Constitutional carry law refers to state laws that advocate for the freedom to carry a firearm either openly or concealed. The law does not prohibit citizens from openly carrying a firearm in public spaces as no state permit is required. Under constitutional carry law, there are no background checks, government licensing, registration, or training needed to carry a handgun in public. Vermont was the first state to recognize constitutional carry law as it does not have a regulation regarding gun possession in its history. All 50 states have enacted laws that require gun holders to have a license, training, and non-criminal records to carry a concealed handgun (Everytown Research par, 1). The Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 solidified that the right to bear arms confers individual rights, not just collective militia freedom to own guns. In granting individual rights to own guns, the Supreme Court raised a fundamental question of whether that right includes carrying firearms in public. The thesis states that the constitutional carry law right should be limited as it removes the barrier for the unfit to own guns, interferes with the justice system, and raises the likelihood of gun violence.
Access to the Unfit
Opponents of the constitutional carry law argue that the regulation would allow barred citizens with criminal backgrounds to possess firearms. The removal of barriers to obtaining guns can lead to an influx of criminal activities as criminal entities can buy guns to commit felonies. The restriction and penalties stipulated in the law regarding domestic violence offenders and felons arrested with illegally possessed guns do not offer adequate deterrence from the criminal entities to possess guns. In addition, the lack of background checks expands the opportunity to buy guns as the gun rifle shops have no documentation to deny felons from accessing the guns. Criminals typically do not apply for concealed carry permits; thus, the constitutional carry law will lead to a proliferation of guns to criminals as there is no law to prevent them from accessing the firearms.
Interferes with Justice System
Constitutional carry law interferes with law enforcement by making it difficult to identify suspects at a crime scene. Fingerprints are a significant source of evidence linking suspects to an active crime scene. Therefore, removing fingerprint requirements for gun owners may result in situations where it is impossible to identify fingerprints at crime scenes (Cruz, par, 5). This interferes with justice as it makes it difficult to track criminals as law enforcement cannot identify owners of guns found at a crime scene. In addition, law enforcement officers find it hard to verify the identity of gun owners without documentation, thus invalidating the law where police officers have the right to question people where there is a reasonable motive.
Lack of Gun Safety
The constitutional carry law does not require people to undertake a gun safety education and thus has severe implications regarding untrained shootings. A lower level of firearm education and gun safety protocols is detrimental to gun safety practices. The lack of training information will lead to a reduced population of gun holders who have the required standard of using, storing, and carrying firearms. This phenomenon will increase the number of accidental shootings and gun thefts. There is a need for gun training to promote responsible carrying and storage, improving safety. Live fire training is vital in determining gun holders know how to load and fire a weapon safely without compromising the safety of others. In addition, the constitutional carry law impacts public safety as it leads to fear of crime among community members as the law allows for carrying guns without permits. The lack of training presents a significant issue to society as it does not make the streets safer.
Increased Likelihood of Gun Violence
Constitutional carry law creates multiple loopholes for criminal entities and other prohibited persons to avoid prosecution for gun possession. The unintended consequence of this law is that it will hinder law enforcement agencies from possessing firearms owned by criminal entities. Under the law, law enforcement agencies cannot deny violent criminals convicted of crimes and people who pose safety risks, including those mentally unstable, from accessing firearms; this has severe implications regarding public safety. The constitutional carry law will limit the powers of law enforcement agencies and increase avenues for engaging in violent crimes, thus impacting public safety. Law enforcement agencies have considerable information regarding community members and therefore are well-positioned to revoke permits due to unstable behavior.
The precursor for constitutional carry law legislation is the often-weakened firearm permitting system. Therefore, these laws can be used to show that the rise in gun violence and violent crimes are premeditated by the weak permitting system. States that have passed constitutional carry law legislation that weakens law enforcement authority to revoke or deny permits to criminal entities and are mentally unstable experience increased homicide rates. There has been an 11% increase in homicide rates and a 15% increase in violent crime rates (Cruz, par, 9). This evidence shows that constitutional carry law leads to reduced community empowerment.
Preventing police officers from revoking their license for dangerous people has a considerable effect on public safety. This lack of public safety extends to teenagers in the case of homicides. Under the constitutional carry law, a person can carry a weapon if eligible to purchase one. The minimum age is between 18 to 21 years, depending on state laws. Research shows that young adults have the highest gun homicide rate, three times higher than older adults (Hamlin 76). The constitutional carry law would increase the homicide rate as teenagers have easier access to firearms.
Proponents of constitutional carry law argue that the government should not restrict the right to bear firearms. The argument stems from the Second Amendment, which gives individual citizens the right to own firearms and carry them anywhere. About 20 states have enacted the constitutional carry law recently, mainly due to the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 (Schell et al. 39). The Supreme Court concluded that the Second Amendment, which solidifies the right to bear arms, confers individual rights, not just collective militia freedom to own guns.
The proponents argue that the regulations that restrict permissionless carry are unconstitutional based on the interpretations of the Second Amendment. The requirements to carry a firearm, such as a background check, training, fingerprints, and proficiency exam, seek to restrict the Second Amendment rights. Therefore, the constitutional carry law restores and protects the Second Amendment rights regarding carrying firearms and is not an expansion of citizens’ individual rights. This argument further elaborates that gun control legislation to prevent violence is questionable as they are unconstitutional based on the Second Amendment doctrine. In addition, the requirements barring people from constitutional carry law infringe on the Second Amendment right to obtain legal self-defense. The requirements limit citizens from low socio-economic backgrounds to legally obtain self-defense, particularly in the disadvantaged communities rife with violence.
The legality of constitutional carry law based on the second amendment is unfounded as per the amendment’s operative clause. The interpretation of the operative clause does not create an unlimited right to possess firearms in public spaces for self-defense. The second amendment protects the right to bear and keep firearms for specific military purposes, such as the context of service in a state-regulated militia. In addition, the operative clause does not limit the legislature’s power to regulate ownership of firearms and their non-military use. The amendment does not expand the rights for constitutional carry law beyond state-regulated militias and does not explicitly mention the right to use guns in self-defense.
Protection of Rights
The proponents also allude to privacy protection, which is undermined by the gun possession requirements. The government takes fingerprints and does a background check on all citizens possessing firearms, a decision seen as an infringement on their privacy rights. Proponents argue that the government creates a database of people possessing firearms that can be used to harass citizens through seizures and leverage that disadvantages gun owners (Donohue, Abhay, et al. 55). The fingerprint requirement does not infringe on the citizens’ right to privacy. The fear of potential harassment is unfounded as the fingerprints database is a mechanism that facilitates justice through solving crimes. The database makes it easier for law enforcement to identify firearms owners and prevent criminal entities from possessing any firearms, thus making the public safer.
Reduction in Mass Shootings
Mass shootings in the U.S. have been rampant, leading to the death of countless innocent citizens. There have been 255 mass shootings resulting in the death of 1,449 people since 2009 (Cruz par, 5). Supporters of the constitutional carry law suggest that mass shootings will reduce as more people will have the capacity to stop mass shooting situations. The proponents argue that gun holders will diffuse the situation by engaging people who use firearms with harmful intentions, including maiming innocent people. However, this argument is not adequate as the primary issue that has led to mass shootings is the lack of gun safety education. Removing training and proficiency exams on using firearms may lead to more violence. A clear example is when an untrained gun holder attempts to diffuse a gun situation but results in injuries as one is not adequately trained in gun-handing techniques.
Constitutional carry law limits state power to conduct criminal and mental state background checks, training, and issuing permits for carrying concealed guns in public. Gun control activists argue that constitutional carry law will impact public safety and increase gun violence. Proponents of the constitutional carry law argue that the legislation protects their Second Amendment rights to bear firearms, consolidates their privacy, and reduces mass shootings. Constitutional carry laws based on Second Amendment rights should be limited to ensure public safety against increased gun violence and criminal activities. Both arguments allude to the protection of the right to life. However, the constitutional carry law poses an inherent danger to citizens due to the proliferation of guns in public spaces and thus should be abolished.
Cruz, Kimberly. “Pros and Cons of the Texas constitutional carry law.” Watts Guerra LLP, 2021.
Donohue, Abhay, et al. Right to Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State-Level Synthetic Control Analysis.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies: vol 16, no. 2. 2019, pp. 198-247.
Everytown Research. “Permitless Carry: Carrying a Concealed Gun in Public with No Permit and No Training.” Everytown Research & Policy, 2020.
Hamlin, Daniel. “Are Gun Ownership Rates and Regulations Associated with Firearm Incidents in American Schools? A forty-year analysis (1980–2019).” Journal of Criminal Justice: vol, 76, 2021.
Schell, Terry L., et al. “Changes in Firearm Mortality Following the Implementation of State Laws Regulating Firearm Access and Use.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: vol, 117, no. 26, 2020, pp. 14906 14910.