No license, no problem: more states allow residents to carry concealed weapons


By Matt Vasilogambros, Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts

Six other states no longer require residents to be licensed to carry concealed firearms.

Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, Texas and Utah this year passed what gun rights advocates often call “constitutional carry” measures. A legislative priority for groups like the National Rifle Association, 21 states have now put such measures in place. Many of these states still have restrictions on the possession of firearms in certain government buildings.

Other states could be added to this list before the end of this legislative season. Ohio House passed a party-favored bill last month that would eliminate the requirement for gun owners to take an eight-hour course and pass a background check to carry a gun. fire concealed in public. He is now before the State Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans. Wisconsin lawmakers are also debating an unlicensed transportation bill.

Similar bills passed in a legislative chamber in Louisiana and South Carolina this year. Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court is examining whether New York’s firearms licensing system violates the Second Amendment, a case that could gut national firearms licensing provisions.

The unlicensed porterage laws eliminate what supporters say is an expensive and time-consuming step for people who wish to arm themselves to protect themselves. When Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed his state’s license-free porterage law earlier this year, Republican tweeted that “it shouldn’t be difficult for law-abiding Tennessee to exercise their” Second Amendment rights.

Gun safety advocates and law enforcement agencies argue that having more people with guns concealed in public places puts communities and police at risk.

“This is a dangerous step for states,” said Eugenio Weigend, director of the gun violence prevention program at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “It could easily spark clashes in some places, further escalating the violence to deadly levels. “

The self-defense debate featured prominently in the recent trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged with manslaughter after killing two people in a police shootout in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020. A jury has acquitted Rittenhouse last month, concluding that his use of lethal force on chaotic streets was legally justifiable. Prosecutors called him a dangerous vigilante.

In Georgia, Travis McMichael argued he was acting in self-defense when he shot dead Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man jogging in the McMichael neighborhood. McMichael was convicted of murder last month, along with his father and a neighbor. The three men chased Arbery in a pickup truck.

Wisconsin’s unlicensed transportation bill, which was the subject of a public hearing in the state Senate in October, would also ban local governments from banning guns on public transportation. It is not known when the law will be passed, but gun rights advocates are confident it will pass.

Eliminating the license requirement would be a welcome change for gun owners worried about being on a government list, said Nik Clark, president of Wisconsin Carry, a gun rights organization based in Milwaukee. It would also allow people who want a gun to protect themselves to acquire one without having to wait for the authorization process, which Clark says is important in cases of domestic violence or in situations such as civil unrest of 2020.

“We have a human right to self-defense,” Clark said. “To say you need the government’s permission to do this is crazy. It’s anti-American.

Gun rights activists such as Clark have been pushing for a license-free port law in Wisconsin for more than a decade. He never won the support of the state’s top legislative leaders or former Republican Governor Scott Walker, who said in 2017, that concealed firearms licenses were “appropriate”.

But the pressure continued from defenders. Building on national momentum, this year’s bill in Wisconsin has 31 cosponsors, all Republicans. If the bill passes, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will likely veto it, much to the relief of gun safety advocates.

“This puts our citizens at greater risk,” said Jeri Bonavia, executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort Educational Fund, a gun safety group.

Bonavia and researchers at the Center for American Progress discovered in a September study that since Wisconsin enacted a law in 2011 allowing residents to carry concealed weapons with a license, firearm homicides and aggravated assaults have increased. Gun-related homicides and assaults were on the decline in Wisconsin before 2012, but began to increase during the law’s implementation, the researchers found.

The rate of firearm homicide in Wisconsin from 2012 to 2019 was a third higher than it was from 2004 to 2011. The annual average of aggravated assault with a firearm from 2012 to 2019 was increased by more than half from 2004 to 2011. The increase in gun homicide rates after 2011 did not occur in neighboring states without a covert porterage law.

Last month, Pennsylvania’s Republican-led legislature passed a similar unlicensed porterage bill. However, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf vetoed the legislation last week.

“Unfortunately, this bill would worsen gun violence and put law enforcement officials at greater risk of harm,” Wolf said in his report. veto message.

Until 2011, Vermont was the only state that did not require its residents to be licensed to carry concealed weapons. Since then, Republican-led states have steadily lowered permit requirements. In several states, the law applies to residents aged 21 and over, with some exceptions for service members aged 18 and over.

These new laws coincided with measures allowing firearms in places of worship, schools and on public transport.

While Democrats broadly reject the license-free porter policy, polls suggest it also lacks widespread support within the GOP. Most of the pressure on lawmakers to pass these bills has come from gun rights lobbyists in the NRA and other groups, Bonavia said.

“These invoices are not the result of public demand,” she said. “There isn’t a wave of support we need to carry these weapons without any regulation.”

Indeed, just over a third of Republicans support the authorization to carry concealed weapons without a permit, according to an April survey by the Pew Research Center. (The center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, which funds Stateline.)

Gun safety advocates have called on state lawmakers to restrict access to guns, rather than expand it, citing an increase in gun violence and recent school shootings, including one in a Michigan high school last week that left four people dead.

While most Americans generally support tougher gun laws, that support has waned since it peaked following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. In February 2018 and national student-led protests that followed. According to Gallup poll, support for stricter gun laws fell from 67% in March 2018 to 52% in October.

Gun rights activists such as Clark argue that the civil unrest in some places during the mostly peaceful anti-racist protests of the summer of 2020 demonstrated the importance of allowing Americans to carry guns anywhere. concealed fire without a permit.

“If people need protection quickly,” he says, “they don’t have time to take a course.

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