Carry Unbound

posted on May 6, 2015
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One of the most alternately inspirational and maddening narratives in the struggle for comprehensive gun rights is the unsteady progress of permitless (sometimes called “constitutional”) carry. The term denotes legal recognition of the right to carry a firearm (usually a handgun) without a special permit—the Second Amendment to the Constitution being sufficient for this cause. Anyone not specifically prohibited from carrying a sidearm would thereby be free to exercise their right to arms without navigating yards of red tape and paying restrictive fees.

In practice, concealed carry is the main point at issue in the battles that are currently being waged across the nation. Many of the states that have drafted legislation in support of permitless concealed carry already extend such a right to open carry. In fact, some 26 states already recognize the right to carry a handgun openly without a permit. 

Recognizing the right of Americans to carry guns without permit restrictions, but only as this applies to open carry, is a perfect example of following the letter of the Second Amendment while trampling on its spirit. A vast number of handgun owners, especially those who reside in heavily populated areas, do not see open carry as a viable option. Being seen in public with a firearm does not match how they wish to present themselves in society. Many will carry concealed, or not at all.Recognizing the right of Americans to carry guns without permit restrictions, but only as this applies to open carry, is a perfect example of following the letter of the Second Amendment while trampling on its spirit.

If any support for this point is desired, one need only look to the opposing side. In a widely circulated editorial published in the Los Angeles Times, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler suggested that anti-gunners in California should turn away from comprehensive gun bans—which are clearly unconstitutional—and make peace with open carry in order to more effectively stifle the public’s right to bear arms. “Very few gun owners want to carry openly displayed guns,” Winkler wrote. “The police hassle you, stores refuse to serve you and some people won’t talk to you. Criminals might even target you, seeking to steal your expensive sidearm.”

Yet different gun and carry regulations among the states—and even within some states—can be bewildering. Also, navigating sometimes sluggish bureaucracies can be a burden on law-abiding gun owners. These problems are a part of what’s prompting many gun owners to push for permitless carry.

Anyone who has stood in line at a state department of motor vehicles knows that bureaucracies left unchecked can grow into large, often senseless, alternate realities. When common sense and good laws keep a bureaucracy in check, things can work relatively well. But when behind them is a legislature that sees the citizenry’s right to bear arms as a problem, the bureaucracy can purposely create a gauntlet designed to make getting a permit to carry a concealed handgun all but impossible.

We were cheered by the recent victory in Kansas, when Gov. Sam Brownback signed a permitless carry bill into law (it will take effect on July 1). It is important to note in this context that approving permitless concealed carry does nothing to dismantle the system of CCW licenses already in effect—which in Kansas, as usual, requires training prior to the issuance of a permit. Anyone wishing to carry across state lines and to utilize the reciprocity agreements established with other states will still find a strong incentive to apply for a permit. What the deregulation of concealed carry does is to make self-defense a viable option for those who lack the time and money to apply; in other words, the most vulnerable segment of society. It is a way to maximize freedom.

Colorado, Indiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Maine are among the states where legislative battles over permitless carry are currently underway. Opponents of such bills tend to draw on public fears by painting deregulation as a return to the lawless “bad old days” of the Wild West—just as they did when right-to-carry was first being debated. A much different picture emerges when one considers that permits for concealed weapons have never been required in Vermont, a state that consistently enjoys some of the lowest murder rates in the nation.

Keep an eye out here—and keep tabs on the NRA-ILA website—for upcoming news on permitless carry legislation.

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