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Pattern of concealed handgun licenses in Texas tied to income and politics

We teamed up with the Texas Tribune for this story that explores why Texans tend to get concealed handgun permits in affluent areas, but not in low-income neighborhoods with higher rates of crime.

firing range in San AntonioTribune reporter Brandi Grissom and I wrote the story, along with an article about the surge in gun permits that occurred in 2009 after Barack Obama was elected. Matt Stiles at the Tribune helped with the data analysis and made some cool interactive maps that compare the pattern of gun permits to income levels and election results.

The package got some interesting feedback from readers, ranging from “no duh” to discussions about why law-abiding citizens in low-income neighborhoods aren’t seeking concealed-carry licenses.

Related: Telling stories with data: Police chases and drug smugglers on the Texas-Mexico border

John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” also responded with a blog post stressing how the cost of concealed gun licenses can reduce the number of people who obtain them:

This is the point that I have been trying to make with my research for years. Higher permit fees and the costs of getting training not only reduce the number of permit holders, but they also make it so those who benefit the most from permits don’t get them. Both of those reasons work to reduce the benefit from right-to-carry laws.

Express-News columnist Scott Stroud wondered if this is yet another sign of a polarized society:

The tendency to live, work and worship among people who agree with us has accelerated in recent years and shows no sign of waning. In that context, the notion that the two major political tribes harbor different views about guns isn’t shocking.

Any time the media delves into the hot-button issue of guns, some readers are going to be suspicious of the finished product. But I enjoyed speaking with the gun owners and instructors who were quoted in the story and video — I think they figured out I wasn’t a stereotypical sensational journalist. Instructor Michael Arnold invited me to a concealed handgun class and I got to hear him paraphrase Sun Tzu as he told students the best way to win a fight is to avoid a fight. Brock Wilkerson at A Place to Shoot also invited me to a concealed handgun class at his shooting range. Wilkerson let me spend two afternoons at the range and I met his customers and cool employees.

They helped us put the voices of real people in the story. Along the way, I leaned a lot — and hopefully, our readers did, too.