Constitutional carry is very much in the news. Four states have adopted it so far in 2021 and Texas and Louisiana are currently moving constitutional carry bills through the legislative process.
It’s sad really. Constitutional carry laws shouldn’t be necessary at all. The right to keep and bear arms is clearly covered in the Second Amendment. But we live in the real world and ultimately constitutional carry is the best legislative solution short of state constitutional amendments. And since I got tired of having the same arguments over and over again, here’s why Texas (and every other state) needs constitutional carry.
First, a little background and some caveats:
- This comes from the perspective of a Texas resident, but I’ve lived all over the US and traveled the world. I’ve held concealed carry permits in several states, attended corresponding training and testing in some states, and simply showing the proper credentials in others. At one point, my father and I held FOID cards…oh, the authoritarian memories.
- Texas is in the middle of constitutional carry making its way between the Texas Senate and House…hopefully reaching the Governor’s desk soon. What follows may apply to your state as well; most of the arguments are state-agnostic.
- This is a lot of words. Per our usual arrangement, thank you for your patience.
- I’m aware I’m mostly preaching to the choir here, except for the couple of usual comment section trolls. I trust you’ll skewer them, as you always do. The intent of the article is to capture a (hopefully) thorough rebuttal of all common anti-constitutional carry and anti-Second Amendment arguments and misconceptions. Fudds gonna Fudd, but hopefully this rattles some Perazzi doubles and pre-’64 Winchesters collecting dust in mom’s basement.
- I’m a strict Second Amendment absolutist. The first argument below should clarify that, but any infringement is an infringement. The real purpose of Second Amendment is neutered if any infringement exists. Carry a Stinger missile through Central Park and admire the pigeon crap…just don’t bother anyone while you’re doing it. It should all be legal and entirely unrestricted.
- I’m no historian or lawyer, but I read a bit and love my state and country. Carry that Stinger at your own risk, and verify any/all laws applicable to your location prior to screwing it up.
- In several instances, especially discussing restoring the rights of convicted felons, I’ll speak to the ideal execution of ensuring the integrity of natural rights. Reality has a lot of holes to poke in those arguments and situations. However, a constitution is written to define the ideal nature of citizen-to-government interaction, not to address every contingency that could arise in the following centuries. I write in that same vein, to address arguments for and against the ideal execution of the US or Texas Constitution.
With all of that out of the way . . .
Using the Federal Constitution as a foundation, the Bill of Rights were not written to provide rights, but to expressly acknowledge natural rights already possessed by all citizens. In fact, the Bill of Rights are 10 Constitutional amendments because the Founding Fathers didn’t think they were necessary. Acknowledging natural rights and freedoms might communicate that other, non-explicitly amended (or non-included) rights didn’t exist.
The Constitution was written to limit the power of the government. Anything not expressly included was intended to communicate that the government couldn’t do that thing.
The blossoming tumor of government agencies and bureaucratic nonsense of the past century or so would drive the Founding Fathers insane. That the Bill of Rights includes these 10 amendments was intended to make those rights extra special, even further beyond the reach of government to curtail.
The Federalist Papers, public correspondence from the Founding Fathers, and historically accurate definitions of words in common use at the time all overwhelmingly support this. Taking the Second Amendment in all of its proper context, it literally directs that the government can’t even think about restricting or regulating the weapons that the citizens can possess, carry, store at home, use on rabies-infested zombie-pigeons…zero infringements, period.
The Second Amendment’s purpose is to protect the people from the overreach of a tyrannical government, such as the government that the colonists had just defeated with personally-owned firearms and balls of steel. A well-armed populace keeps its leadership in check, unable to force its will on the people without the consent of the people.
Obviously, we’ve allowed that intent to get bulldozed by “empathetic” (power-hungry) legislators, Presidents, and Supreme Court Justices for centuries now, particularly after the Civil War and again in the last 80+ years. It’s sad when our “pro-Second Amendment” 4-D chess game involves conceding that a funky, over-priced plastic stock is actually a machine-gun.
Any Joe or Jane should be able to walk along Manhattan’s avenues with an actual M-16 slung across their back and be absolutely free to do so. As long as they don’t point it at someone (without due cause, such as to stop a crime) or commit an objective crime using that gun, no LEO or government entity should be able to stop them or curtail their activity.
Any infringement that allows the government to regulate the polite and free activities of its citizens is a long, slow path to tyranny. The Second Amendment literally protects the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, etc., and in the process protects our freedom.
The Public Safety Argument
One of the few basic (and constitutional) functions of government is to regulate negative externalities. If a business dumps nuclear waste into a river and poisons a town’s drinking water, the government has the authority to stop it and force a clean-up or restitution.
Along this line of thought, some argue that allowing everyone to carry guns without training or licensing will produce unmitigated risk to others in a public space, thus government regulation is a necessary public safety measure. You see this argument in the media ad nauseam.
There are now 20 states with constitutional carry laws on the books. When those states started the process of considering constitutional carry, the typical “blood in the streets” arguments appeared all across the news. It’s a well-documented narrative TTAG covers regularly. I’ve lived it while in Arizona and now Texas and witnessed the media coverage a dozen times for other states in the last decade.
Every time the predictions of doom have proven to be totally false. Criminal violence rates, rates of negative police/civil interactions, arrests related to firearm misuse, and any other available metric to capture the effects of enacting constitutional carry all showed the same thing: either zero significant change, or a mild decrease in violent or criminal behavior. Murder, assault, brandishing, etc. are still crimes, and if someone misuses constitutional carry in an illegal manner, a cop can still do their job and push it to the judicial system for prosecution.
In fact, with constitutional carry as the law, a LEO’s job (watching for crimes, arresting criminals) and the case for prosecuting illegal activity with a firearm is more clear-cut in court. Possessing the firearm in a public space isn’t even a factor, so it boils down to what the defendant actually did with it.
That’s exactly how criminal trials should proceed. It cuts out one more “victimless” crime or add-on charge (merely possessing a firearm) and gets to the actual crime (Ex: the criminal used it to murder an elderly lady, and the criminal is now going to the fun-filled lethal injection table; the add-on charge of possessing a firearm isn’t a necessary discussion in court).
The Historical Argument
This one is really irrelevant considering the above, but it provides some context on how we got here. It shows that the last 150+ years haven’t been the norm, and they don’t meet the intent of a free and polite society. An Ammoland article states it way better than I can, in a Texas-specific context that likely applies to many states.
The TLDR version is that government has only ever placed more restrictions on firearms ownership and carry since the “clean slate” of our founding or the addition of new states. The only exception is the very recent (the last three decades) trend of relaxing restrictions in red states and turning zero-open/concealed-carry into may-issue or, more often, shall-issue.
The unfortunate irony of anti-Second Amendment legislation and court decisions is that most of them began as and currently are viciously racist:
- Want to keep recently-freed black Americans from resisting indentured servitude, or keep them from suddenly migrating away from the farms they work? Solution: disarm them.
- Want Bull Connor to wage war on black Americans in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights era? Solution: disarm them.
- Want lynch mobs to exercise violent injustices against young black males? Solution: disarm them.
- Want poor (“unclean!”) Americans to be unable to afford firearms and pregent then from upsetting the power structure? Tax the shit out of firearms ownership or use corrupt licensing schemes to either 1) not allow them to own guns, or 2) make them a felon if they carry anyway (NYC and New Jersey, you listening?).
Any infringement of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement designed to control either the whole of American society or specific minority groups (and that’s actual, hateful racism at work). This is what history shows us…and this is only the US. Take a look at the first steps Hitler, Mussolini, Castro, and Lenin took as they rose to power: Disarm the people that may someday not like how you rule them.
The ‘Training’ and ‘Cost’ Arguments
Some argue that mandated LTC training is necessary to prevent unsafe gun handling or stray rounds hitting innocent third parties. Or that the fees are a minor, necessary evil to sustain the licensing program.
I’ll concede one point: Even after constitutional carry is signed into law, keeping the LTC infrastructure and licensing fees is a necessary evil to allow residents to maintain reciprocity with other states. I’m not an expert on the current Texas constitutional carry law’s text (I read a couple of the original drafts, but it’s been amended since as it ping-pongs between the houses). However, I imagine it’s probably similar to Arizona’s in that it only allows residents of that state to carry without a permit.
I’ll continue to pay my LTC fee and do the paperwork every five or six years so I can travel to Florida and legally carry concealed through every state on the way. If, in the future, every state has constitutional carry and opens it up to all non-residents, then there could be an argument for letting your LTC permit expire. But I won’t because an LTC allows me to save some time at my local gun store. This line of reasoning has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not we need constitutional carry…we absolutely do.
Back to the training/licensing cost argument: Both points are totally irrelevant and clear Second Amendment infringements. By mandating training, the government exerts control over its citizens. Even if it’s a “shall issue” state, that’s still literally the government saying “We’ll allow you to bear arms…unless we find a reason not to.” And you never know when the political tides will turn and suddenly all LTC’s throttled back or revoked.
Constitutional carry removes the power from the government to dictate who has the right to keep and bears arms (semi-permanently…since again, the political landscape can change and the next legislative session could strike it down. The real way to do it is to amend the Texas Constitution to enact permanent constitutional carry).
That isn’t to say training is a bad thing. It’s a very good thing. I’ve personally instructed hundreds of first-time shooters over the years. Everyone from a class of military spouses (moms who wanted to train so they can defend their homes when dad deployed), to college kids trying out some guns before they purchased their first, to military shooting competition teams with an inventory of machine guns and government-purchased ammo.
Every one of them walked away having improved marksmanship, safer gun handling skills, better situational awareness, and with more experience and knowledge to make better purchasing decisions. It was all good training and a fun time, and further convinced them that responsibly owning and carrying guns was a good thing. My greatest instructional memories have been starting the day with a hesitant, insecure, and terrified grandmother…and then ending the day with her stating “this is fun, I see the value in this, and I have an idea of which one I want to buy.”
And as good as all that is, I would never mandate a single minute of training or licensing fees for anyone because of the risk of government over-reach into our personal lives.
It boils down to personal responsibility. LTC training is useful because it teaches you the applicable state laws and may keep you out of trouble, for instance, carrying in a place with a 30.06 or 51% sign. But knowing and following the law is an individual responsibility, and forcing government-regulated training to know the laws is stupid and an over-reach. I don’t need First Amendment free speech training, either.
Who should be able to carry?
This is a discussion I’m not done pondering, I’m open to input. Ideally, I see it this way: Any citizen walking the public streets should be able to carry anything, at any time.
Wait, does that mean convicted felons out on parole? Yes. The criminal justice system is intended to provide justice (the actual definition—getting what you deserve…not the bullshit perversion of leftist language over the last few decades). If a person commits a crime, is convicted, sentenced, and completes their sentence, then they should be admitted back to society as a free and full citizen.
If they’re not ready to re-enter society, if they’ve committed 69 armed robberies throughout their life and have no intention of stopping, why are they allowed back on the streets?
The procedures of the criminal justice system, its failures in policy and execution, are too far from my knowledge base to intelligently comment on proposed changes. But the intent, and all policies that follow, should drive to the same end: From the perspective of government policy, everyone walking the streets is presumed to be innocent and pure until observed or proven otherwise.
Idealism and reality certainly conflict here, but from a Constitutional perspective, I err on the side of idealism and freedom.
I’m open to sound arguments on tempering the above with the nature of the conviction, but I have yet to hear one that doesn’t have me resorting to the fundamental nature of revoking and restoring freedom. If an individual is released from prison, it should be on the principle that they’ve been “rehabilitated” and not assessed to be a higher risk of committing crime (the same as convicted, or otherwise) than the average citizen. Otherwise, keep them locked up.
Additionally, as a practical matter, legally prohibiting an individual in a free society from possessing a firearm has stopped exactly zero people from obtaining them.
Another common issue is drug users, those who are mentally incompetent and/or a true danger to others in a public space, particularly with a Colt Python strapped to their hip. On this, reverting to Second Amendment absolutism, I re-state that crimes are crimes. Assault, murder, manslaughter, negligence leading to injury or death…all of those are still unprotected actions and should be met with LEO (or fellow citizen) intervention and then the judicial process, as required.
It’s a messier situation on which to theorize than just the Average Joe walking through Central Park with an M134 (heh), but if we’re drawing up policy that applies to all US citizens, then Second Amendment absolutism it is.
Let friends and family self-police their loved ones. Let all Americans exercise personal responsibility, and let law enforcement and the judicial system do their jobs in a just and moral manner. Creating policy to the contrary is in direct conflict with the ideals and explicit intent contained in our founding documents.
I whole-heartedly support constitutional carry. Not because I think it’s necessary; no law or amendment should actually have to be written to detail the natural state of a citizen’s life in the US.
The entirety of federal and state laws should be nothing more than a two-page list of such items as “don’t murder, steal, rape, or be a jerk”. Essentially the Ten Commandments and Golden Rule—wow, as though they were good rules thousands of years ago.
But because it has become necessary to establish the status quo, and to actively allow what is really a natural, God-given right, I say push hard to support every reinforcement of our natural rights.
Here’s what I hope happens: Constitutional Carry is the law. And yet people still sign up for training, LTC classes, whatever they think they need to be responsible gun owners and concealed carriers. Not because it’s mandatory, but because they’re responsible citizens who take the Constitution, firearms training, firearms safety, and personal responsibility seriously.
And then I hope everyone donates an arm, a leg, a kidney, and their wallets to good groups like SAF, GOA, JFPO, SFCC, FPC, etc.