65% of USA Enjoys Right to Carry without a Government Permission Slip
U.S.A. — In 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, no permit was required for a citizen of the United States to carry arms, including loaded handguns, in nearly all public spaces. By 1986, only Vermont still had the right to carry loaded, concealed handguns without a permit. A significant number of states continued to maintain the right to carry loaded handguns openly, but the right was severely constrained in practice.
In 1986 there were eight states which had “shall issue” laws for concealed carry permits. Those states were Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington State. The total land area of the United States of America is 3,805,927 square miles. The land area of Vermont is 9,616 square miles or 0.25% of the land area of the USA.
In 1987, Florida passed a landmark shall issue concealed carry bill. In a political tradeoff spearheaded by disgraced former Attorney General Janet Reno, then the Florida state Attorney General for Miami-Dade, open carry was severely curtailed. Reno later became famous for being in charge of the Department of Justice during the Waco massacre overseen by the FBI.
The Florida shall-issue law has been widely viewed as starting the revolution to restore Second Amendment rights in the USA. Many states started to follow the example set by Florida. By 2002, there were 31 shall-issue states, 11 may-issue states, 7 no-issue states, and Vermont, where no permit was required.
While the shall issue revolution was ongoing, Second Amendment activists and Constitutionalists were calling for the removal of all permit requirements. They demanded their Second Amendment rights be given the full force of other Constitutional rights. They correctly stated the Second Amendment demands that the rights protected by the Second Amendment shall not be infringed. They saw the requirement for a government permission slip as a clear infringement on Second Amendment rights.
Alaska was the first state to restore permitless carry in 2003. Second Amendment activists had been pushing for it for years. I recall the chant “We Want Vermont!” at numerous rallies. Alaska is the largest state in land area. It has 17.5% of the land area of the USA. Overnight, permitless carry jumped from 0.25% to 17.75% of the USA. From Shotgunworld:
Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, said he sponsored the bill out of frustration with continually fine-tuning the state’s gun laws.
“I object to the government putting a precondition on that constitutional right (to carry a weapon). I’m presumed to be a responsible citizen until proven otherwise,” Croft said.
House Bill 102 does not eliminate the state’s concealed handgun permit program. The governor’s office said Alaskans could still apply for a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon in other states or to be exempt from background checks when purchasing firearms.
By 2023, 27 states had restored the right to carry a loaded handgun concealed in most public places without a permit. In 26 of those states, the right to carry includes the right to carry arms openly. The dismal legacy of disgraced AG Janet Reno lives on in Florida.
Permitless carry will be the law of the land in over 65% of the land area of the United States as of July 1, 2023, when the Florida law takes effect.
This remarkable accomplishment took place as the Supreme Court examined a clear challenge to the numerous infringements on rights protected by the Second Amendment for the first time in 2003 (Heller). The Supreme Court affirmed restrictions on government power, required by the Second Amendment, applied to the States in 2010 (McDonald). The Supreme Court noted, in a unanimous decision, the rights applied to “to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” in Caetano in 2016. The Supreme Court noted rights protected by the Second Amendment apply outside the home in Bruen in 2022.
While opponents of an armed population have repeatedly made claims of “blood in the streets” following the restoration of carry rights, it has not happened. Numerous studies on the effect of restoring the right to carry have shown little to no effect on increasing murders, suicides, or accidental fatality statistics.
It seems likely there are relatively small decreases in murders and violent crimes. The effects are small enough that sophisticated computer programs are needed to detect them. Sophisticated computer programs are difficult to make proof against selection bias and confirmation bias. Any program that uses a “computer model” to obtain results is suspect.
The Supreme Court is following the people, Second Amendment activists, and state legislatures in restoring rights protected by the Second Amendment. Without the revolution in the restoration of carry rights, the Supreme Court decisions would not have occurred, as the justices who are willing to follow the text and original meaning of the Constitution would not have been appointed. If restoring rights protected by the Second Amendment resulted in “blood in the streets” it would be readily apparent. The conflicting results seen in the literature indicate the effects on crime, suicide and accidents are so small as to be very difficult to measure.
The effects on restraining government power are large. If the government must respect the rights protected by the Second Amendment, the rest of the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution as a whole, is better protected.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.