By Jonathan Ellis
Legislatures in a dozen states are considering laws that would eliminate requirements that residents obtain permits to carry concealed weapons.
Gun-control advocates view the efforts as part of a long-range strategy to eventually weaken gun laws across the country. But supporters say armed, law-abiding citizens prevent crime.
Andrew Arulanandam, policy director for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, which supports these legislative efforts, argues that crime rates are low in four states — Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming — that already allow residents to carry without a permit. “Our viewpoint is, a good person will always be a good person,” he said. “They don’t need a license to be a good person.
Brian Malte, the director of state legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence argues the permitless systems put law enforcement officers in a bad situation when they encounter someone with a weapon, and he’s critical of efforts that would allow people who have never even shot a firearm to carry one in public.
“They want a gun in every nook and cranny in society with no permission needed and no background check,” Malte said, adding, “This is just a recipe for disaster.”
States that have been or are considering bills in current legislative sessions include Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota and Virgina, according to the NRA.
South Dakota could be the fifth state to join the ranks of permit-less carry states. Lawmakers last week passed a measure allowing anyone 18 and older with a valid state driver’s license to carry a concealed weapon, as long as they don’t have a background that would otherwise prohibit them from getting a permit. The bill awaits action from Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Mike Milstead, the sheriff of Minnehaha County, the state’s largest, says his office processes about 2,000 permits a year, of which 30 to 40 are rejected because applicants have something in their backgrounds.
“The tough part will be on the small number of people that think they should have a permit that shouldn’t,” he said.
Wyoming’s law went into effect in July. The state continues to issue permits for people who want to travel out of state, said Christopher Lynch, the project manager for the state’s concealed firearms program.
In New Hampshire, Republican Rep. J.R. Hoell’s bill has cleared the House. Hoell points to the recent school shooting in Chardon, Ohio, as a failure of gun control. “Gun-free zones kill people,” he said.