Part one of these portion of the Gun Ownership Primer series dealt with things anyone carrying a concealed handgun must consider and address. This second part primarily concerns the legal issues involved.
There are two primary bodies of law with which anyone carrying a concealed weapon must be intimately familiar: the specific laws of their state that regulate concealed carry and the laws regarding the use of deadly force–in general–and those specific to their state. Of particular concern are the places where concealed carry is prohibited as most people have their permits suspended for accidentally carrying their handguns into such places. These restricted zones vary from state to state, so it’s always wise to carefully research this issue and avoid violating those laws. Keep in mind, however, that Col. Cooper said that it’s much better to be judged by twelve than carried by six. In other words, it’s better to be alive and in violation of a given law than dead and faultlessly law abiding. I do not advocate violating the law, merely being aware of all of the issues relating to these topics.
State Laws: These regulate who is allowed to carry, the related fees, forms and tests (usually written and shooting), terms of license validity and the means of renewal, specify manner of carry (open, concealed or both) and specific zones and places wherein firearms may not be carried by licensees. They also commonly list states with whom reciprocity is shared. In other words, states that have entered into a compact of mutual respect for the concealed carry licenses of their respective citizens.
Most states–at last count, 39–are “shall issue” states. In other words, if you meet the criteria for concealed carry under the law, no public official may deny you a license. Illinois was the only state where concealed carry was absolutely prohibited, but recent court orders have drug the legislature and Chicago political machine kicking and screaming into new and at least tentative compliance with the Second Amendment, though that battle goes one. However, in others–such as California–a “may issue” system is in place where local sheriffs or state officials have absolute authority to decide who will be allowed a license. In such states, licenses are normally granted only for the wealthy, well connected, politicians, or similar worthies. The National Rifle Association website maintains an up to date database of state laws under its Institute For Legislative Action tab .
NOTE: in February of 2014, a three-judge panel of the liberal Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the policy of San Diego County Sheriff William Gore to issue concealed carry licenses only to people who could prove a “special need” to his satisfaction. This is hardly the last step in the legal process, and if the past is any indicator, California politicians will fight tooth and nail to the last drop of blood to continue to deny their citizens their basic rights.
Another vital state issue is preemption. The legislatures of many states have passed preemption laws that prevent cities within those states from passing and enforcing different—usually more restrictive—firearm laws than those in the state statutes. In the states that do not have preemption, one may be committing multiple crimes simply by driving across city limit boundaries. What is completely lawful on one side of an unmarked border is a crime on the opposite side. New York City and New York State are obvious examples of this issue. Again, it is vital to be fully aware of the law wherever you live and wherever you travel. DO NOT, by any means, expect the police or prosecutors to be just or rational where firearms are concerned. Most will be, but in some places, virtually all will not.
Reciprocity is likewise important. Many states have entered into agreements with other states that allow concealed carry to mutually honor their licenses. Circa March, 2013, a bill for national concealed carry reciprocity (H.R. 822) has passed the house, however it stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Considering the current push for gun control in that body, passage is unlikely, certainly for the remained of Barack Obama’s second term. He promised in his most recent State of the Union address to use Congress-skirting executive orders and administrative regulations to impose gun control measures. One may be reasonable certain that he will live up to this promise if no other.
The Shaneen Allen case is instructive. Allen, a single, working mother of two young boys and a resident of Pennsylvania obtained a concealed carry license after being mugged. Stopped for a minor traffic violation in New Jersey, she was arrested for possession of her firearm and was facing a felony conviction and years in jail until massive public outcry forced the anti-prosecutor involved to authorize a pre-trial diversion program designed for cases like hers. Yet again, you are responsible for being aware of any and all laws wherever you live or travel.
Municipal laws may also have some bearing, but only in those states that lack a state preemption statute. Ultimately, the point is to become very familiar with any state or local laws that might apply, not only where you live, but where you plan to travel. Even those states with reciprocity agreements with your state are sure to have some significant differences in law, and you are required to follow the law wherever you are, even if it differs from the law in your home state.
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