with his wife, he also teaches gun safety classes. Among the couple's most popular is the class required for those who want a concealed weapons permit to stow a handgun in their purse or under a suit coat.

Roughly 3 percent of North Carolina's 9.6 million residents hold a concealed weapons permit, a number that is small but on the rise. Elrod said that he teaches classes to a variety of people, including soldiers who want to be able to carry in civilian life, crime victims who want to feel more secure and, increasingly, senior citizens.

"Some of them say it's the criminal element," said Peggy Elrod, Charles' wife and co-instructor.

The Elrods' class is typical of similar classes around the state. It involves a day-long or two evening classroom sessions as well as time spent qualifying on a gun range. State law requires that those who want to qualify hit the target 28 out of 40 shots fired. 

"We tell each of them, 'We hope you never, ever have to do this,'" Charles Elrod said. "But in the event you do, we've got to be certain you can hit that bullseye and not hit anyone else, because if you hit bystanders you're in trouble."

Unsurprisingly, the greatest number of concealed weapons permit holders is in the state's most populous counties. Wake County was home to 19,144 concealed weapon permit holders as of June, according to a database maintained by the N.C. Department of Justice.

But in terms of the per capita rate, residents in rural and western counties are much more likely to hold such permits. Wake County ranks 89th in terms of permit holders per capita. Durham County ranks 100th out of 100 counties. 

By contrast, more than 6 percent of the residents of Cherokee County in the far western portion of the state have a permit and all of the top 10 counties in per capita ranking are from counties west of Charlotte. 

"These people are fiercely independent out here," said Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, who represents six of the counties where residents are most likely to hold concealed weapons permits, including Cherokee. Some of that, he said, has to do with a rural culture that includes hunting and a certain level of comfort with guns.

In 2011, the General Assembly expanded the places where concealed weapons permit holders can take their guns – including state parks – and put the "Castle Doctrine" into law, which presumes gun owners acted correctly in self-defense if they shoot someone invading their home or car. 

While gun-rights advocates hailed that bill as a victory, they sought more rights from lawmakers this year. One bill that failed would have removed a prohibition on permit holders carrying guns into restaurants where alcohol is served as long as the individual with the gun did not drink. That measure cleared the House but did not pass the Senate.

"My default position is that people ought to have the right to carry wherever they have the right to lawfully be," Davis said. But he said police and sheriffs raised questions about the restaurant carry law. "I don't think the statistics back them up on this, but I do understand my law enforcement people's concerns." 

Senate leaders have said they plan to revisit the restaurant carry measure next year. Republicans, who controlled the legislature this year, say that permit holders are largely law-abiding citizens who go out of their way to get training and testing that someone with bad intentions would not. 

But Gail Neely, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, argues that training isn't enough.

"I think if they want to carry outside of their home, they should have more training," she said, arguing that permit holders should have to renew their license every two years rather than every five, and that the renewal should include a re-test of their proficiency in firing a weapon. 

While sheriffs can require someone to re-take their concealed weapons test to renew a permit, few do so, say instructors and others knowledgeable about the process. 

"We're not afraid they'll all turn into criminals," Neely said, although she does point to reports that suggest concealed weapons permit holders aren't as law-abiding as they are reputed to be. Rather, she worries about the unintended consequences of having more guns around. For example, rates of successful suicide are higher in areas with higher rates of gun ownership, she said. 

Neely said police officers are highly trained to make life and death decisions. Those who want to take a similar responsibility on themselves should have to prove they're up to the task.

Charles Elrod said that the training he offers is rigorous and focused on safety. Asked what changes he would like to see to the concealed weapons permit laws, Elrod said he'd like North Carolina to make it easier for residents who move here from elsewhere to have permits from other states recognized.

"It really taxes people to have to go through this whole thing again," he said. 

Figuring he's trained somewhere around 500 people in his concealed weapons class over the past five years or so, Elrod said people should be able to make the choice to look after themselves.   

"It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it," Elrod said. 


This story is closed for comments.

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  • ainkpen Jul 27, 2012

    As a life-long gun owner, collector, target shooter and hunter, I am ashamed of the reaction to this story. A free press is as essential to democracy as the right to bear arms. This is public information, do not make personal attacks on these journalists. All you are doing is making the "gun community" look juvenile and petulant. Rights come with responsibility.

  • dick4sanchez Jul 26, 2012

    So WRAL is now just an arm of the Democratic party.

  • JustBeReal Jul 26, 2012

    ITS PUBLIC INFO...????
    OK well so isnt the information about the reporter
    All avaialble thru real estate records...do you think he wants all this information published about him. You can get photo of his house, floor plan, etc at this link:

    It may be public info, but lets not be stupid.
    WRAL...lets use some common sense here!!!!

  • dick4sanchez Jul 26, 2012

    I wonder how much Gail Neely knows about gun education and the CCH training...those that make comments like she did are frequently uninformed.

  • marcabagwell Jul 26, 2012

    What do you expect. WRAL always leans to the liberal side. They wrap the Conxtitution around themselves as a shield when confronted as a protection against the lack of common sense, but only the parts they agree with.

  • marcabagwell Jul 26, 2012

    ErTWeGoodEryE HaWyhy is it that everytime WRAL shows it's liberal slant (in my opinion) so many people seem surprised?

    Gun control (or rights denial) is a favorite subject for those of the "No guns equals no killing" mind set. Just as taking more money (in the form of higher taxes) from those who have earned it through hard work and sacrifice in taxes and giving it to those who mostly won't work hard and sacrifice, even for their own families. Or the attitude that if someone breaks the law by sneaking into this country we shouldn't demand they leave because the country they came from has too much crime or not enough jobs, or will have to leave their illegal family members behind.

    WRAL is a liberal leaning news organazation and when confronted wraps their poor decisions in the Constitution, but only the parts they agree with. Go figure! Just like our current leadership in Washington only enforces the laws that Obama thinks are ok. In November we can fix some of that by voting. As far

  • RandolphBloke Jul 25, 2012

    Stop complaining people. It's public info that was already available.

  • gothVanhellsing Jul 25, 2012

    Did it ever dawn on anyone who had a part in writing this story and publishing this database you just gave criminals a searchable database on what houses/people not to rob?

  • InTheNo Jul 25, 2012

    Wake C DANIELS ST RALEIGH 27605 2/14/2009 2/12/2014

    It looks like WRAL has done something they said they would not do. There is an Apartment number shown above. Who made this mistake? Will there be any consequences? Someone hurt? A correction? Someone sued?

  • raleighindependent Jul 25, 2012

    I can tell most of the posters are people for the gun group mentioned in the paper. You cant bully me, I am PRO gun control and proud.