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Is Concealed Carry Worth It? The Answer...Is Complex

You might wonder "is concealed carry worth it" and...well, the answer is complicated, depending on exactly how you mean "worth it."

In the most simplistic terms, having a gun and a concealed carry holster is about as "worth it" as a fire extinguisher...

...but it isn't that simple.

If you're wondering whether it's worth the hassle to bother with getting a permit, the carry gear and toting the gun around, we're going to try to give you a serious answer.

The short answer is that the odds you'll need it are generally low, but if you find yourself in the situation where you do...it may be the only thing that can save your life.

With that said, let's talk about what makes something "worth it" or not.

Is Concealed Carry Worth It? Depends On What You Mean…

Before we get into a real answer, we need to talk about what people mean by "is concealed carry worth it.

What do you MEAN by "worth it?"

Without getting into Psych and Econ 101 simultaneously (well...we're going to a bit) there are two different ways at looking at it. You have an emotional incentive and you have a mathematical incentive.

The emotional incentive is how carrying a gun makes you feel. Does it make you feel good, safer and so on. So you have to decide if carrying makes a difference to you as far as that goes.

The mathematical incentive is the odds that you'll need to use it. In other words, the risk that you'll be faced with violent crime and therefore (god forbid) have to actually USE your gun? What is the probability that I'd ever need a gun on me?

What we are going to deal in here is the latter. Guns don't make you safe; they give you a means to confront danger, so we can to some extent generalize about how much of it is out there.

Again, we aren't psychologists. All sorts of people feel all sorts of things for different reasons, and only a garbage-tier human marginalizes others' feelings without being in their shoes.

So we can't comment on what you feel about carrying a gun or how they make you feel. What we CAN explore is what kind of risks exist and therefore make a case for concealed carry based on what happens in the real world.

Why Concealed Carry Is The Only Solution To Danger In Some Instances

To give a bit of context, here's the thing about concealed carry that makes it different from any other risk management tool:

A concealed pistol is a solution to a specific type of problem that most people rarely, if ever, encounter on a per capita basis. However, if one DOES encounter it...it's one of the only truly effective tools to solve that problem.

Police cannot get to you in time, unless one happens to be right there. They can only arrive after the fact. You may not be able to count on other people in the area either.

In other words, a concealed carry gun is worthless until it's not...but when it's not, it's almost the only thing that will work.

The old saw is "it's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it!" It's not wrong.

So, with that said, let's address the mathematical risk. Buckle up, because this is going to get a little complex.

Odds Of Needing A Concealed Carry Gun...Are Complicated

Your odds of needing a concealed carry gun...well, they get a bit complicated.

If we were to try and come up with a per capita risk...you'd have a very incomplete picture about crime in the United States. There are 328 million inhabitants, and per the FBI's 2019 crime data (the latest available), there were 1.204 million violent crimes.

That's less than 0.5 violent crimes per capita, meaning your overall risk of being a victim of violent crime - per our back-of-the-envelope math - is <0.5 percent. On that basis, the chances you'll need a concealed carry gun is <0.5 percent.

But that isn't the whole story, is it?

What's also known is that the presence of a gun can stop a crime in its tracks or keep it from starting.

The archetype of the story is a person pulls a gun on someone who is about to mug them, stopping the violent crime in progress without a shot being fired. The problem there is that most of those incidents go unreported, so it's impossible to know how common they are.

This type of incident is understood to be far and away more common than actual self-defense shootings.

Even the CDC estimates that up to 2 million defensive gun uses occur per year.

Let's even take this a step further. Let's say that the total number of known and unknown defensive gun uses per year add up to about 3 million instances where a gun is used in self-defense.

That still only brings the odds you'll need a gun to about 1 percent on a per capita basis.

But…

...that still isn't the whole story.

Risk Depends On Vicinity

Violent crime occurs everywhere, but more happens in some places compared to others. Therefore, a realistic picture of your risk depends on where you are.

Think of it this way: you have a certain risk of being in a car crash. However, your odds of being in a car accident is literally 0 if your car is parked in the garage and you're inside your house. Your odds go dramatically up once you're driving!

So let's get a little more specific.

This image is a picture of all crimes committed from Nov. 2020 to Feb. 2021 in Spokane, Wash., the nearest large metro area to Alien Gear Holsters. We're located in Post Falls, Idaho, about 25 miles east.

The map is provided through the Spokane County Sheriff's Office Regional Crime Map. Non-violent crimes (ie property crimes) are filtered out, so what you're seeing is assault, sexual assault, robberies and homicides.

Without completely explaining the entire region, the map shows you that crime in that city is concentrated mostly around the main roads (highways, Spokane's main arterials of Division, Maple, Monroe and others) working class neighborhoods with higher population density and the downtown area.

The bottom of the map is the upper South Hill area, referred to locally as "Snob's Knob." The northern and eastern edges are urban-rural interchange where civilization (and population) thin out. Crime is rare in those areas.

For context, Spokane...is a little rough. Violent and property crimes are higher than the national average.

In fact, Spokane crime rates are about double the national average for violent crime, and about 4 times the rate of the national average of property crime per the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

However, what you can see on the map is that there is clearly more concentration in some areas than others, especially in the downtown area, and that's the concept here. Crime rates, risk, etc., are localized; there's economy of scale, so to speak.

In other words, if you're in downtown Spokane, there's a higher chance that you might need a concealed carry gun. If you're, say, further up north, it's much lower, and this same phenomenon exists basically everywhere. Let's look at a different city.

This is a heat map of crime in Chicago, IL, often used as an exemplar of crime-ridden cities. Worse still, they believe casseroles are pizza and that the Chicago Bears are a football team, despite all evidence to the contrary. The map is from the real estate site Trulia, using data from SpotCrime and other sources.

As you can see from the map, some areas are hotspots. About a mile south of the highlighted Lake View neighborhood is Lincoln Park, a hotspot of crime in that city. The large cluster of hotspots to the southwest of Lake View is Oak Park, another high-crime area in Chicago.

At the bottom southeast corner of the map is the South Side of Chicago, long considered to be the baddest part of town. And if you go down there, you'd better beware of a man nam...nevermind.

While the Second City is often portrayed as being one of the most dangerous places in America, the truth according to data (rather than sentiment) is that PARTS of Chicago are very dangerous indeed, but others are as just as safe as some idyllic small town in corn country or what have you.

So, your relative risk of needing a concealed carry gun? It's impossible for us to give you a number on it, because it has everything to do with where you are. In some places it's minimal, if not next to nothing. In some places...there is a real chance of violent crime happening.

The Hassles Of Concealed Carry

Let's also acknowledge a few things about concealed carry.

It can be a bit of a hassle! You have to go through this ceremony every day or every time you leave the house putting the gun on (granted, that's why some people like paddle holsters) you have to wear extra stuff which can be a bit of a pain.

A gun is kind of expensive, you have to buy all this gear, you may have to get some concealed carry clothing you have to feed it ammo and train with it so you know what you're doing...it's a commitment!

And then what if your holster isn't comfortable? Uncomfortable holsters cause a lot of people to stop carrying or to do so less often, which completely defeats the purpose.

This is also why slim, light compact and subcompact pistols are so popular for this purpose. Toting a 1911 or a Glock 17 isn't the hardest thing in the world if you have the right holster, but it can get annoying; you may eventually look for reasons not to.

It's a commitment to carry every day, so that's something to think about before you start.

You Have To Decide If Concealed Carry Is Worth It For You

So, is concealed carry worth it?

That really depends on you. For a lot of people, it is. For some people, it's not.

In terms of a concealed carry gun as a risk management tool - just like a fire extinguisher or car insurance - what we can infer from real-world information about violent crime is that your overall risk of being a victim of it is low, but that risk can be lower or higher compared to where you are.

What we also know is that IF a real threat to life and limb emerges, a concealed carry gun in practiced hands is one of the few things that can (and has and does) save lives. Waiting for police will not save you. Running may not save you. Pepper spray may not save you.

In the right circumstances, having a gun may be the only thing that can keep you alive.

It becomes, therefore, a balancing between the inconvenience that choosing to carry a gun imposes (expense, hassle, etc.) and the steep potential downside (ie you might wind up dead) of being unarmed in the unlikely event of the worst-case scenario happening.

A lot of people will SAY it is, and then after putting the gun on and taking it off every day for about a week...they start looking for excuses not to carry.

There are people who decided not to carry and basically nothing happened. As Vonnegut said, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

There are people who decided not to carry one day...and that was the day they never came home. Others decided to carry and got to. You can find all sorts of examples of different outcomes by reading news reports and so on.

In the end, it's something you have to work out for yourself.