The State of Constitutional Carry in the US
What is Constitutional Carry?
Constitutional Carry is usually defined as any form of loosened gun restrictions where no permit is required to possess or to carry a firearm, whether carried openly or concealed, or whether loaded or unloaded.
It is often called Permitless Carry by purists who feel that if it isn’t specifically written into the state’s constitution, then it doesn’t have permanency and it doesn’t really count. The flipside to this argument, of course, is that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution ends with, “shall not be infringed,” and that’s all the permanency that one should ever need to declare his or her freedom to carry their firearms for protection anywhere they go.
Let's run through the current status of each one with an explanation of where they all are in the process right now and what we suspect will be the outcome of each:
State Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, filed the bill that would allow residents to carry a concealed pistol without a permit.
The Alabama Sheriffs Association came out against the bill, but Senator Allen took that opportunity to point out that all the permit really is useful for is to give the various sheriff’s departments some extra money.
Too tough to call. With a Republican Governor and 3 to 1 Republican House and Senate, this should be an easy win in most states, and it may still be here.
Arkansas is an unusual and complicated animal, in that it can be argued that it already has constitutional carry, provided you read Act 746 that was passed in 2013 correctly.
When passed, this Act amended a portion of the Arkansas statute 5-73-120, which previously read,
“A person commits the offense of carrying a weapon if he or she possesses a handgun, knife, or club on or about his or her person, in a vehicle occupied by him or her, or otherwise readily available for use as a weapon against a person."
It was changed to now read,
“A person commits the offense of carrying a weapon if he or she possesses a handgun, knife, or club on or about his or her person, in a vehicle occupied by him or her, or otherwise readily available for use with a purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun, knife, or club as a weapon against a person."
It should be obvious to most that the Act made the carrying of such a weapon only illegal if the carrier had the intention to harm somebody - thereby establishing permitless carry.
The problem is, that didn’t happen and some police and deputies continued arresting people for carrying anyway.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge Makes it Confusing
In August of 2015, The state’s AG threw a monkey wrench into the situation, when she made this statement:
Nothing in Act 746, § 5-73-120(a), or this opinion is intended to suggest a person may carry a concealed handgun in public without a properly issued concealed-carry license. In fact, except during a journey, it is likely that the Arkansas Supreme Court would allow the presumption that a person who has flouted the concealed-carry licensing scheme in Arkansas law by possessing a concealed handgun without a concealed-carry license has the requisite unlawful intent for a violation of § 5-73-120(a).”
The Arkansas Court of Appeals Rules
On October 17, 2018, the Arkansas Appeals Court stated in case No. CR-18-353, Jamie Taff v. the State of Arkansas:
“[I]n general merely possessing a handgun on your person ... does not violate § 5-73-120(a) and may be done if it does not violate other laws or regulations. Under the clear language of section 5-73-120(a), the possessor of a handgun must have an unlawful intent to employ it as a weapon against a person in order to make that possession a criminal act.”
For all intents and purposes, this case ends the debate on Constitutional Carry in Arkansas. It is now legal to carry a loaded firearm open or concealed throughout the state. However, the story doesn’t end there...
House Resolution 1013 Made It Even Clearer
State Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, was able to get (nonbinding) Resolution 1013 declaring that Arkansas is a constitutional carry state where permits are not required to carry firearms passed through the House on Thursday, February 14th, 2019.
An identical resolution will be going to the Senate and if that passes, the presumption is that it will go through the process once again, but this time as a fully binding bill.
Although the matter is settled in the eyes of the law, this will make it harder to repeal since it will then be proven to be passed by the legislature and not simply by a court decision.
It makes no difference; this one is a done deal. Regardless of what other legislation is passed in the state, we shaded Arkansas in fully green as we now consider the state to have full constitutional carry rights.
In November, House Bill 2 was pre-filed with 25 sponsors called the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2019.
As well as granting full constitutional carry, it removes restrictions from carrying in parks, historic sites, wildlife management areas, public transportation, and 42 specific recreational areas. It also removes any and all restrictions against carrying of arms while hunting or fishing.
The bill faces resistance from Democrats and even a few Republicans, but it still seems likely to move forward.
Likely to pass, although there could be some hurdles to overcome. The Governor has made statements in the past that seem to point to a strong likelihood of signing the bill if and when it gets to his desk, so the only probable stumbling block would be the votes themselves. If you’re in Georgia, make those phone calls!
On Monday, February 11th, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill eliminating the permitting requirement for carrying a firearm. It still needs to go to the House and Senate for votes there.
The bill, SF 2106, needs to now get through the House and Senate, then be passed by the governor.
The biggest problem in Iowa is that Governor Kim Reynolds has made comments that strongly put into doubt her willingness to sign any sort of permitless carry bill and has called the current law requiring a background check in order to get a gun permit, "good policy."
Still, Reynolds will presumably be running for reelection in 2020 and favor among her Republican colleagues in the Senate will be important to her if she’s politically savvy enough to understand it. As has been shown repeatedly in the past, earning favor among the left if you’re a Republican is utterly worthless.
Not a good chance of passing. While obviously still a possibility, Iowa has in recent years been a more or less purple state, with a typical number of Republican legislators leery of passing any bills that some constituents would claim are too extreme.
Squeaking this one through the House could be tricky, although the Senate looks easier. As stated above, the real challenge is going to be the Governor’s office unless there’s a change of heart happening that we’re unaware of at this time.
A package of four bills that collectively seek to end restrictions against carrying pistols without a permit also remove restrictions against most gun-free zones for those who do have permits as well as revise sentencing guidelines to conform with the proposal were introduced recently by a group of Republican legislators, who still hold a technical majority in the state.
The problem, of course, is the freshman Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Any Constitutional Carry bill presented in a split legislature has the deck stacked against it from the start, although not a lot is known about Whitmer's positions on firearms.
Probably not going to pass. We just can't get past the glaring issue of having a Democrat Governor, no matter who it is. Any Democrat, even if it was a pro-gun one, who be in an enormously difficult position of being under tremendous pressure from national Democrat politicians.
Optimistic gun rights advocates look to do the unthinkable in Nevada, despite the current controversy over their impending universal background check by passing permitless carry. Assembly Bill 437 was introduced by Republican lawmakers on March 24th but appears to not have much of a chance in the newly Democrat-controlled state legislature.
The sponsor of AB437, Jim Wheeler of Minden, freely admits it's a longshot.
Democrat Assemblyman Steve Yeager of Las Vegas said the bill is not likely to get a hearing in the Judiciary Committee when speaking to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The backlash over universal background checks (Senate Bill 143) that passed last month may be partly responsible for the announcement of the measure.
Almost zero chance of this passing anytime soon. If one state could be said to have less chance than any other in the country of passing permitless carry, this would be the one.
Just announced on February 12th this year was House Bill 61, North Carolina's new Constitutional Carry bill sponsored by Representatives Pittman, Potts, Kidwell and 5 others, which as well as removing all permitting requirements also makes it illegal to consume alcohol while carrying and criminalizes carrying onto private property that is conspicuously posted as prohibiting firearms.
This bill also makes it illegal to carry a gun into prisons, police stations, courthouses, the statehouse, and various other places.
Constitutional Carry has been attempted in at least 5 of the past 6 years and failed every time, usually in committee. Though the Senate and the House have more Republicans than Democrats, they don't overwhelm the minority with huge numbers, and the Governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat.
Cooper previously got A ratings from the NRA, but his approval by them went from 93% in 2012 to 64% in 2016 when he was elected. In 2017 he made disparaging remarks about the wisdom in granting teachers the right to carry, and his personal satisfaction with the current permitting process makes it seem unlikely that he would sign any bill removing the necessity for permits.
Probably not going to pass. Despite the overt concessions to the anti-gun crowd with the new restrictions that it would impose as outlined above, we just see it as unlikely that this bill would survive the triple whammy of having to endure committee hell in both chambers and be signed by a Democrat governor generally unfavorable to the idea — one who now would likely have even more pressure on him by the left not to sign it than even recent past governors would have had.
Fresh off a win that saw a law modified after a clerical error that would have inadvertently outlawed AR-15's, the state's gun groups think they just might have the numbers to do the same.
HB174 was introduced this past Wednesday the 26th by Mount Lookout Representative Tom Brinkman and removes all permitting requirements, just as South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Kentucky recently did.
Ohio's current House is strongly Republican, with the Senate even more so. Despite having proposed the bill before and having it fail, proponents believe that the recent wins in other states will help push the bill along. Recent comments from Republican Governor Mike DeWine have convinced Brinkman that he also would support it.
HB 174 was officially introduced on March 29th by Rep. Ron Hood, a Republican from Ashville and Rep. Tom Brinkman, a Republican from Cincinnati. Twenty-seven more Republican lawmakers are co-sponsoring the bill.
This one could go either way. The GOP's numbers look quite good, but this is a traditionally purple state where it's likely that many of the Republicans in the legislature are somewhat left-leaning. With former RINO Governor John Kasich out of the way, this bill might just have a good fighting chance in the Buckeye State.
Following a well-publicized synagogue shooting and the City of Pittsburg's complete refusal to follow the state's preemption law by passing its own assault weapons ban, State Representative Aaron Bernstine (R-10) has introduced HB 1412, a Constitutional Carry bill. The bill was introduced on May 6th, at which time it was referred to the Judiciary Committee.
The bill still includes an option to get an optional license to carry firearms anyway, for reasons of reciprocity with other states, of which Pennsylvania has many such agreements across the country.
The House and Senate currently enjoy Republican majorities, albeit razor-thin ones. Although the bill has gotten significant vocal support from members of both chambers, the state's legislature is so large that it's difficult to get an accurate picture of how a Constitutional Carry bill would fare. As we've seen in other purple states, the possibility of a few wayward RINOs sinking the bill is very real.
Pretty much guaranteed not to pass. Like Michigan above, we just can't see any real likelihood of Constitutional Carry passing in a state with a Democrat governor, particularly one known to not be friendly to gun rights.
H.3999 in the Palmetto State was introduced last Tuesday (the 19th) with 25 sponsors and repeals all permitting requirements throughout the state. It also revises and removes some of the places where carrying a firearm would otherwise be prohibited.
The process is still in the very early stages though, so details other than the bill itself make it difficult to tell how this one could go. It’s worth pointing out that a similar bill failed there just last year.
Chances of this happening just got a lot worse. The House Whip, Russell Fry, is blocking the bill at the moment because of a fight with the sponsor of the bill. Residents are encouraged to call his office and demand that he stop his antics and bring the bill back to the subcommittee for a vote. You can read all about it in our recent story, here.
With both the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Judiciary Committees stonewalling any movement on Constitutional Carry in South Carolina, House Bill 3999 and Senate Bill 139 are now officially dead after missing their window to either move forward or expire. The blocks seem to be caused by RINOs using flimsy excuses to prevent full votes on either measure.
Another state in the early stages, Loje Star gun rights advocates have made permitless carry a priority this year, referring HB 357 to the Texas House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee for review last Tuesday (the 19th).
Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Republican from Bedford, sponsored the bill along with 14 other Representatives.
The biggest problem right now appears to be that two Democrats chair the most pivotal committees standing in the way of Constitutional Carry. They are state Rep. Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass), who is the new head of the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee, and state Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), who was appointed to head the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Both are fairly well known to not be friendly to gun rights.
Probably not going to pass. 2019 may not be the year for Texas, but they’ll likely get the chance again next year. We’re not expecting any permitless carry bills to make it out of committee in the Texas legislature in this session.
Dennis Bonnen, the Republican Speaker of the House for Texas on Friday, April 5th made a public declaration dropping the state's Constitutional Carry bill after a Chris McNutt, the executive director of Texas Gun Rights, showed up in his hometown to urge him to expedite the bill.
On May 27th, the Texas House and Senate passed HB 1177, the Emergency Carry Bill in Texas. It grants temporary permitless carry to all legal Texas gun owners in the event of a declared emergency and for 7 days following the disaster. At his discretion, the Governor may also extend the time period for Emergency Carry to be in effect beyond the set 7-day period.
See our latest article on HB 1177.