Montana recently became the eighteenth state to pass a permitless-carry law, and eight other states are considering similar legislation this session. One reason this is important is that many state regulatory regimes are slow, costly, and unconcerned about citizens who need protection.
In this new COVID-19 era, some wait times for concealed-carry permits are getting so long that a person who feels threatened and wants to carry a firearm for self-defense could be dead and buried before an official ever gets around to keying the application information into the system.
Illinois is a poignant example. In that notoriously anti-gun jurisdiction, some have been waiting months not only for carry permits, but also to receive Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) cards, which are required to legally purchase and own a firearm in the state.
One such person is Chicago resident Terrence Thrower, who lost his wallet containing his FOID and carry permit last year. Eight months after applying for replacements, he is still waiting.
“It’s scary, because I feel like I can’t protect myself or my family,” Thrower told Chicago’s ABC 7. “My wife and I, we have a newborn baby. With such a high rise in carjackings, I feel like I can’t leave the house without my firearm and feel safe.”
While one might expect such poor treatment of gun owners in places like Chicago, those in other jurisdictions around the country are also running into roadblocks.
In Florida’s Polk County, Tax Collector Joe Tedder expects to see a 45% increase in new licenses from July 2020 to July 2021. Consequently, even getting an initial appointment to begin the application process, have fingerprints scanned, and photos taken, has jumped from about two weeks to two months.
Similar things are happening in Philadelphia, where in November, two men filed a lawsuit against the city for the extremely long lag in its permit-issuing system. Both men had been waiting for months—not for their carry permits, but just to start the application process!
In truth, bureaucratic ineptness as it pertains to issuing carry permits has long been a problem. Yet, more than just ineptness is to blame. In some may-issue jurisdictions, sheriffs and others in charge of issuing permits intentionally push them aside, as they don’t consider them a priority. Additionally, a greatly increased demand for permits has further overwhelmed the system in many states.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped. Office closures have led to less efficiency in many cases. And massive numbers of government employees are absent on sick leave—sometimes entire office staffs need to be quarantined because of an exposure.
While some slowdown because of the pandemic is to be expected, some lawmakers worry that COVID-19 is being used as an excuse to create further delays. In Massachusetts, Rep. Joseph McKenna (R) introduced a measure that would create a process for state residents to apply for a gun license during the pandemic without having to be fingerprinted. Webster said his bill was designed to prevent cities and towns from using the pandemic as an “excuse to deny someone their constitutional rights to obtain a carry license.”
While these lengthy delays for issuing permits would be inappropriate at any time, they’re increasingly problematic for the millions of new gun owners who have driven the record firearms sales of the past year. No doubt many of those people bought their firearms for self-protection, but the inability to get a carry permit in a reasonable amount of time is keeping them from doing so anywhere but inside their homes.
Meanwhile, wait times in a state with permitless carry are nonexistent. Consequently, a woman worried about a dangerous stalker needn’t wait for the state to get out of her way in order for her to defend herself and her family.
While the fact that the Second Amendment states that the “right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is reason enough to advocate for permitless carry, the current permitting backlog in many states and municipalities is more proof that those passing constitutional-carry laws are working to keep their citizens safer.