Yes, but estimates are also complicated by the 13 states where no permit is required to carry. In 2018, they included states with some of the highest rates of gun ownership in the nation.
Alaska (2003), Arkansas (2013), Arizona (2010), Idaho (2016), Kansas (2015), Maine (2015), Mississippi (2013), Missouri (2016), New Hampshire (2017), North Dakota (2017), Vermont (1793), West Virginia (2016), and Wyoming (2011) are all constitutional carry states. Kentucky, Oklahoma, and South Dakota joined the others this year.
This means residents of those states only need a permit to carry while traveling outside the state and some of the constitutional carry states recognize the other constitutional carry states and don’t require a permit from those states to carry. Arizona, for example, doesn’t require a permit for anyone from any state to carry concealed, so that Utah permit isn’t needed.
And surveys have yielded results that can be confusing. The General Social Survey (GSS), Gallup and Pew all estimate gun ownership as percentages but they may be percentages of households, percentages of American adults, or percentages of all residents of the U.S.
My estimates may actually be conservative. Out of the 17.25 million active permits in 2018, I made the assumption that 16 million were unique and they represented about 20% of gun owners. That gave me the 80 million figure. However, both 16 million and 20% may actually be too high. But even if I drop the number of unique permits to 15 million, that 20% still yields 75 million gun owners.
The General Social Survey, while highly respected, is subject to the same flaws as any other survey on guns. Among these are refusals to answer and false responses (either false claims of ownership or false denials of ownership). What isn’t captured in any of the surveys are those that decline to participate when the subject matter is presented.
In any event, the GSS estimates are sufficiently different from those of Gallup and Pew to make them suspect. It’s just my opinion, but I think the GSS results are unusually low. The GSS said that 22% of American adults owned guns. That indicates the total gun-owning population is about 55.7 million. Using the number of permits, the GSS estimate says that somewhere between 26% and 31% of gun owners have concealed-carry permits and those percentages are way too high.
After all the number-crunching, I am pretty satisfied with the 80 million figure.