In recent years, states across the nation have been moving toward more freedom for gun owners in the form of constitutional carry legislation – allowing citizens to conceal their handguns without a permit.
The most recent state to join the ranks of those allowing constitutional carry is New Hampshire, bringing the total number to 13 states. Currently New Hampshire, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, West Virginia, Kansas, Arkansas, Wyoming, Arizona, Texas, Alaska, Montana and Vermont all have constitutional carry legislation.
In the past 10 years, 10 states have passed constitutional carry legislation.
Here in North Carolina, if HB 69, a constitutional carry bill filed by Rep. Mike Speciale (R-Wake), is passed North Carolina could become the 14th state to approve constitutional carry.
Whenever gun laws are seemingly relaxed, such as when “restaurant carry” was approved was passed, the anti-gun crowd screams about the blood that will flow in the streets.
But if the recent expansion of gun rights in the state over the last few years is any indication, then those exclamations are more than a little exaggerated.
Passing constitutional carry here in North Carolina would be about as likely to turn our state into a warzone as it did to Montana in 1991, Arizona in 2010, Kansas in 2015, and Idaho last year. None of them experienced a surge in violence.
In fact, three of the four states with the lowest levels of violent crime are constitutional carry states. Vermont, which has never had concealed weapons permits, has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation in 2014: 99.3 people are the victims of a violent crime for every 100,000 people.
Among other constitutional carry states, Wyoming is third at 195.5 people per 100,000 and fourth is New Hampshire at 196.1 people per 100,000.
In the number-two position is Maine and Virginia is fifth.
An honorable mention in the number-seven slot is Idaho at 212.2 victims per 100,000.
This isn’t definitive proof; there is one state in the bottom five (Alaska) that is a constitutional carry state. Yet it is interesting that so many constitutional carry states are clustered together on the low-end of the spectrum when it comes to violent crime.
Even states that just passed constitutional carry, such New Hampshire, are likely fairly pro-gun to begin with and likely already have policies in place friendly toward concealed carry.
There likely are various connections between constitutional carry and a tendency toward less crime. One could be that peaceful states, especially those where hunting and gun ownership have long been common, don’t have the same anxieties about concealed weapons.
Passing constitutional carry legislation lowers the threshold for people to get into concealed carry, because getting a permit requires costly and time-consuming classes and application fees on top of the cost of the firearm, ammunition and holsters.
Thus a lower threshold means more people can practice concealed carry.
More law-abiding citizens carrying lawfully concealed handguns makes the populace much less enticing prey for any criminals looking to do bad deeds — it’s just a behavioral truth.
Speciale’s bill would essentially take the existing law on concealed handgun permits and maintain it, but without the need for the permit document. This change would remove a financial burden from those intending to conceal a firearm to protect themselves, and would also help to combat the lack of uniformity from county to county, as sheriff’s departments differ in how fast they process permits and how many get approved.
The only substantive change to concealed carry law under the bill, besides removing the need for the permit, is the change to allow those who are 18 years old or older to conceal a handgun, whereas under current law a resident of the state must be 21 to apply for a concealed handgun permit.
The proposed law would also apply to non-residents of the state as long as they were U.S. citizens.
With more than 25 percent of the nation supporting constitutional carry, and with the 10 states opening up constitutional carry in the last 10 years, it is clear the idea is catching on.
Speciale’s bill mirrors that of other states that have more recently passed constitutional carry in that it takes the existing structure of the state’s concealed carry law and applies much of it to concealed carry without a permit.
Some argue that this is not true constitutional carry such as exists in the state of Vermont, which has never banned concealed carry, as other states have.
But after decades of regulation on concealed carry in North Carolina, it is a simple plan to take the existing framework for where you can carry a concealed handgun and who can obtain a permit and apply that to carrying without a permit.
You still will not be able to conceal a handgun at a protest, you can conceal in a restaurant that serves alcohol, and property owners can still deny concealed carry in their establishments.
For these reasons, it’s easy to predict that if HB 69 passes, blood will not flow in the streets. In fact, the biggest change might be that, with more armed citizens on the streets, some potential criminals could decide to turn to honest work.