Opinion: ‘Constitutional’ gun carry helps law-abiding people defend themselves

A customer looks at a handgun at the Kissimmee, Florida location of The Armories, on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/ Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A customer looks at a handgun at the Kissimmee, Florida location of The Armories, on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/ Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Gun-control advocates keep making the same predictions of doom and bloodshed from law-abiding citizens having guns for protection. They warn us of pending disaster if Georgia becomes the 23rd state to adopt so-called Constitutional Carry rules that would allow law-abiding adults who legally own a handgun to conceal-carry it without a permit. Thirty-four states already allow open carry without a permit.

Georgia and other states faced the same predictions of disaster when they first adopted right-to-carry laws, which now exist in 43 states. None of the dire predictions came true. These predictions occurred again when states adopted Constitutional Carry. But not a single one of these states have seen the need to reverse the laws. Indeed, none have even held a legislative hearing on undoing these laws, let alone a vote.

Much will remain unchanged with Constitutional Carry. Businesses and private property owners still have the right to exclude guns from their premises. Prohibitions remain in sensitive places, and laws about gun misuse are unchanged. Georgians must still be able to legally own a gun to carry it.

The most significant change with Constitutional Carry is how quickly people can defend themselves. Right now, it takes about three weeks for Georgia to issue a concealed handgun permit after someone has met the requirements. If a woman is being stalked or threatened, the harm from that threat may have already occurred well before three weeks are up. To make matters worse, during the coronavirus outbreak, probate judges around the states stopped issuing permits for months. That occurred just as the state saw a big spike in murders and other violent crimes.

Under Constitutional Carry, that woman won’t have to wait for a license.

And Constitutional Carry will save Georgians the cost of obtaining a license, with permit fees and other costs usually totaling about $75. Costs matter; just compare the numbers in neighboring states, Illinois and Indiana. In Illinois, the total cost of getting a five-year permit is $450; there is no license fee in Indiana. While only 4% of Illinoisans have a concealed handgun permit, 22% of adults in Indiana already have one, the second-highest number of permits per capita.

More importantly, the people who benefit the most from carrying are the most likely victims of violent crime, overwhelmingly poor Blacks who live in high-crime urban areas. They are also the most sensitive to the fees required to get a permit. In Illinois, wealthy white males who live in the suburbs are overwhelmingly the ones who get permits. In Indiana, people living in urban, heavily minority zip codes get more permits.

Some opposition to Constitutional Carry is ironic. While some of the same people oppose even free voter IDs as imposing too much of a burden, they have no problem with people paying $75 to have the right to defend themselves and their families. They demand same-day registration for voting, saying people can’t plan ahead, but they have no problem making people wait weeks to get a carry permit.

Gun control advocates claimed there would be blood in the streets when the Georgia Attorney General clarified the interpretation of the state’s concealed carry law to make Georgia a “shall issue” state. That didn’t happen. The fact that several dozen peer-reviewed academic studies show there’s no evidence of any uptick in gun crimes linked to concealed carry laws, and most show violent crime declines. Research also shows that murder rates fall even more when states move to Constitutional Carry laws.

When PoliceOne asked its 450,000 law enforcement members about the effects of private gun ownership, 76% of officers answered that legally armed citizens are either very or extremely important in reducing crime.

Today, there are over 21.5 million concealed handgun permit holders nationwide. Permit holders nationwide are incredibly law-abiding. Police officers are extremely rarely convicted of firearms-related violations, but it still happens at a rate twelve times more often than for permit holders. In the 19 states with comprehensive permit revocation data, the average revocation rate is one-tenth of one percent. Usually, permit revocations occur because someone moved or died or forgot to bring their permit while carrying.

Gun control advocates keep trying to take advantage of people’s fears of the unknown and claim that bad things will happen when people are allowed to defend themselves and their families. But Georgians don’t have to guess what will happen with Constitutional Carry. Over twenty states are proof that Constitutional Carry is common sense.

John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.