Sometimes, despite the hysteria and disinformation that surrounds our politics, good policies prevail.
Twenty years ago, only one state allowed its citizens to carry concealed firearms without a permit. About a decade ago, that number was three. As this was being written, it was seventeen, and, in all likelihood, by the end of this year, it will be closer to twenty—maybe more. In the 1980s, only a handful of states allowed their residents a realistic opportunity to lawfully carry concealed at all. Soon, nearly half will do so without any licensing process whatsoever. Progress!
When, in the late 1980s, states began to drop their restrictions on concealed carry (thanks in no small part to this association), gun-control advocates predicted mayhem. There’d be shootouts in the streets! There’d be bloodbaths in the supermarket! Nobody in America would ever feel safe again! Florida, which changed its rules in 1987, was mocked by The New York Times as the “gunshine state.”
What actually happened was, well, nothing. Or, perhaps, the opposite. Over the ensuing 30 years, the number of crimes committed by criminals with firearms was sliced in half.
Now that a host of states have taken their liberalizations a step further and abolished their permitting systems, we hear similarly dark predictions. But these, too, are silly. The data shows that there is no statistical difference in outcomes between states that require concealed-carry permits and states that do not. In a free country, that is a pretty good reason to not require permits.
It has never been clear to me why the critics of concealed carry believe that adding paperwork to the equation would make any material difference to anything, given that those who wish to harm others do not care about the rules in the first place. Evidence from the two states that best track such data—Florida and Texas—shows that concealed carriers are among the most law-abiding citizens in the country. So what, exactly, beyond delaying and delineating their rights and taking their money, is a licensing system supposed to achieve?
Perhaps that’s the point? We already have laws that prohibit violent criminals and the mentally ill from purchasing, owning and carrying firearms; we also have laws that govern where and under what circumstances guns may be carried in public—plus, of course, laws against threatening and harming others. To add an extra layer on top of those laws seems, at best, to be nothing more than an expensive redundancy; at worst, it creates a justification for meddling. In no other circumstances do our state governments license citizens to exercise their constitutional rights, or keep master lists of which citizens are exercising their rights, or insist that citizens jump through hoops to gain a piece of paper that only the good guys are going to bother applying for in the first place.
As this was being written, constitutional carry was explicitly the law in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming, and is to some extent the law in New Mexico and Washington state. This year, those states are likely to be joined by Utah and Tennessee, and votes will be held in Indiana and five others.
When told this, many Americans are surprised, which tells us something important: That, in addition to being constitutionally preferable, constitutional carry works. The predictions are made, the policy is put in place and then there is silence—or, even better, there is improvement.
On to the next state! And then the next after that.