I recently saw a discussion thread in an online firearms forum which posed a simple question to it’s members: What is Constitutional Carry? The range of answers they offered both amazed and troubled me. These appeared to be knowledgeable practitioners of concealed carry, yet it quickly became evident that even experienced gun owners are confused by this issue. We’ve discussed the subject before in this column, and I’ve made no secret of my thoughts on the issue—any dispassionate, logical reading of the Second Amendment should lead one to the same conclusion. But what is it, and why should it be the ultimate goal for 2A activists to pursue?
What is Constitutional Carry?
Simply put, Constitutional Carry is the recognition that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution provides all the authority that we, as American citizens, need to own firearms and to carry them on our person, whether openly or concealed. It is the strict interpretation of the clear text of the amendment carried to the logical conclusion, to wit, that because the right to, “… keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” [italics added] no governmental entity, whether your local town council or the Congress of the United States, has the power to require you or I to seek permission before we exercise our rights. To do so is akin to requiring that we hold a license to buy and read a newspaper.
Is Constitutional Carry in force anywhere?
Actually, there are several states that recognize some form of Constitutional Carry, and nearly half the nation is considering it. Currently, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, and Vermont recognize Constitutional Carry for all, while Wyoming recognizes it only for residents of the state. Also, more than twenty states have introduced bills in their legislatures to bring their constituents their full constitutional rights.
Do States have the right not to recognize Constitutional Carry?
This depends greatly upon the ultimate interpretation of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court. The renewed impetus towards restoring our Second Amendment liberties began with the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (554 U.S. 570) in June of 2008, which found that the Second Amendment protected an individual right of the American people, not, as many on the left tried to argue, merely a collective right when in an organized militia. That opinion was reinforced two years later in McDonald v. Chicago (561 U.S. 742), which held that, rather than limiting Second Amendment protections to the federal government, it was fully incorporated against the states under the Fourteenth Amendment.
To understand the importance of this, it’s necessary to understand that the Bill of Rights does not confer liberties or freedoms upon us; rather it recognizes that these rights are ours by virtue of our humanity, conferred upon us by our Creator. It instead limits the ability of Government to interfere, limit, or restrict those rights. The Constitution does not tell us what we can do; it tells Government what it can’t. Some limitations affect only the federal government, some only the states. The most important, however, are those that are applicable to all levels of government, from federal on down to municipal. These are said to be incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment, which reads, in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States …” To put it simply, no government entity, at any level, can violate the Second Amendment.
Thus far, SCOTUS has declined to say just how faithful a reading of the Second Amendment to which it would require governments to adhere. Obviously, the stricter the better for those of us who care about individual liberty. A truly faithful interpretation would lead one to the conclusion that any attempt by government to limit the right of Americans to keep, and bear, arms, is unconstitutional.
Would Constitutional Carry mean that felons could legally carry guns?
Of course not. Those convicted of felonies and misdemeanors involving domestic violence have been deprived of many of their constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment, with due process. One of those liberties is the right to keep and bear arms. Constitutional Carry does nothing to alter that.
How can I get my state to recognize Constitutional Carry?
Assuming that you live in a state that hasn’t yet adopted Constitutional Carry, there are many things you can do to help convince your elected representatives to restore the full constitutional rights of their constituents. Join organizations devoted to gun rights in general, and Constitutional Carry in particular. If there are none in your state, start one. Become educated on the laws of your state, and work to improve how your state deals with gun rights. Support candidates who’ll promise to support Constitutional Carry, and oppose those who oppose your rights. It won’t be an easy fight; however, as similar efforts in other states have demonstrated, the tide of individual liberty is in our favor.
While the issues involved in restoring Constitutional Carry to every American citizen are complex and difficult, the concept itself is not. Any literal interpretation of the Second Amendment would lead one to the conclusion that, if our liberties are to have any meaning, Constitutional Carry must be inevitable.
- T Alford
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