Around the country, more sheriffs offices are starting to hit the “pause” button on concealed carry applications and renewals, and many court systems are implementing changes as well that could impact individuals who are either currently licensed to carry a firearm or those applying for their license.

In Ohio, the sheriffs in Belmont and Fayette counties are among those that have announced the suspension of concealed carry applications, and we’ll likely see this become more commonplace in the coming days.

Down in Georgia, the folks at GeorgiaCarry.org are asking probate judges to extend any active Georgia Weapons Licenses that might expire while the state’s judicial system is in a state of emergency.

On March 14, 2020, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton declared a state of judicial emergency.  Pursuant to his emergency powers, and pursuant to OCGA § 38-3-62, during the period of the order he has suspended, tolled, extended, and otherwise granted relief from any deadlines or other time schedules or filing requirements imposed by otherwise applicable statutes, rules, regulations, or court orders, whether in civil or criminal cases or administrative matters.
GCO takes the position that the expiration of a Georgia Weapons License (GWL) is a “deadline or other time schedule” of an “administrative matter” under the purview of judges, so that GWLs will not expire during the state of emergency.
For the avoidance of doubt, however, GeorgiaCarry.Org has asked the Council of Probate Judges to ask their members (i.e., the probate judges) to issue blanket orders extending GWL deadlines.

Unlike many other states, in Georgia open carry is only allowed if someone has a GWL, so open carry isn’t really a workaround for folks whose license may be expiring. Obviously this isn’t going to be the biggest issue for public officials in the days and weeks ahead, but it does need to be addressed, and not just in Georgia.

There are more than 18-million concealed carry license holders around the country, and hundreds of thousands of them may be facing renewal deadlines over the next couple of months. It seems the easiest thing to do would be to simply extend the life of the license for a period of time after the issuing authorities begin processing licenses and applications again. Three to six months would likely give the sheriffs offices time to process the backlog of paperwork that will be piling up over the next few weeks, and would allow those with concealed carry licenses to continue to carry without running afoul of the law.

Hopefully on the other side of this disaster we can also have a conversation about the need to expand constitutional carry. Right now there are 15 states that don’t require a license to carry at all. If you can legally own a firearm, you can legally carry it. In those states, even if concealed carry applications and renewals aren’t taking place, the impact to legal gun owners will be minimal, unless they want to carry outside of their home state and need a valid concealed carry license that is recognized by the state they’re traveling to.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case everywhere, and some Americans are undoubtably going to be left in a legal limbo when it comes to their right to bear arms for self-defense, and that’s not even factoring in the number of emergency orders we’re likely to see from localities that attempt to restrict the right to keep and bear arms. We’ve already reported here on the mayor Champaign, Illinois signing an order that ostensibly allows her to ban the sale and transfer of firearms, and Gun Talk’s Tom Gresham tweeted out an emergency order from the mayor of New Orleans on Sunday that supposedly empowers her to ban the transportation of firearms.

This is another issue entirely, and we’ll be talking with attorneys tomorrow at Bearing Arms and on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co about how the prospect of challenging the scope of these emergency declarations while court systems themselves are operating on an emergency basis.