Concealed Carry Weapons Laws, Stakeholder and Legislation Overview
OK, not exactly my best work…in fact, pretty far from it. But I think the information and resources in here may be helpful for some folks so I decided to post it.
Concealed Carry Weapons Laws, Stakeholder and Legislation Overview
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is quite possibly one of the most debated and contested amendments in modern times. The importance and sensitivity of the gun control debate is one that every politician and congressional representative must take to heart; falling within the company of hot-button social issues such as abortion, taxation, and environmental policy.In this paper, I intend to analyze the stakeholders and their interests in the gun control policy sub-issue of the individual right to carry concealed firearms; generally referred to as concealed carry (CC) or concealed carry weapons (CCW). I will also be conducting an overview of CCW legislation covering the four types of CCW legal statuses with examples drawn from state CCW laws.
I will begin with an introduction to the Second Amendment and the gun control debate in general; introducing some of the major interest groups and stakeholders and outlining the primary arguments of the two sides. Next I will provide a slightly more detailed analysis of the pro and anti-CCW stakeholders. Finally, I will take a brief comparative and contemporary view of current CCW legislation to give the reader an overview of current policy across the nation.
The Second Amendment and the Gun Control Debate
I believe the first question we need ask is why is gun control is such a controversial issue? The Second Amendment is nearly as old as the United States itself. Yet after over 200 years of legal and social development, how is it possible that this one sentence amendment still causes so much debate in political and social arenas?
Primarily, there seems to be a great deal of misinformation credited to both sides of the gun control debate (Vernick & Teret). Each side has construed a sense of urgency and empirical legitimacy as to the correctness of their respective arguments. However, not surprisingly, statistics do lie and each interest group in this debate has been accused of selective interpretation of the Second Amendment language as well as the empirical data to better position their argument in the arena of political action and public opinion (Campaign,; Foundation,).
The United States has a very long and intimate history with the gun. According to Clayton Cramer (2007) guns have been central to the American experience since the founding of the English colonies. Their proliferation, use, and acceptance was seen as necessary for personal protection and survival as well as for political security; even being seen as a symbol of citizenship. It was not until the early and mid twentieth century that our attitude towards the firearm began to change.
As urban populations grew, economic prospects elevated, and firearm technology advanced, gun violence became a serious problem. The National Firearms Act of 1934 was in response to the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre, and was the first major legislation that regulated firearms. In this case, the Act placed limits on all automatic weapons including sub-machine guns and others specified by Congress (Government, 2007). From that point on, there has been a number of federal acts regulating the sale, possession, use, transfer, and transport of all types of firearms. These acts include: The National Firearms Act of 1934, The Federal Firearms Act of 1938, The Gun Control Act of 1968, The Armed Career Criminal Act, The Firearms Owners Protection Act, The Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act, The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. There have also been countless state and local laws regulating firearms as well, each with a wide range of gun control measures (Bureau of Alcohol).
The policy issue of CCW is rooted in the Constitutional concept of personal property and the freedom to use personal property in any way that the individual sees fit; so long as the use does not negatively effect others (Mixon & Gibson, 2001). The personal ownership and possession of firearms is seemingly guaranteed by the Second amendment of the US Constitution which states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
However, as noted above, it is the interpretation of the language of the Amendment that is the source of controversy. Interpretations of the language of the Amendment center around two fundamental positions: (1) the expansive protection of the individual rights of citizens to own and possess firearms (individual rights), and (2) the narrow rights of the individual states to maintain militias (collective rights) (Cottrol, 1994; Cornell, 2004). Gun rights activists take the stance that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right, whereas gun control activists interpret the meaning to be a collective right of the states to maintain militias.
The issue of gun control in general is a very broad and complex social dilemma involving a number of stakeholders with passionate interests. However, the focus of this paper is on only one (though central) aspect of the gun control debate; concealed carry weapons. Concealed carry, within the context of firearms, is when an individual hides a loaded firearm upon their person such that it is not visible to another person.
Stakeholders in the CCW debate generally divide themselves along pro and anti-gun control lines, as well as those with no opinion on the matter. However, gun control issues typically encompass all citizens as everyone is impacted in some way by the effects of firearms. The primary stakeholders in the CCW debate are: (1) citizens and interest groups from the pro-CCW view who desire little to no policy restrictions on CCW, (2) citizens and interest groups from the anti-CCW view who desire strict regulation of CCW, and (3) police agencies who must manage CCW permit issuance, violations, etc.
Pro-CCW rights individuals and interest groups make up the policy support stakeholder for CCW. National organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Second Amendment Foundation, and the Gun Owners of America are major stakeholders in the CCW debate. Organizations like these represent millions of Americans who’s political interests lie in the protection and expansion of CCW laws (NRA – Membership; NRA – Right to Carry).
The National Rifle Association is composed of over four million members who fight for gun rights. The NRA’s mission is to reduce restrictions and policies on firearm ownership and use. They do this primarily through contributions to policy makers, public education, and firearms training (NRA – Membership). According to Fortune Magazine, in 2001 the NRA was the largest lobbying organization in the US.
Anti-CCW proponents and organizations make up the movement to enact not only tougher CCW laws but often to outlaw CCW all together (BC – Concealed Carry; VPC). Such organizations also represent millions of members and include the Brady Campaign, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Violence Policy Center.
The nation’s largest political organization to prevent gun violence through gun control and education is the Brady Campaign (BC – About Us). The Brady Campaign is actually two organizations: The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is a legislative organization whose efforts are to influence gun control policy. The Center to prevent Gun Violence is a non-profit organization dedicated to education about gun violence.
Finally, the burden of managing the administration of CCW permits (issuance, confiscation, and records maintenance), background checks, and instructor certification typically falls upon local and state police agencies. For instance, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has a special CCW unit that, since 1994 has processed over 122,000 permits (AZDPS). With each permit comes a background check, contact information maintenance, revocations, and suspensions.
Gun Rights – Justifying the Risk
Given that not carrying a concealed weapon is the base (natural) position in this debate, I have chosen to focus solely on the gun rights arguments for actively carrying concealed weapons. Because anti-CCW proponents hold the natural position, the crux of their arguments are simply rebuttals to justifications put forth by the gun rights proponents.
In addition to the notion of individual property rights as characterized by fair property use outlined above, CCW proponents also claim a right to effective self defense as justification for CCW. According to a 1981 D.C Court of Appeals ruling in Warren v. District of Columbia:
…official police personnel and the government employing them are not generally liable to victims of criminal acts for failure to provide adequate police protection…government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen (p. 4).
This argument is reinforced in a number of court cases including: DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, Riss v. New York, and Hartzler v. City of San Jose.
Given that police have no legal obligation to even respond to a 911 call for help, gun rights activists argue that a reasonable means of self defense should be provided to the citizen by way of firearm ownership and possession (NRA – Right to Carry; Olson & Maltz, 2001).
It has often been cited by gun control proponents that police officer safety becomes a greater issue when more citizens carry concealed. This seemingly important cause should be a priority of law enforcement political activism. However, the National Law Enforcement Officers Fund (NLEOF, 2009) recently released the nation wide 2008 officer death statistics in which there was a sharp decline in officer fatalities (the majority of which were caused by traffic accidents). This, despite an ever increasing number of CCW permits issued across the nation, shows that CCW policies have little effect on police officer safety.
Finally, convincing yet highly contested (Olson & Maltz, 2001) research by John Lott, David Mustard, and others has demonstrated that the implementation of CCW legislation has a significant impact on lowering violent crime rates (Kopel, 1993; Lott & Mustard, 1997; Lott, 1998; Lott, 2000; Mixon & Gibson, 2001; Moody, 2001; Plassmann & Tideman, 2001). Contrary to what many feel is obvious, Lott argues that when individuals are permitted to carry concealed weapons, it provides a sort of public good effect in that criminals do not know who may or may not be carrying and thus do not know who would be capable of an effective self defense. Consequently, violent crime is lowered overall because many criminals do not want to risk personal injury; a key aspect of victimization is perceived vulnerability (Lott, 2000). Lott even equates the annual social marginal cost savings of having a citizen carry concealed to be about $5000 in medical and crime costs (Lott & Mustard, 1997)
Current CCW Legislation – Legal Status
CCW legislation in the US is varied and ever changing. The federal government has given the responsibility of regulating the sale, possession, and use of most types of firearms to the states. Yet despite the possibility of 51 (including the District of Columbia) different CCW policies, there are only four generally accepted legal statuses.
These four statuses are: may issue, shall issue, no issue, and unregulated (McDowall et al., 1995; Lott, 2000).
In general, most states have certain minimum criteria that applicants must meet in order to obtain a CCW. No matter a state’s legal status most have age, criminal background, training, and residency requirements that must be meet in order to issue a CCW permit. However, even Vermont and Alaska, who allow unregulated CCW, have obvious restrictions on age and criminal background. Some states also have additional stipulations such as classroom or range testing, military discharge status checks, and DUI or domestic violence involvement (not necessarily conviction) standards (Florida).
May-issue legal status typically involve the discretionary issuance of a CCW permit based upon some subjective factors like good cause and good moral character (California). Local law enforcement agencies are charged with judging who meets the state’s criteria; thus inducing possible political, ideological, and other types of bias (Lott, 2003). This subjective criteria also introduces differences in the permit distribution patterns based on geographic location.
California is a classic may-issue state. Each county sheriff’s office has the responsibility of accepting CCW applications and judging subjectively if the applicant is of good moral character and can show good cause. Some county sheriffs are more lenient in their requirements and thus creating an almost shall-issue policy for their jurisdiction. Others are much more stringent and can be viewed as basically no-issue jurisdictions (California).
Shall-issue (also known as right-to-carry) legal status requires that permit issuing agencies issue CCW permits to all applicants who meet certain minimum criteria; void of subjective discretion. These criteria vary from state to state but generally include: a clean background with no felony convictions, a firearms safety course, and mandatory fingerprinting.
Florida is a well known shall-issue state whose legal shift from may-issue to shall-issue status in 1987 was the primary focus of Lott’s research (2000). Assuming certain criteria like age, no criminal record, no domestic violence, and sufficient firearm proficiency, the state of Florida will issue all eligible applicants a CCW permit (Florida).
Unregulated means that the state does not issue permits for CCW and citizens may carry concealed without a permit from the state. Only two states leave CCW unregulated: Alaska and Vermont. In these states, any individual meeting the legal requirements may carry concealed without first applying for and obtaining a CCW permit.
No-issue status means that the state does not issue CW permits at all. Only two states do not have CCW legislation: Illinois and Wisconsin. In these states, no person outside of law enforcement may carry a concealed firearm.
The issue of concealed carry weapons policies is a hotly debated and important issue in modern times. Crime is as salient as ever and the threats of global terrorism and social unrest are always lingering. From school shootings and gang/drug wars to violent crimes like rape and murder, firearms have the capacity to both help and hinder each situation.
Both gun rights and gun control groups believe in their positions passionately; spending large sums of money to influence policy makers and often citing identical materials but simply glossing over contradictory parts or manipulating the data in their favor. And why shouldn’t they? There is an awful lot at stake here. With government often skirting the issue (Lott, 2003), it is up to interest groups to lobby for the best position and openings to push favorable legislation.
Yet despite the apparent stagnation of Second Amendment consensus (Cornell, 2004), states have rightfully taken it upon themselves to regulate (or not) the personal use and possession of firearms. It seems that as a nation we are in a period of constantly shifting attitudes towards gun control issues. Hopefully, time will bring more concrete answers to this two-century old debate on firearm rights.
AZPDS. CCW Statistics. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from http://ccw.azdps.gov/Stats.htm.
BC – About Us. Brady Campaign – About Us. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from http://www.bradycampaign.org/about/.
BC – Concealed Carry. Brady Campaign – Dangers of Concealed Carry: Loaded, Hidden Handguns. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://www.bradycampaign.org/issues/concealedcarry/.
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Bureau of Alcohol, T., and Firearms. ATF P 5300.5 State Laws and Published Ordinances – Firearms. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://www.atf.gov/firearms/statelaws/28thedition/index.htm.
California, S. o. California Penal Code Section 12050. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=1043523430+0+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve.
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Cottrol, R. (1994). Gun Control and the Constitution: Sources and Explorations on the Second Amendme. Routledge.
Cramer, C. E. (2007). Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie. Thomas Nelson.
DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services. 109 S.Ct. 998, 1989
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Hartzler v. City of San Jose. 46 Cal. App. 3d 6 (1st Dist. 1975)
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Mixon, F. G., & Gibson, M. T. (2001). The retention of state level concealed handgun laws: Empirical evidence from interest group and. Public Choice, 107(1-2), 1-20.
Moody, C. E. (2001). Testing for the Effects of Concealed Weapons Laws: Specification Errors and Robustness. Journal of Law and Economics, 44(2), 799-813.
NLEOF (2009). Law Enforcement Officer Deaths Declined Sharply in 2008. National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Research Bulletin.
NRA – Membership. Your NRA Membership. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from http://www.nra.org/benefits.aspx.
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Olson, D. E., & Maltz, M. D. (2001). Right-to-Carry Concealed Weapon Laws and Homicide in Large U. S. Counties: The Effect on Weapon Types, Victim Characteristics, and Victim-Offender Relationships. Journal of Law and Economics, 44(2), 747-770.
Plassmann, F., & Tideman, T. N. (2001). Does the Right to Carry Concealed Handguns Deter Countable Crimes? Only a Count Analysis Can Say. Journal of Law and Economics, 44(2), 771-798.
Riss v. New York. 240 N.E.2d 860 (N.Y. 1968)
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Warren v. District of Columbia. 444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981