A Constitutional Carry bill could be headed to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk as early as next week after the measure cleared a key Senate committee on Friday and moved to the Senate floor for a full vote.
House Bill 60 passed the Senate Justice Committee by a 5-2 vote after several hours of debate on Friday afternoon, and prospects look good for the bill when it comes up for a vote, which could come within just a few days. Cox has already signaled his support for the measure, which, if enacted, would make Utah the 17th state to recognize the right of legal gun owners to also legally carry their firearm; no permit or permission slip needed. Other states, including Montana, aren’t far behind, and it’s possible that by the end of this year nearly half of the country will be Constitutional Carry states.
As you can imagine, this isn’t sitting well with gun control activists. In fact, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts calls it a frightening trend.
“It is dangerous to allow people to carry hidden, loaded handguns possibly without a background check or any training,” she said, adding that the annual rate of aggravated assaults with a firearm has increased 71% in Alaska since the state became the first to allow concealed carry without a permit in 2003.
The proposal in Utah would allow any U.S. citizen 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon without the now-required background check or weapons course. The bill does allow gun owners who want to carry a concealed weapon out of state to get a permit to do so after a background check and safety course.
I’m all in favor of training. In fact, I’d argue that I’m a stronger advocate for firearms training than Shannon Watts. The big differences are that I don’t believe in government-mandated training, and I believe that training opportunities should be far more prevalent than they are in Second Amendment-unfriendly locales like Chicago and Baltimore.
Watts’ argument about the increase in Alaska’s aggravated assaults with a firearm over the past 18 years might be more compelling if we hadn’t just seen record increases and historic high rates of murders in multiple cities and states that have incredibly restrictive carry laws; New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, to name a few. We also saw the homicide rate decline in Oklahoma City last year, even though the fact that Oklahoma is now a Constitutional Carry state should have precluded that outcome, at least according to Watts.
The widespread adoption of Constitutional Carry could have major consequences for gun owners later this year. This spring the Supreme Court will consider taking up a case dealing with New York’s carry laws, and I think there’s very strong possibility that SCOTUS will grant cert. Not only do we have the Second Amendment on our side and the clear protection of the right to bear arms, but we have history on our side as well. From the earliest state constitutions to the upcoming referendum on adding the right to keep and bear arms to the Iowa state constitution, as states have entered the Union they have generally embraced the right to bear arms. We’ve seen dozens of states adopt “shall issue” concealed carry statutes starting in 1980s, and the more recent Constitutional Carry revolution that has played out over the past decade or so.
New York, on the other hand, is one of only a handful of states that still maintain “may issue” laws that allow police broad discretion and authority in determining who gets approved to exercise their right to bear arms, and the Supreme Court could decide that the history, text, and tradition of the Second Amendment (including the rise of Constitutional Carry states) makes that type of subjective licensing law off-limits to the states. That’s what’s really frightening Shannon Watts; the thought that more than 80-million Americans living in California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and the other “may issue” states may soon have their Second Amendment rights restored.
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