Permitless gun-carry is on the move again.
Now, advocates for removing the permit requirement for concealed carry are seeing promising signs in some of the biggest and most-watched states. Pennsylvania’s legislature passed a permitless carry bill late last month, so did Ohio’s House, and now Florida’s governor has thrown his support behind the idea.
None of those states will have the policy by the end of the year, but it wouldn’t be surprising for all of them to be permitless by the end of 2023. The same can be said for Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Nebraska, and Indiana.
Any state where Republicans control all levels of government will feel intense pressure to pass permitless carry from here on out.
That’s because the permitless carry movement has snowballed impressively over the past decade. It has become the fastest-growing state gun policy since 2010. 19 states have adopted it in that time. In 2021 alone, five states have gone permitless. Texas was one of them, and it is also the largest.
This is all fairly remarkable given how poorly permitless carry polls. To be fair, it doesn’t get polled very often. But, when it does, the numbers are terrible. In April, when Pew asked about it, only 20 percent of voters supported the idea, with Democrats at 8 percent and Republicans at 35 percent. It was the worst-performing policy polled.
The growth of the policy is clearly driven more by activist support than polling. Every major gun-rights group has thrown its weight behind permitless carry. The NRA, FPC, and GOA have all lobbied for it at the state level alongside many of the most-prominent state-based groups.
It’s paying dividends. And, it’s likely to continue regardless of how well it polls. It’s something akin to the reverse of universal background checks–a policy that polls great but often is not as good at inspiring activists.
The only thing that could slow the momentum down is strong evidence the policy is leading to increased crime in the states that have adopted it. That’s relatively unlikely since it only makes it legal for people who can otherwise own a gun to carry it without a permit. Those with serious criminal records, who tend to be more prone to commit violent crimes, still can’t carry a gun legally under the policy.
Plus, places like Arizona and Alaska have already had the policy in effect for quite some time without apocalyptic effect. And, of course, Vermont has had it in place since its founding.
What’s most interesting at this point, though, is Pennsylvania. The purple state’s Republicans have advanced the policy after it languished in legislative limbo for over a decade.
The Republican-controlled legislature passed permitless carry despite knowing Democratic Governor Tom Wolf would likely veto it–which he did last week. That’s not uncommon, though. Legislators from one party tend to be braver passing bills when they know they won’t actually make it into law.
It says more than normal in this case, though. Everything Republicans pass will reflect, at least to some degree, on the Republican gubernatorial race next year. They know this, and they went forth with the bill anyway, which implies they believe it is a winning policy for them, likely because it could energize gun-rights activists.
Then you have Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R.) throwing his weight behind the policy, at least tentatively. That’s an interesting turn given the fact that DeSantis is one of the leading contenders for the–still far off–2024 presidential primary. If he’s adopting the policy, you can expect many other top Republicans to do the same.
Of course, permitless carry doesn’t have a lot of easy pick-ups left. While there has been some bipartisan support for passing the policy in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, it remains unlikely any state that Republicans don’t entirely control will enact it. And, as Louisiana passed the policy with veto-proof majorities, they proved not to be so veto-proof when push came to shove.
Still, activists have built momentum to the point where half the country could allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit in just the next few years. That’s an impressive feat.