We’re back with the first Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co of 2023, and I’m delighted that my friend and fellow 2A advocate Mark Walters is with us to talk about the biggest challenges and opportunities facing gun owners in the new year. If you haven’t heard Mark’s Armed American Radio you’re missing out on a great resource for gun owners, and I’m glad he could lend some of his insight to today’s show.
We kicked off our conversation by discussing some of the most immediate threats to gun owners around the country, particularly the push for a ban on so-called assault weapons in blue states from Washington to Connecticut. The most imminent piece of legislation is HB 5855 in Illinois; a bill that would not only prohibit the sale and manufacture of many common semi-automatic firearms but would require existing owners to register them with the state, as well as raising the age to purchase or possess a firearm of any kind from 18 to 21 (with limited exceptions for hunting or target shooting under the supervision of an adult older than 21). Democrats are scrambling to pass the gun ban bill before the end of the current lame duck session early next week, and probably have the votes to do so thanks to an expanded majority in both the state House and Senate, but Walters says that ban and others that are already in effect could soon face a buzzsaw of court decisions that will leave the legislation in tatters.
“We have that huge Fourth Circuit case in Maryland that has the potential to wipe those bans out if the case makes it to the Supreme Court,” Walters notes, though he does raise the possibility that gun control activists themselves will lobby to keep the case away from SCOTUS if the Fourth Circuit determines that Maryland’s ban on so-called assault weapons does indeed violate the Second Amendment rights of residents. That would be a reversal of current Fourth Circuit precedent, which bizarrely holds that, because AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles are “like” machine guns (in appearance, if not in terms of function) then they aren’t protected by the Second Amendment at all.
As Mark and I discuss, we’ve seen the anti-gun lobby try that tactic before. In a case dealing with Washington, D.C.’s “may issue” laws a few years ago, gun control groups prevailed upon District officials to adopt a “shall-issue” system rather than risk an adverse ruling from SCOTUS. Prior to that, Illinois lawmakers decided to adopt a concealed carry law after the Seventh Circuit ruled their prohibition on the right to carry violated the Constitution; choosing to take the loss at the appellate court level in an attempt to keep the Court from issuing an opinion declaring that the right to bear arms is just as real and fundamental as the right to keep them.
Those tactics managed to delay the Court’s consideration of the issue, but thanks in part to New York’s insistence on treating a civil right as an inherent wrong SCOTUS was finally able to sink its teeth into the right to carry. I suspect that Walters is correct about the potential for the anti-gunners to try the same ploy when it comes to bans on “assault weapons,” but again, they’re really only delaying the inevitable. Sooner or later (and the sooner the better) the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a state-level ban on a class of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms, and the gun prohibitionists aren’t likely to be happy with the results (unless they can stall long enough for the current makeup of the Court to change in their favor).
As for opportunities for gun owners in 2023, Walters believes this will be a big year for Constitutional or permitless carry, pointing to the likelihood of success in Florida and Nebraska (I’d throw in Louisiana as a dark horse candidate as well). That would bring the number of permitless carry states to at least 27; which would not only be an outright majority of states but a clear sign of support for our Second Amendment rights. Since the mid 1980s, more than 40 states have adopted “shall issue” carry laws, and half of the states now have permitless carry laws in effect. Not a single state has ever seen fit to reverse course and re-institute “may issue” laws, even before the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional. Instead, the clear trend has been towards full recognition of our right to keep and bear arms without government interference, or even having to obtain pre-approval by the government in the first place.
I’ve only scratched the surface of my conversation with Mark Walters, so be sure to check it out in its entirety below and listen in to Armed American Radio when you can. It’s another great resource for gun owners, and we need to be more informed and engaged than ever in 2023 if we want to secure our recent gains… and our fundamental rights.