Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

Come next January, Alabama will be the 25th state to allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit. Alabama will soon join Indiana which in March of this year passed a new statute allowing permitless concealed carry in that state—sometimes called “constitutional carry.” In 2021 alone, at least six states passed their own provisions legalizing permitless concealed carry: Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Essentially, any law-abiding citizen over a certain age (usually 18 or 21 years of age) can now carry a concealed firearm in these states. 20 years ago, only Vermont allowed unrestricted concealed carry. Beginning ten years ago, however, more than twenty states adopted new laws deregulating the carrying of firearms. 

Why is this happening now? On its most simple level, these laws are passed because lawmakers and constituents at the state level have advocated for their passage. Moreover, whatever opposition has existed among interest groups and the public has been insufficient to block their passage. 

On a deeper ideological level, increased access to concealed carry is likely the result of a growing feeling among much of the public that they need increased access to firearms for self-protection. In other words, the spread of constitutional carry points to a growing sentiment that state and local authorities are insufficient to provide a reasonable expectation of safety from violent crime, and that private self-defense is therefore more necessary now than in the past. 

Moreover, many of these laws expanding access to concealed carry have been passed over the objections of local law enforcement. Police organizations have been among the most vocal of opponents to new constitutional carry measures, yet Republican lawmakers—a group often happy to fall all over themselves announcing how much they “back the blue”—have passed these laws anyway. It is one thing to support law enforcement officers on a vague philosophical level, of course, but the continued spread of constitutional carry suggests there are limits to this support among even conservatives. Rather, the passage of these laws suggests a growing lack of faith that even well-meaning law enforcement can or will provide meaningful defense from violent criminals when the time arises. 

Declining Faith in Institutions

The survey data continues to point to declining public faith in public institutions, and this includes law enforcement and the legal system. As faith in these institutions falls, the perceived need to provide one’s own self-defense naturally increases. As one sociologist puts it, “legal cynicism” leads to greater demand for “protective gun ownership” and “lower levels of police legitimacy are significantly related to a higher probability of acquiring a firearm for protection.”

In the worst cases, this can even lead to extralegal “self-help” with a firearm, and this phenomenon has been explored by historian Randolph Roth who notes that declining perceptions of state legitimacy can lead to high rates of violent crime. That is, when the public believes that official coercion will be insufficient to restrain crime, private citizens may feel the need to take matters into their own hands. 

Moreover, crime data in some cases suggests a correlation between gun ownership and high crime levels. Advocates of gun control naturally interpret this correlation as evidence that the presence of guns is the cause of more crime. Yet the causality more likely runs in the other direction: more crime leads to more people arming themselves. Statistical studies are insufficient to prove causality in any case, as a Rand study on gun violence notes

Whether [the correlation between guns and crime] attributable to gun prevalence causing more violent crime is unclear. If people are more likely to acquire guns when crime rates are rising or high, then the same pattern of evidence would be expected. … existing research studies and data include a wealth of descriptive information on homicide, suicide, and firearms, but, because of the limitations of existing data and methods, do not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide.

And, as one New Jersey study concluded after surveying young residents of high-crime areas,

most participants said they carried guns to increase their feelings of safety. “They held a widespread belief that they could be victimized at any time, and guns served to protect them from real or perceived threats from other gun carriers.”

The perceived need for personal protection is likely more urgent and immediate in high crime areas, but the sentiment certainly is not unique to these areas. Suburban and rural advocates for broadening concealed carry frequently invoke the need for personal protection from violent crime as justification for new laws expanding the right to carry in nearly every situation. 

Laws Passed Over Police Opposition 

Although many individual police officers support nearly untrammeled gun ownership by law abiding citizens, many others do not. In the case of Alabama’s legislative battle over permitless carry, for instance, “the bills have been roundly criticized by police and gun control advocates, who argue that removing permits poses a safety risk to citizens and officers.” The head of Alabama’s Sheriff’s Association wants to change the Second Amendment to ban concealed carry altogether. And elsewhere “Some of the loudest opponents of permitless carry laws are the police. They spoke out in Indiana, Texas, and Kentucky but that didn’t stop lawmakers from passing “constitutional carry” laws.” In Georgia, many law enforcement officers voiced their opposition to conceal carry, much to the delight of the state’s Democratic party. In Ohio, constitutional carry has been opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police—the public labor union that provides free lawyers to abusive and incompetent police officers. Even in Republican-controlled legislatures—where professed support for police runs high—police efforts to quash expanded conceal carry have failed repeatedly. 

The continued spread of constitutional carry is, of course, related to the surge we’ve seen toward more private gun ownership overall. For example, Americans in 2020 and 2021 went on what CNN calls a “gun buying spree” and this included a 58% surge in gun purchases in 2021 among Black men and women. Violent and destructive “mostly peaceful” protests exposed the limited ability of law enforcement to do much other than protect government property during periods of unrest. In the wake of lockdowns, which shut down vital social institutions such as churches and schools, crime surged in the US, and not just in the “usual” places like urban cores. Police legitimacy also suffered a serious blow with the abject failure of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies at the Uvalde school shooting in May of this year. The officers who chose to do nothing while children were massacred will likely face no serious legal repercussions, and this will further highlight that police officers are under no legal obligation to actually protect the public from violent crime. 

It’s no wonder that permitless concealed carry continues to make gains in American states. In the past, many Americans may have simply trusted to the regime to provide “law and order.” But that sentiment is apparently becoming more and more rare. 

* * * 

Statista’s Katharina Buchholz maps out the states that allow permitless carry of guns.  

Infographic: Which States Allow the Permitless Carry of Guns? | Statista

And in states like Maryland, where the recent Supreme Court decision changed the stance on licensing concealed firearms from “may issue” to a “shall issue,” demand for concealed carry classes has erupted as citizens feel the need that nobody but themselves will save them in times of emergencies as the country becomes more dangerous.  

9 Comments

  1. John M. says:

    CCW policy is, in many ways, an echo of the soft-on-crime policies that liberals imposed on our justice system in the 1950s through the 1970s-1980s. By letting criminals off the leash, they did enormous damage to their own credibility, leading in part to Republican successes in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Those successes led to shall-issue laws, which worked quite well nationwide. I frankly doubt they had a lot of impact on crime rates, but they likely made some improvements at the margin and certainly made a difference for no small number of folks who used guns to defend themselves. They also taught a generation that they are responsible for their own safety, which seems like a good republican virtue to cultivate in these degenerate times.

    Clearly the blood running in the streets as suburban dads held duels over parking spaces never eventuated, despite the promises of the Left every single time a CCW law is relaxed.

    So, after the great successes of shall-issue came the constitutional carry wave. It also seems to be working quite well and I expect it will continue to expand despite the USSC’s explicit endorsement of shall-issue in the Bruen decision.

    Where states like Massachusetts and New York go is an open question. New York’s new CCW law is obviously a dog’s breakfast of unconstitutional provisions and we will see how committed NY is to violating the obvious text of the 2nd Amendment and its Bruen interpretation. To come full circle, NY’s style of chicanery is unlikely to improve institutional trust among the populace.

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    1. There is no such thing as open carry in MA unless you are at the range or hunting. Go strutting down any populated street openly packing heat and you will be reported and the cops will show up. Very good chance that you will have your permit pulled there and then. The libs in this state will never go there if they can help it and they will have to be dragged kicking and screaming alll the way. There is no law prohibiting open carry but I wouldn’t recommend it.

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  2. JB says:

    An intelligent and informed person has never trusted government of any kind. Nor should he.

    Like

  3. Tom Stone says:

    California is now a shall issue State which has thoroughly pissed off my local sherriff.
    So there’s a $73 application fee, a $750 annual administration fee and you have to take your CCW class at the one school our sheriff has approved.
    Bless his heart.
    Luckily it’s only $1,200 for the 3 day class.
    It’s purely coincidental that the school is run by a retired deputy Sheriff.
    And I certainly do trust our Government to do their very best to maintain public order no matter what the cost.
    They are dedicated to servicing the public, good and hard.

    Like

  4. H says:

    Overall, a fairly well-balanced article. I would point out, though the author has apparently neglected to; that much of the virulent opposition to “constitutional carry” on the part of many law enforcement agencies (as opposed to individual officers) is not so much over concern for citizen safety as it is over the drying up of a lucrative source of income for the agency in the form of permitting fees. Tom Stone’s current example of a California Sheriff’s outrageous fee schedule is an excellent example of the former status quo in many jurisdictions, in which CCW fees used to enrich operating budgets (or officials’ pockets), while proving an additional barrier for “undesirables” seeking to exercise their rights to effective self-defense.

    Like

  5. Hypnogator says:

    A fairly well-balanced article, but the author neglects to mention one of the main reasons for the virulent opposition by some law enforcement agencies (as opposed to individual officers) to “Constitutional Carry:” The loss of revenue to the agency (or to certain officials’ pockets) from the elimination of CCW permit fees, as exemplified by Tom Stone in California. The fact that “Constitutional Carry” also eliminates economic barriers to effective defense against criminal depredation among the economically disadvantaged is also seen by officialdom as dangerously facilitating violence among the “undesirables.”

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    1. John M. says:

      “The loss of revenue to the agency (or to certain officials’ pockets) from the elimination of CCW permit fees, as exemplified by Tom Stone in California.“

      Don’t forget that may-issue regimes create all sorts of opportunities for graft, both illegal (reported cash payments for NYC carry permits) and legal (donate to Sheriff Grubermunder’s re-election campaign and we will make sure to review your CCW app *very closely*). Shall-issue does away with all that.

      Like

  6. Mainsail says:

    Despite your map, Washington does not require any permit or license to carry a sidearm openly. You may walk downtown Seattle with a Glock on your hip and the police cannot detain you for doing so.

    Like

  7. Sandra Hare says:

    No matter what the good intentions are, There are always those who will try to fit it a little corruption,, to generate a little extra money for there pockets.

    Like

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