Concealed carry laws could be getting a makeover, thanks to various state-level legislative initiatives to make it easier to carry a firearm for personal protection and a proposal being considered in Congress.
A growing number of states are opting to do away with concealed carry permit requirements as constitutional carry legislation advanced last week in New Hampshire, Kansas, Mississippi and Montana.
If successful, the residents of those states would be permitted to carry a firearm for personal protection concealed without having to apply for a permit.
“This bill recognizes that the simple act of putting on a coat should not require a permit,” New Hampshire State Sen. Sharon Carson said of the concealed carry legislation in her state last week.
Americans living in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont and Wyoming already enjoy unrestricted concealed carry.
New Hampshire State Sen. Jeb Bradley used Vermont as an example of how constitutional carry should work in a speech to his state legislature last week.
“Our radical and dangerous neighbor to the west — Vermont, which has allowed concealed carry without a license for 200 years without a problem — is the safest state in the nation,” he said.
But people living in states where concealed carry is, or may become, unrestricted may still want to consider obtaining a permit if they plan to carry out of state.
That’s because Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced last Thursday legislation that would do away with the current confusion surrounding concealed carry reciprocity by establishing uniform reciprocity in all states with permits.
The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015 would treat concealed carry permits much like driver licenses and give permit holders the right to carry concealed in any other state that issues permits.
“This bill strengthens two of our nation’s fundamental rights — the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and states’ rights to adopt laws that are best suited for their residents,” Cornyn said in a statement.
Concealed carry is currently permitted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, though some jurisdictions make it much harder than others for residents to obtain a permit.
Reciprocity varies throughout the nation. In gun-friendly Alabama, for instance, authorities already recognize valid permits issued by any other state. On the other end of the spectrum are states such as New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland that recognize only in-state permits.
Cornyn’s legislation, despite the inclusion of provisions that protect individual states’ concealed carry laws, has drawn criticism from gun control groups that claim universal reciprocity would undermine state’s rights.
“Under this scheme, even if a state has determined that public safety requires live-fire training for permit holders, the state would have to allow permit-holders from other states without any training requirement to carry guns on their streets,” the group Everytown for Gun Safety said in a report on universal reciprocity.
Supporters say that the reciprocity legislation is aimed only at keeping law-abiding gun owners on the right side of the law when they travel out of state.
“Our fundamental right to self-defense does not stop at a state’s borders. Law abiding citizens should be able to exercise this right while traveling across state lines,” the National Rifle Association’s Chris Cox said in a statement.
The push for doing away with permit requirements for concealed carry is not without critics as gun control advocates continue to lash out at concealed carry in general.
The New York Times editorial board last week cited a recent concealed carry study from the Violence Policy Center as “an alarming check on all the swagger about the woeful phenomenon of more citizens packing more guns.”
The study found that 722 nonself-defense deaths in the U.S. since 2007 were related to concealed carriers. What The Times failed to mention is that 84 percent of those were suicides by people with concealed carry permits.