Carrying a gun is as American as apple pie for those of us that do it. We are blessed to live in the only nation on this earth that truly honors this essential liberty, at least in most places. Americans have been heavily armed since the inception of our nation, and even before. The European settlers who first set foot on this soil were heavily armed with the firearms of the day. The Native American tribes already on the continent quickly adopted firearms technology as well. We are a gun people, despite what some political factions try to claim.
However, the legal carry of concealed handguns while in public is actually a comparatively new phenomenon. This trend has been driven by a number of factors. Civil unrest and terrorist events in the past two decades have had a profound influence on the mindset of the public and many have realized that local, state, and federal government is unable to protect the masses when disaster strikes. People are now more aware of the crime trends in their own communities than in decades past due to our new technologies. Thus, many millions have embraced their own security measures. At the time of this writing there are over fifteen million issued carry permits throughout the country. Many states now require no permit at all to carry. Let us trace this history of concealed carry in America and identify the significant changes:
Concealed Carry Prior to the Florida Revolution
The pivotal event in the modern trend of concealed carry was the state of Florida adopting a “shall issue” permit process. Shall issue mandates that if a citizen of the state has a clean criminal record and passes whatever the state requires for training qualification, then the state must issue the permit. Most states in the union are now Shall Issue or have no requirement at all for a permit to carry concealed.
What one finds throughout America’s history, despite being a gun culture, is that the concealed carry of weapons has consistently been illegal. Beginning in the early 1800s states began banning the carry of concealed weapons. By the mid twentieth century most states had outlawed the carry of concealed weapons entirely. Open carry of weaponry was acceptable in many places but few states allowed for the concealed carry of firearms. The majority of states were completely restricted and did not issue permits or were “may-issue,” leaving the issuance of carry permits to the discretion of state officials.
This trend in legislation against concealed weapons can be seen if you look at current knife laws in most states. Regulations on knives have remained antiquated and the open carry of any knife is often legal whereas the concealed carry of a blade is greatly restricted. This is still the case in many gun friendly states. Prior to Florida this was the general norm regarding concealed carry of firearms in many states. Unfortunately the majority of these draconian knife regulations still hang on despite the improvement in firearms freedoms nationwide.
At the time of this writing there are still nine states that are “may issue” states. The may issue system is setup so that an issuing state authority, sometimes a judge or local sheriff, etc, depending on the state, may issue a permit to any given citizen based on their own discretion. Essentially this often leads to elite people who are well connected obtaining permits and the average plebeian remaining unarmed. Some states require that a citizen prove that they “need” a permit. Apparently just having the sense to go armed in today’s dangerous world is not sufficient need. These nine states remain constitution-free zones. A citizen’s right to bear arms is left to the discretion of a judge or law enforcement official.
The Move to Shall Issue
Florida was the first major state to adopt the shall issue permit process and this was really the watershed that led the way. There were indeed several states that had already adopted shall issue prior to Florida doing so, but it is Florida that ushered in the mass migration to shall issue when the Sunshine State adopted this policy in 1987. Currently 41 states are shall issue, constitutional carry, or a combination of both.
The Constitutional Carry Trend
A trend that we have seen emerge dramatically in the past decade is a move on the part of many states to “constitutional carry.” This essentially means that the state recognizes the right of any resident with a clean criminal background, above the age of 21 in most states, to carry a concealed handgun without a state issued permit. Currently, there are 13 constitutional carry states that do not require a permit for state residents to carry a concealed handgun. Many of these states also issue carry permits.
You may wonder why a resident of a constitutional carry state would get a state issued permit if not needed, but without a carry permit a resident of a constitutional carry state can’t carry a concealed firearm in other states that reciprocate their home state’s permit. Therefore, most constitutional carry states still issue carry permits and those who wish to carry out of state should get it.
Looking Ahead: The National Reciprocity Movement
The current big push concerning concealed carry is to achieve national reciprocity which would mandate that all states recognize the concealed carry permit from any other state. The current network of reciprocity is precarious and makes little sense. Federally mandated reciprocity is also the only way to enforce the remaining may issues states to reciprocate with all of the others as these reciprocate with the least amount of fellow states.
The concealed carry trend continues to grow and expand as many have taken responsibility for their own safety. Let us hope this trend continues. Do your part to support this movement for your own freedom and the freedom of others, vote accordingly and carry your gun.