Constitutional Carry And The 2A's Overton Window

The Democrats’ push for gun control in Congress has stalled in the U.S. Senate. A number of recent polls show declining support for new gun control laws, and we’ve seen record numbers of new gun owners across the United States since last March. Yes, gun control bills are still moving in some blue states, and some of them are downright awful pieces of legislation, but not a single state legislature is pushing for a ban on so-called assault weapons at the moment. Meanwhile, at least four states have approved Constitutional Carry legislation this session, and a number of states have also signed off on Second Amendment Sanctuary language.

On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, we’re taking a closer look at how the issue of the right to bear arms might be moving the Overton Window when it comes to our Second Amendment rights; and more specifically how the Constitutional Carry issue is changing the debate over the right to carry. With the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a challenge to New York’s “may-issue” carry permitting laws, we’re going to be hearing a lot of bleating from gun-banners about the “common sense” nature of New York’s laws, but in truth, the country is quickly turning away from the discretionary laws on the books in New York and a handful of other states.

It’s pretty amazing when you think about it; 42 states have “shall-issue” laws when it comes to concealed carry licenses, and 20 of those states don’t actually require legal gun owners to have a license to carry at all. If you can legally own a handgun, you can lawfully carry it. Just eight states still cling to the idea of being able to prevent the average citizen from lawfully carrying a firearm in self-defense, but that number has been dwindling for years.

When was the last time a state adopted a “may issue” law for concealed carry? The last place I can think of was the District of Columbia, which tried to impose a may-issue standard on residents about a decade ago. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that policy to be unconstitutional, however, and rather than appeal to the Supreme Court, D.C. decided instead to move to a “shall issue” system of its own. There is simply little public appetite for the kind of carry laws on the books in states like New York, California, New Jersey, and Hawaii, and you won’t even find gun control groups advocating for the abandonment of shall-issue laws these days.

In fact, in Texas, where a Constitutional Carry bill could be headed to the Senate floor for a vote this week, Moms Demand Action has been left to advocate for keeping the state’s shall-issue system in place, though you know in their hearts they want to ban the carrying of handguns altogether.

“It’s not complicated, and it’s not controversial – gun owners like me know that responsible gun ownership means going through a background check and safety training before carrying loaded handguns in public,” said Becca DeFelice, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Our License To Carry system keeps Texas families safe, and there’s no reason why our lawmakers should dismantle it with dangerous permitless carry bills.”

I’m sure that Becca would much rather be extolling the virtues of New York’s discretionary and discriminatory carry permits instead of defending the shall-issue laws in Texas, but this is the state of the right-to-carry debate at the moment.

Even in Colorado, where Democrats have solidified their control of the state legislature, lawmakers who introduced multiple gun control bills last week stayed far away from turning the state from a shall-issue to a may-issue system. To be sure, the bills they did introduce are terrible, and would likely lead to local restrictions on the right to carry as well as imposing local bans on commonly-owned firearms like AR-15s, but the anti-gun Democrats in charge in Denver know that New York-style carry laws aren’t going to win them too many votes in Colorado.

In may-issue states Democrats are still speaking up in favor of keeping the status quo in place, but there are no serious attempts in any shall-issue state to scrap the current law and impose may-issue standards. Gun owners and Second Amendment supporters face our fair share of challenges and infringements to our right to keep and bear arms, but when it comes to the right to carry, we’re heading in the right direction, and the Overton Window on bearing arms is moving away from New York-style permitting laws and toward the full recognition of the right of average citizens to carry a gun in self-defense.

Aug 03, 2021 4:30 PM ET