This may be the year that several states will allow people to walk around in public with concealed guns — no permit required.
Gun rights advocates have had tremendous success in recent decades making it easier to obtain a concealed-carry permit. In most states, the process is now a fairly straightforward: Applicants typically have to pass a background check. Some states also ask that applicants take a gun safety class, and some may reject applications if there is evidence of mental illness.
A handful of states are far more permissive. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Wyoming and Vermont don’t require a permit at all for concealed carry in public. Vermont has never had such a requirement; Alaska went permit-free in 2003; Arizona in 2010; Wyoming in 2011 (limited to residents); and Arkansas in 2013.
These victories have been hard-wrung. “Even if a majority of the legislature or the governor might be in favor of concealed-carry laws, it’s generally agreed that having some sort of training or background check is really important,” said Brian Malte, the national policy director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
But in 2014, Republicans took control of nearly a dozen state chambers, allowing permitless concealed-carry efforts to resurge in places like New Hampshire, West Virginia and Maine.The American public has recently been tilting toward gun rights; a Pew poll last month showed guns rights supporters pulling ahead of gun control supporters 52 to 46.
But Americans also want background checks, which permitless concealed-carry laws could do away with. A Quinnipac poll last year also showed that an overwhelming majority of voters, both Democrat and Republican, support background checks for all gun purchases. A similar majority would also bar people suffering from mental illness from purchasing guns.
Gun control advocates say that about 18 states are looking at permitless carry laws this year, depending on how you count. Here is a roundup of the more prominent bills:
In 2014, Republicans took back the New Hampshire House and strengthened their control in the state Senate. Back in 2011 and 2012, when the GOP also held both houses, gun control measures failed because some Republicans found issues with the bills. Some also blame infighting between guns rights groups.
On Feb. 12, SB116/HB582 passed the Senate on a 14-9 party-line vote. The bill is due out of its House committee this week. Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) hasn’t said whether she would veto the bill —w hich matters, as the Republicans do not have a veto-proof majority in either chamber.
On Friday, permitless concealed-carry bill SB347 passed the West Virginia Senate and is in the hands of the House judiciary committee. Both West Virginia’s House and Senate flipped into GOP control after the 2014 elections.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) seems supportive of gun rights. Last year, he signed a bill limiting the ability of municipalities to control how people buy guns or where they may carry them. Regardless of how he acts, the legislature would be able to override a veto.
But this past election, Republicans took control of the Senate and added 10 seats in the House, which remains under Democratic control. Last week, state Sen. Eric Brakey (R) reintroduced the permitless concealed-carry legislation. Brakey claims that 96 lawmakers from both chambers stand with him.
Last week, the Kansas Senate approved a permitless concealed-carry bill 31-7. It will likely sail through the House, which is also dominated by Republicans.
Some shooting instructors have spoken out against the bill, which would no longer require people to take gun safety lessons before being able to walk around in public with a concealed weapon.
In Colorado, Republicans took control of the state Senate by a single seat this past election. Two weeks ago, the Senate passed a permitless concealed-carry bill that will face a tough time in the Democrat-led House.
HB 89 was introduced Feb. 5 but has been sitting in committee. The Idaho Statesman has come out against the bill in an editorial: “We keep hearing from responsible gun owners and skeptics that not everybody should have guns, or be allowed to conceal them. So let’s drop the idea of HB 89 and trust our current system.”
It’s unclear if the bill will ever get out of committee, though not for lack of trying by gun-rights groups. Last week, Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher complained that activists were making harassing phone calls to him and other on the state affairs committee. “I would hope the people of this state recognize that this is not the way to win friends and influence people,” he said, according to the AP.
Utah, Indiana, South Dakota
Concealed-carry measures have stalled in all of these states.
In South Dakota, HB 1116 passed the House 44-23 on Feb. 10, but was tabled by the the Senate judiciary committee last week.
In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert ( R) vetoed such a measure in 2013, citing the importance of background checks. A similar bill this year was tabled two weeks ago after Herbert asked the sponsor to hold it for now, according to the Park Record.
In Indiana, HB 1144 has been stuck in committee and it appears unlikely to get a hearing, according to the Kokomo Perspective.