It’s a path the supporters of so-called “constitutional carry”—particularly the Second Amendment absolutists of Gun Owners of America as well as the National Rifle Association (NRA)—have been treading state by state for the past 13 years with tremendous success despite the NRA’s recent financial and legal troubles. Even if the court chooses a more narrow ruling, it will almost certainly require several states to relax at least some provisions in their own concealed gun permit laws. That is as it should be, say advocates. They argue that no permit is needed to exercise First Amendment rights and none should be required for the Second Amendment either. Many law enforcement agencies and some police unions say the no-permit, no-training laws endanger officers and the public.
Until 2003, only Vermont allowed people to carry firearms concealed or openly without a permit. That year Alaska became the second state to do the same. Seven years later, with intense pressure from “constitutional carry” advocates squeezing and flattering state legislators, a trickle turned into a flood, with 15 states having switched by the end of 2020 to no permits required. Last year, six more joined that roster—Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, bringing the total to 21. Alabama joined last week. Here’s a list with some details as of March 10, and below is an updated map.
Alabama is the 22nd state to join the parade. On a completely partisan vote, the no-permit bill passed the Alabama House of Representatives with 65 Republican ayes cast against 28 Democratic and nine Republican nays. It passed the state senate with 23 Republican ayes and six Democratic nays. The only Black Republican in the legislature was also the only Black legislator to vote for the bill. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law last Thursday. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.
Like other such statutes, proposed or already enacted, the Alabama law eliminates the current need for obtaining a permit to carry a firearm concealed by anyone age 18 or older unless they have a felony conviction or a dangerous mental illness. Several other states that have switched to permitless carry also have eliminated the need for firearms training. But Alabama has never required training to obtain a permit. Open carry was already on the books in the state, which has a gun homicide record higher than New York’s despite having a fourth of the population. Concealed firearms are still not allowed in Alabama courthouses, jails, and prisons, at events in school athletic venues, or on private property without express permission from the owner.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed Ohio’s SB 215 Monday. As in Alabama and most other states where no-permit, no-training bills have passed, the vote was overwhelmingly partisan, with Republicans mostly in favor and Democrats mostly against. As in other states, law enforcement agencies, organizations representing police officers, activists seeking an end to gun violence, and public health officials have opposed these laws, tying them to increases in violent crime. Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo issued a statement:
This is yet another example of failed Republican leadership … Removing these responsible and reasonable precautions compromises the safety and security of our communities and law enforcement. SB 215 completely betrays Ohioans who have called time after time for commonsense gun safety legislation, not extreme bills that endanger the lives of our children and families. Republicans have made it crystal clear that they value the approval of the gun lobby more than the lives of Ohioans and the police officers who protect our communities every day.
In 2020, over 2,000 concealed carry licenses were revoked, and 1,777 licenses were denied by sheriff’s offices across Ohio. Attorney General Yost’s 2021 Statistics on Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHL) in Ohio, released the morning of the House floor vote of SB 215, revealed 420 CHLs revoked for cause, such as a felony conviction or an adjudication as mentally incompetent. There were another 1,880 CHLs suspended, for a total of 2,300 revocations and suspensions in 2021. Another 2,668 applicants were denied CHLs because they did not meet statutory requirements. That’s a total of 4,968 people who were without a CHL in Ohio in 2021 because they were not fit to have one.
A 2017 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in 11 states then having “right-to-carry” laws, being able to carry a handgun boosted crime: By the 10th year of these laws, violent crime was up between 13% and 15% in those states.
Although the Alabama bill was signed first, Ohio’s goes into effect six months earlier on June 12.
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says he is considering whether to sign the no-permit, no-training law passed Friday by the Georgia House of Representatives in a 94-57 vote—again, along party lines. Having long advocated for relaxed gun laws, it is almost certain he will sign this one, making the Peach State No. 23 in this growing free for all. Riley Bunch at Georgia Public Radio reported earlier this month when the bill passed the state senate:
Dallas Republican Sen. Jason Anavitarte, the bill’s sponsor, said that as a response to the rise in violent crime Georgians have an increased interest in purchasing a firearm to protect themselves.
“This law is strictly intended to remove an unnecessary burden from law-abiding Georgians,” he said. “… What everyone in this chamber needs to understand is this: The growing response by law-abiding constituents to hearing these terrible stories is to go buy a gun and protect themselves. They want to protect themselves from the criminals who are committing the crimes.”
Under the bill, any “lawful weapons carrier” could carry a concealed firearm without first going through the licensing process that usually requires a fingerprint, background check and a fee.
A recent poll commissioned by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed that nearly 70% of Georgians opposed the legislation.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is also considering whether to sign a no-permit, no-training law passed last week by the legislature with the expected ample partisan margins. John Weber, the NRA’s state director in Indiana, stated:
Hoosiers value their Second Amendment rights, yet under the current regime they are forced to ask the government for extra permission in order to exercise the fundamental right of carrying a firearm for self-defense. The NRA is proud to have played a key role in getting this bill to the governor’s desk and we hope he will sign it.
The ABC affiliate in Indianapolis reported:
Mike Schmuhl, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said “This is what the Indiana Democratic Party meant when it said Republicans will put their partisanship before anything else. If the Indiana GOP get their way and sign House Bill 1077 into law, they will ignore the will of voters and state and municipal law enforcement who worry about public safety – all to fulfill an extreme agenda. Whether it’s handing firearms to bad actors, discrediting COVID-19 vaccines, or politicizing classrooms, Indiana Republicans would rather divide families and communities with their partisan culture wars than actually create a better future for Hoosiers.”
The unicameral state legislature on Friday beat a filibuster against Legislative Bill 773 and passed it on first reading. Like all the other such bills, this one would kill the need for a permit or training to carry a concealed firearm. It still has to clear two more votes—and two more filibusters—to win final approval. Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is likely to sign the bill if it clears the legislature. That would make the state No. 25 with “constitutional carry” as the law of the land.
In a recent CNN report on law enforcement leaders speaking out in staunch opposition to permitless carry in several states, Lincoln Chief of Police Teresa Ewins said:
“If someone feels the right to go into a business or a coliseum or an arena [while concealed carrying], then there’s going to be an argument. Then law enforcement will have to respond and try to deescalate. This is just another layer of difficulty for them because it’s hard to understand who has a gun, who doesn’t have a gun and then having people who are not trained.”
Then there’s the Supreme Court in the Bruen case.
At issue is New York’s 1911 Sullivan Act. It requires that anyone who wants to carry a concealed handgun in public has to show “proper cause” to obtain a permit. What that means is left legislatively undefined. Over the decades, New York courts have held that failure to “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession” is a good enough reason to deny a permit. Just having a rash of robberies in the neighborhood, which is at the root of the Bruen case, is not a “proper cause” for granting a permit, according to the lower court’s ruling.
But appellate courts are split on the constitutional legitimacy of such good cause or good reason laws, having both overturned and upheld similar state gun regulations, which is how the case made it to the Supreme Court.
Many advocates of stricter gun laws fear that the conservatives on the court will give gun rights advocates another victory like the change ushered in by the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. The justices decided in that case that people have a constitutional right to keep a loaded firearm at home. Not everyone agrees that the Bruen ruling will be so dire:
Jake Charles, executive director at the Duke Center for Firearms Law, offers a caution about assuming the Supremes will toss Sullivan. Last year, he wrote:
- The Supreme Court is going to strike down the law, right?
That seems to be the assumption of commentators who see the decision to take this case as a victory for the conservative justices who have been looking to expand gun rights since shortly after Heller was decided. But it is not entirely clear that that will be the outcome. For one thing, the justices can often issue surprising rulings, like last Term’s majority decision by Justice Gorsuch in Bostock v. Clayton County. For another, the history of good-cause licensing laws for concealed carry is rich and widespread. New York’s law has continued in substantially the same form since 1913. That 108-year history dwarfs the lifespan of several other laws that Justice Scalia in Heller called “longstanding” exceptions to the Second Amendment’s scope. Historians who study the history of gun regulations note that good-cause or may-issue regimes more broadly trace their history back even before New York’s adoption of such a law at the turn of the century. Dubbed the “Massachusetts model” after its progenitor, these laws spread after the Civil War and were commonplace in the early 20th century. Because history will play an important role in the decision no matter what methodology the Court ultimately uses, this background will likely be debated among the justices, the parties, and the scholars filing amicus briefs in the case. (It is also worth pointing out that the Court limited the question presented to “[w]hether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.” It therefore does not appear inclined to address the open carry issue and will instead need to confront the statement in Heller that appears to have suggested that states could constitutionally ban concealed carry altogether.)
One can hope that Charles is right. Otherwise, that map above could be all green by this time next year.
The GVPedia, a project researching gun violence has published this information on gun permit laws. Last April, The Trace posted 32 states that let people carry guns without learning how to shoot one.