Handgun Carry Permits Transform a Right Into a Privilege

Twenty-four states allowed law-abiding adult to possess handguns without license as of last week. This policy is known as Constitutional Carry. Critics find it reckless and supporters believe it increases public safety.

In the ongoing debate over the practical effects of legal barriers limiting public handgun ownership, both sides can point to studies that support their positions. Beyond the empirical issue, there is an important moral and constitutional question that could make it irrelevant: Should people be allowed to use their fundamental right of self-defense?

Research on the consequences of constitutional carry laws’ proliferation is still in its infancy. However, there are mixed results in research that focus on the earlier shift. These laws give governments broad discretion and allow them to issue carry permits. The laws “may issue” give license authorities limited or no control over applicants.

There are only nine states that still have laws “may issue”, and the Supreme Court is expected to decide which one. Rest of the states either don’t require permits, or it is relatively simple to get them.

The latter argument is supported by those who believe it will deter criminals because they are more likely to face armed resistance. The opponents argue that the risk could lead to criminals being more inclined towards arming themselves. They also fear that by decreasing legal requirements for handgun ownership, potentially fatal violence may be made more probable.

According to the National Research Council’s 2005 report, “it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from the literature about the causal effects of these laws.” James Q. Wilson from UCLA, a criminologist, disagreed with that conclusion. Wilson stated that while “shall issue laws” did in fact lower the murder rate, the effect of these laws on other crimes was unclear.

A 2020 RAND Corporation analysis found that the state of affairs had not significantly changed 15 years after. RAND reviewed the evidence and found that there was “limited evidence” that laws may “may increase” violent crime overall. There is also no evidence to support their effect on total homicides and firearm homicides.

These studies have many methodsological problems, such as how to adjust for confounding variables or how legal changes impact the actual number of handgun-carrying citizens. However, it’s not clear that an individual should be able to defend themselves with armed self-defense unless this issue is resolved.

Texas (where I reside) has stopped issuing carry permits since September last year. There was a compelling argument to eliminate fees and costs associated with previous systems. They posed a formidable barrier for individuals of modest means living in dangerous areas, where they had good reasons to fear violent criminals.

Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment provides an individual’s right to carry handguns within their home. Soon, it will determine if this right extends beyond the confines of the home.

The Second Amendment guarantees the right to “keep it” since the Second Amendment was passed. And bear“Arms,” as the risk of criminal violence increases when people go beyond their front doors, this question is not difficult, particularly considering historical evidence that the right included public carrying of weapons. A licensing system like New York’s that gives authorities broad authority to determine who “proper cause to bear arms”, seems to be inconsistent with this right.

These issues will not be resolved by the Supreme Court. However, it is still possible for regulators to impose more restrictive, possibly prohibitive, conditions that restrict the exercising of basic rights. Recent trends indicate that state legislators are increasingly assuming they do.

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