With Democrats in power at the national level, Second Amendment advocates have had good reason to worry. Joe Biden’s campaign released what amounts to a declaration of war on the Second Amendment in 2020, the 117th Congress has introduced around 100 gun control laws, and the president in his first year launched multiple attacks on the right to keep and bear arms. But it isn’t all bad news for gun folk. Nearly half the country allows residents to carry concealed firearms without permits, a practice often called constitutional carry. Thanks to bills introduced in five other states – Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio – it could soon be more than half. It seems that as Biden’s government tightens its grip, at least some of the states are willing to loosen theirs. Will 2022 be the year of constitutional carry?
New Year, New Laws?
In Alabama, anyone who wants to carry concealed must get a permit. HB 44, introduced in October of last year, and HB66, presented Jan. 6, 2022, seek to remove this requirement. In fact, HB 44 seems to make carrying a firearm more legal than even carrying a knife, as it strikes “or a pistol or firearm of any other kind or an air gun” from the following passage from Section 13A – 11 – 50 of Code of Alabama:
“Except as otherwise provided in this Code, a person who carries concealed about his person a bowie knife or knife or instrument of like kind or description or a pistol or firearm of any other kind or an air gun shall, on conviction, be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not more than six months.”
Ballotpedia shows that Republicans outnumber Democrats 77 to 28 in the state House of Representatives and 27 to eight in the Senate. With a pro-Second Amendment Republican like Kay Ivey as governor, these bills could easily become law by the end of this legislative session.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) made it clear how he feels about constitutional carry on Jan. 5: “I believe the United States Constitution grants our citizens the right to carry a firearm – without state government approval. For law-abiding Georgians, their carry permit is the founding document of our nation.” Under the current law, Georgians must have a Weapons Carry License to carry concealed in public. That requires a background check, fingerprinting, and an application fee, which averages $75.
The bill that would remedy this was introduced back in March 2021, but it remains active. As this is an election year, advocates hope the Republicans of the legislature – who outnumber Democrats 34 to 22 in the Senate and 103 to 77 in the House – will be motivated to fire up the voting base by getting this done.
Florida’s Anthony Sabatini, a Republican in the state’s House of Representatives, introduced a bill to remove the permit requirement for the Sunshine State, and this would allow weapons to be carried concealed or openly. “Floridians should be able to exercise their Second Amendment right without a permission slip from the government,” Sabatini said. “Bearing arms is a fundamental constitutional right. If somebody wants to defend themselves, the only permission slip needed is the U.S. Constitution.”
When asked if he would sign a constitutional carry bill into law if it hit his desk, Governor Ron DeSantis simply responded, “Of course.” Republicans hold 78 of 120 House seats and 24 of 40 in the Senate, so the soil is certainly fertile for Sabatini’s bill. For now, carrying a firearm requires a license that can be acquired only after passing a training course.
Nebraska currently allows people over the age of 18 who aren’t prohibited persons to open carry, though some cities require a state gun license. For conceal carry – or to even buy a handgun – only those over 21 can get a pistol permit, and only after paying the $100 fee and completing a state-certified training course. State Senator Tom Brewer (R) introduced a bill Jan. 5 that removes the permit requirement and the ability of cities to prohibit carrying a weapon. That said, it keeps the license system so that any who wish to go that route still can.
Nebraska has only one legislative body – the Senate, or Unicameral – and of the 49 seats, Republicans hold 32. In December 2021, Governor Pete Ricketts promised to sign constitutional carry into law should it reach his desk.
Of the five, perhaps no state is closer than Ohio. Both the House and Senate have already passed separate bills that do away with the permit requirement, though – like Nebraska’s – the Senate bill would retain the system for those who still want to get licensed. Republican Governor Mike DeWine has openly supported constitutional carry and stand-your-ground laws in the past, but he also endorsed red flag laws and more robust background checks. His work in Congress once earned him an F from the NRA. As Buckeye Firearms Association President Jim Irvine put it, “Gov. DeWine isn’t a gun guy, so he’s not like us in that. That sometimes creates problems.” Still, so long as he hasn’t changed his mind on the issue since 2019, all Ohio needs is for the two legislative bodies to work out a few details.
Welcome to the Club
Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming all allow constitutional carry for anyone over the age of 21 who can legally have a firearm. The same is true for Maine, though there are also shall-issue permits for non-residents who hold permits in other states. Oklahoma and Tennessee have the minimum age set at 21 as well, but with the caveat that anyone in the military may carry by age 18. Missouri’s permitless carry is set at 19 or 18 for those in the military. Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Vermont recognize constitutional carry for anyone over 18. North Dakota allows residents over the age of 18 to carry concealed – not openly – without a license.
All told, there is some form of permitless carry in 21 states already. That’s a whole lot of gun folk saying, “welcome to the club,” should any one of these five go constitutional carry.
~ Read more from James Fite.