‘Turning San Francisco into San Antonio’

A commenter suggests that the Ninth Circuit may be interested in taking the right-to-carry-guns decision en banc — i.e., reviewing the case using an 11-judge panel — because

Turning San Francisco into San Antonio is not something any court is going to want to do lightly.

Now it might well be that the court will rehear the case, but I think it’s important to realize that shall-issue isn’t just a “San Antonio” matter. One could as easily say “turning San Francisco into Portland,” “turning San Francisco into Seattle,” or “turning San Francisco into Burlington, Vermont.”

In Oregon, pretty much any law-abiding adult can get a license to carry concealed. In Washington State, this has long been the rule. And in Vermont, people have pretty much always been able to carry concealed guns even without a license. There’s nothing specifically Texas / wild West about this rule; indeed, Texas law forbade concealed carry (though it allowed open carry) until the mid-1990s.

Today, basically 42 states allow pretty much any law-abiding adult to carry concealed guns in public — either requiring a broadly available license, or, in a few states, not requiring a license at all. I’ve heard some uncertainty about one or two of these, such as Connecticut, but the big picture is that right-to-carry is as much Washington, Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire, Indiana, and Pennsylvania as it is Texas or Mississippi. Maybe it will soon also be California, and the San Francisco-Portland-Seattle connection will be still stronger.

In the meantime, here’s a cool animation showing the transition from nine right-to-carry states in 1986 to 42 today; I can’t vouch for every detail, but the big picture is correct. (“Unrestricted” means carrying concealed is generally allowed, even without a license. “Shall-issue” means that pretty much any law-abiding adult can get a concealed carry license. “May-issue” means that it’s up to local sheriffs or police chiefs to decide who can get a license. “No-issue” means that people can’t carry concealed, period, unless they are police or some similarly exempt group.)


Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy. Before coming to UCLA, he clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge Alex Kozinski on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Volokh is the author of the textbooks The First Amendment and Related Statutes (4th ed. 2011), The Religion Clauses and Related Statutes (2005), and Academic Legal Writing (4th ed. 2010), as well as over 70 law review articles. Volokh is also an Academic Affiliate for the Mayer Brown LLP law firm.
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Eugene Kontorovich | February 13