Concealed carry rises again nationally; how does Oregon shape up?

Special Reports

Local concealed carry instructors say they see a "whole cross section of society" getting licensed

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More people are getting their concealed handgun license, and the Pacific Northwest is no exception. The pro-gun Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) is making headlines by stating the number of concealed handgun permits has increased for the third year in a row, to more than 18.66 million.

The newly released study won’t surprise Bryan Mumford, CEO and lead instructor at PDX Arsenal. He said he has helped more than 13,500 Oregonians get their CHL in less than a decade. 

According to data from Oregon State Police, there were 276,327 valid concealed handgun licenses in the state as of May 2019. The CPRC data shows that number was 261,155 in February of the previous year. Washington showed even greater growth, from 583,001 active permits in 2018 to 627,483 in 2019.

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Mumford, who sports a “We the People” tattoo on his left arm, said he grew up around guns and took the class to qualify for a CHL when he was 19. Then as soon as he turned 21, he could “go get it, sort of like a rite of passage.”

Being a “huge advocate of the Second Amendment and firearms in general,” coupled with his desire to “stay safe” and “educate other people” sparked his interest in teaching.

“I’d say (the number of students) has been fairly consistently growing over this nine-year period,” Mumford said. “The one thing I was kind of taken aback by and surprised and I love to see is how equal my statistics are between male and female students.”

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Bryan Mumford says he has helped more than 13,500 Oregonians complete their CHL requirements in less than a decade (Hannah Ray Lambert)

According to the CPRC study, women made up only 26.5% of permit holders in the states that provide gender data. However, the number of females getting their CHL is growing faster than their male counterparts. Between 2005 and 2014 in Washington, the growth rate for women was twice as fast as that of men, according to the study.

“We see a whole cross section of society in here,” said James Zagar, another instructor at PDX Arsenal. 

Zagar added that people get their CHL for a wide variety of reasons.

“Whether it’s just the fact that you know it’s a Constitutional right, to … an older person that’s at home a lot on their own and wanna make sure they’re protected, to somebody that’s just like, ‘Man crazy stuff happens on a random basis,’” he said. “Chances are it won’t happen, but you know you don’t want to be in a victim position and not have an ability to respond to a situation like that if it arises.”

A 2015 study in the American Journal of Public Health estimated “9 million U.S. adult handgun owners carry loaded handguns monthly, 3 million do so every day, and most report protection as the main carrying reason.”

Oregon’s CHL requirements are less stringent than in some states: You do have to pass a background check, get fingerprinted, and take a class with a certified instructor. Those classes focus on safety and laws. However, you don’t ever have to touch a gun before getting your Oregon license. Compare that to Texas, where you have to take the class, “pass a written examination and pass a proficiency demonstration (shooting).”

Texas’ standards may be more popular with the nation as a whole.

According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, a survey conducted in 2017 found that 83% of gun owners agreed “… that a person who can legally carry a concealed gun should be required to pass a test demonstrating they can safely and lawfully handle a gun in common situations they might encounter.” The center reported that, among everyone surveyed, there was little difference in opinion among Democrats and Republicans.

What the data looks like in Oregon

According to data from Oregon State Police, Clackamas County had the greatest overall number of active licenses (29,362) as of May 2019. Multnomah County was a close second, even though its overall population is nearly 400,000 people greater.

The data for Multnomah and Marion counties doesn’t quite align with the national upward trend cited by CPRC, however both counties did see growth up through 2017.

For Mumford, the increase in popularity of concealed carry seems to come at the same time as the rise in political rhetoric. “Everyone’s got their own opinions on guns and it’s such a politically divisive topic now,” he said. “You know, every future U.S. president candidate’s talking about it right now. It’s interesting.”

On Friday, KOIN 6 will have the story of a unique local facility that’s bridging the gap between book knowledge and hands-on training. Find it in the Special Reports section.

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