Alabamians woke up Sunday with the right to carry a gun without a license.
The change, implemented by state law passed last year, marked a milestone: Half of the 50 U.S. states now allow people to carry handguns without first applying for a permit.
Thirteen years ago, only two states — Vermont and Alaska — granted its residents the absolute right to carry a firearm, relying on the Constitution’s Second Amendment as a general license for all.
Since 2010, however, nearly two dozen states have followed suit, 11 of which have passed unlicensed transportation laws in the past three years alone.
The growing movement has won victories in state legislatures with remarkable speed, drawing cheers from gun rights advocates while raising concerns among reformers that the changes will bring more guns to the streets — and likely more violence.
“If you are a law-abiding citizen, you should be able to fully exercise all of your constitutional rights,” said Andi Turner, legislative director of the Texas Rifle Association. “Half the states in the union now recognize it.”
Licensing systems generally require applicants to demonstrate safe handling of firearms, as well as knowledge of gun laws and the use of lethal force.
“We’ve seen over the past decade a very concerted effort from the corporate gun lobby, particularly the NRA,” said Nick Wilson, gun violence researcher at the Center for American Progress. It was a very successful campaign for the gun lobby. It helps their bottom line… But it’s very concerning for anyone concerned about public safety.
The state’s legal changes coincided with two other trends that bode well for gun advocates. First, the covid-19 pandemic has triggered a unprecedented increase in sales. And second, people of color and women made up a larger share of buyers, diversifying a gun-buying audience that has traditionally skewed toward men, whites, and conservatives.
Gun violence has also increased since the start of the pandemic, with gun deaths jumping 20% from 2019 to 2021according to a recent study published by JAMA Network Open.
With major gun reforms like banning assault weapons or universal background checks blocked in Congress, the series of state laws marks a defeat for the reform movement, which sees this trend as a threat. for public safety.
Sociological studies tend to show that an increase in gun ownership generally follows an increase in violence.
“It’s no coincidence that in states with very permissive approaches to guns in public, gun death rates are higher,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel at Giffords Law Center, a non-partisan reform group.
Over the past five years, researchers have increasingly shown that loosening restrictions on the carrying of handguns is also associated with issues such as increased gun thefts and incidents of road rage, according to Stanford law professor John Donohue.
Letting more people carry guns is also hampering police work, Donohue said — partly because of rising gun theft and accidental shooting cases and partly because the he increased risk of being shot reduces the effectiveness of the police.
“One of the unintended consequences of putting more guns on the streets is degraded police performance,” Donohue said. “You see solve rates for all crimes drop when states move towards letting more people carry guns.”
Counting the number of states with license-free carry laws may overstate their reach, Skaggs noted. They tend to be small states with rural populations, while larger, more urban states like California and New York tend to favor a more restrictive approach to guns.
Just over a third of Americans live in the 25 states that adopt license-free transportation.
And just as gun advocacy groups have made rapid progress with carry-without-license laws in red states, liberal-dominated legislatures have pushed countermeasures.
New York tightened its gun restrictions after last year’s mass shooting in Buffalo. Delaware enacted a statewide assault weapons ban last year. A ballot measure passed by Oregon voters last year requires a license for all gun purchases and restricts magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, though the law is tied up in court.
But the New York State Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Co. v. Bruen also made it harder for state legislatures to keep people to carry handguns. The ruling struck down a New York law that required applicants for concealed handgun licenses to demonstrate a specific need to carry a weapon.
However, the decision stopped short of completely removing handgun licenses.
“The notice made it clear that there is nothing in the Constitution that requires carrying without a license,” Skaggs said. “Constitutional porting may look good with its alliteration and the way it comes off the tongue, but it is fundamentally wrong and misleading. Guns in public have always been heavily regulated.
Still, the Bruen decision could have major impacts on gun debates at the state level, according to Mark Oliva, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade group. .
“States left and right will likely become more polarized,” Oliva said. “And you’re going to keep seeing them go to court and say, ‘What’s the truth here?’ And if the truth follows what came out of Bruen, they’re going to find assault weapons bans unconstitutional, magazine restrictions unconstitutional, age restrictions and background checks for ammunition purchases are unconstitutional.
The states with license-free carry could become the majority before the end of the year.
Delegate from Virginie Marie March (R) pre-filed a constitutional postponement bill in November for this year’s legislative session. However, the governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis wants the issue to be dealt with first when Florida lawmakers meet again in April.
In Nebraska, a deferral bill without a permit failed to clear the threshold to overcome a filibuster in the state Senate last year by two votes. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (right) plans to try again this year.