Nationwide, at least six states are also weighing similar measures this year, with supporters eager to join nearly 20 others that currently don’t require permits for concealed carry. Meanwhile, more than 30 states allow for permitless open carry.
Supporters of the bill argued that the proposal includes harsher penalties for those who commit certain gun-related crimes, with the governor setting aside $17.7 million in his budget plan for the bill largely due to an anticipated increase in incarceration.
However, law enforcement groups — including police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors — have largely opposed the move and consider the state’s existing permit system an important safeguard for knowing who should or shouldn’t carry a gun.
Asked whether recent mass shootings in Georgia, Colorado, Texas and others gave him any concern about timing, Lee has previously said the increased penalties mean that “we in fact will be strengthening laws that would help prevent gun crimes in the future.”
The permitless carry law comes after Lee and Republican lawmakers relaxed the state’s handgun law in 2019 by allowing people to obtain a concealed-carry-only handgun permit that didn’t require them to demonstrate ability to fire a weapon. The new permits became available at the start of 2020.