Amid the rising number of Americans licensed to carry a concealed handgun, more states are passing laws that don’t require a permit to carry firearms, embracing the view that self-defense is a “natural born” right.
Missouri became the fourth state this year to approve a so-called “constitutional carry” law when Republican legislators overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon on Sept. 15, making permitless carry legal. West Virginia, Mississippi and Idaho also have adopted constitutional carry laws in 2016, bringing the total number of such states to 12.
“States that focus on freedom realize that if self-defense truly is a natural-born right, and the Second Amendment truly affirms that natural-born right, you shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to exercise it,” said Tim Schmidt, president of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association in West Bend, Wisconsin. “Kind of like you don’t have to ask the government to exercise the First Amendment.”
Missouri’s law specifies 17 places where people can’t carry guns, including churches, airports, sports arenas, courthouses, liquor stores, schools, hospitals and polling places on Election Day. It will take effect Jan. 1.
The Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, objected that the legislature’s action “makes Missouri the first new ‘stand your ground’ state since Trayvon Martin’s death.”
The group said the law “dismantles Missouri’s concealed carry permit requirement and lets people — including some violent criminals, certain repeat drug offenders, and people with no firearms safety training — carry hidden, loaded handguns in public.”
Rep. Lauren Arthur, North Kansas City Democrat, called it a “stupid, dangerous piece of legislation.”
The National Rifle Association said the development in Missouri “will improve the ability of law-abiding gun owners to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Mr. Schmidt, whose for-profit company offers training, education and firearms liability insurance policies, said President Obama’s efforts at imposing gun control regulations, combined with an uptick in violent crime across the U.S., are aiding the rise in people carrying firearms.
“I certainly think it’s helped,” he said of Mr. Obama’s agenda. “It’s the whole fear thing — everybody’s afraid he’s going to pass some action and take the guns away, so they go to the store and buy more.”
The FBI’s latest annual report showed violent crime in the U.S. rose about 4 percent in 2015, including an 11 percent rise in homicides.
“I don’t think people need to read the FBI crime report to realize that crime is a problem,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Everybody wants safety and security for their family. The greatest thing about the increase in conceal carry legislation is that it’s helping people to realize that they can be that first line of defense for their family.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump also has brought renewed attention to the issue of concealed carry; he has a permit in New York to carry a handgun and has proposed an expansion of gun rights to make any state’s permit applicable nationwide.
One of Mr. Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., also revealed last week that his wife, Vanessa, has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“She’s a tough woman,” he said in an interview with SilencerCo, a company that makes gun silencers. “But she can’t stop an aggressive bad guy who’s out to get her. She has a concealed weapons permit. She practices with me and she enjoys it. It’s a big part of our lifestyle. And we need to be able to defend ourselves.”
Last year Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, introduced a bill that would establish national concealed carry policy, requiring all states to recognize gun carry permits from any other state. Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said states that use “reasonable discretion in awarding concealed carry permits would be forced to accept the standards of states with reprehensibly low standards, like Florida.”
There are more than 1.6 million concealed weapon licenses in Florida, which last month announced it would expedite concealed carry applications for active military members and veterans “in the wake of attacks against military personnel in Chattanooga, Tennessee” in 2015. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it has sped up approval for more than 50,000 concealed weapon license applications for military personnel and veterans.
During Mr. Obama’s presidency the number of people with concealed carry permits has increased from about 6 million to nearly 15 million. More than 6 percent of all adults in the U.S. now has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, according to John R. Lott Jr. at the Crime Prevention Research Center.
Mr. Schmidt said regardless of the differences in state laws on concealed carry permits, firearms education and training are still crucial. His association offers webinars with simulated self-defense scenarios.
“I like to say that firearms self-defense training is like eating and bathing — you’ve got to do it on a regular basis,” he said. “It’s not something you do once.”