This week has been eventful. I guess I always expect things to slow down. But, it doesn’t feel like they ever really do.
The most interesting thing from this week, to me, is the way permitless carry has rolled ahead. Then there were the charges brought against the parents of the Michigan student who murdered 4 classmates. Plus, the recent history of gun-control strategies in Texas elections also provides some real insight into Beto O’Rourke’s poor polling performance this week.
On the lighter side, there’s also a fascinating new gun that caught my attention this week. Let’s get started.
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.
On this episode, I talk to Northern Illinois University College of Law professor Evan Bernick about the unprecedented charges against the parents of the 15-year-old who allegedly murdered 4 of his classmates in Michigan late last month.
We discuss his recent piece in The Washington Post warning of the dangers of the case. Bernick is skeptical of the logic being employed by prosecutors to charge the parents with negligent manslaughter in an attempt to hold them responsible for their son’s criminal acts. He argues the prosecution could set a troubling new precedent that will be used against vulnerable populations once this high-profile case fades from the headlines.
He said expansions of how broadly serious criminal offenses are interpreted tend to lead to an increase in prosecutions of minorities. We discuss how that principle often applies to gun laws but is rarely given the same level of discussion. We also look at how the same question is being considered in the Supreme Court’s gun-carry case.
At the same time, we debate the culpability of the parents involved in the Michigan school shooting and what kind of consequences they should face. Prosecutors allege the pair were informed about their son’s notes and drawings indicating he was about to carry out his attack on the very day it happened but did nothing to intervene. If the parents shouldn’t be charged for the killings themselves despite allegedly providing access to the firearm and doing nothing to respond to the warning signs, what should be done instead? Are safe storage laws a good alternative as Bernick suggests?
Plus, contributing writer Jake Fogleman and I cover the latest developments on permitless carry in Florida as well as Beto O’Rourke’s faltering poll numbers in the Texas gubernatorial race.
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Texas Democrats already tried to make gun control a salient political issue last election, with not much to show for it.
Now Beto O’Rourke, a candidate who has closely associated himself with strict restrictions on guns, is hoping for a different result from the same strategy. Thus far, he hasn’t found much success. A new Quinnipiac poll has O’Rourke (D.) trailing incumbent Governor Greg Abbott (R.) by 15-points overall among registered voters. But, perhaps the most striking finding of the poll was the results on the issue of gun policy, where O’Rourke found himself at a 27-point disadvantage to the man he hopes to unseat in the Governor’s mansion.
O’Rourke, because of his infamous declaration that “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” would likely find it hard to shake the image of a gun-control candidate even if he tried. Instead, he appears to be doubling down on his promise to confiscate Texans’ guns. At the same time, he’s attempting to paint Abbott as the true gun extremist for championing almost the exact opposite approach by signing reforms such as permitless gun-carry into law.
If the last election cycle in Texas is any guide, that strategy will be a hard sell.
In the lead-up to the 2020 elections, Texas Democrats decided to make gun control a major campaign issue. They did so under the theory that an increasingly educated and urbanized Texas electorate would make for a constituency more receptive to such policies.
As Reuters reported at the time: “Texas Democrats are pulling out a new playbook in this year’s congressional races, loudly backing gun control in a bet that a strategy that paid off in Virginia can also win elections in a conservative-leaning state long associated with gun rights.”
In recognition of the candidates prominently running on new gun restrictions, the Bloomberg-backed gun-control organization Everytown for Gun Safety reportedly spent $8 million—its largest Texas-election contribution ever—on Texas Congressional and state races that year as part of the push.
Yet in the end, Texas Democratic Congressional candidates—including the two gun control candidates profiled in the Reuters piece—failed to flip a single one of the Congressional seats they were targeting from Republicans.
And the statehouse results were not much better. Texas Democrats only managed to flip one seat while also losing a previously held seat en route to remaining in the minority.
Several million more people have become gun owners since gun-control activists and Democratic hopefuls launched those efforts. And national polling on the issue of gun control has shown a stark shift against new restrictions.
All of this bodes poorly for would-be gun-control candidates, like O’Rourke, in Texas. The state boasts a higher rate of gun ownership than the national average and a traditional ethos of gun-rights advocacy, making national trends toward gun rights all the more intense.
Of course, it is still early in the election cycle, and polling numbers are subject to change in the face of current events. Shifting circumstances and significant future events in Texas politics could narrow the polling gap, theoretically even on the issue of gun control, over the next year.
The Democratic primary electorate could also select a more moderate gubernatorial candidate than O’Rourke in the upcoming primary election.
But, at the same time, O’Rourke enjoys exceptionally high name recognition and strong national backing, making him a formidable candidate in the primary with good odds of securing the nomination.
If he does win the nomination, with the baggage of calling for gun confiscation on a national platform, O’Rourke will face an uphill battle in trying to become Texas’ next Governor.
Talking Permitless Carry with Cam Edwards
I joined Cam and Company this week to go a bit more into detail on permitless carry. I elaborated a bit more on what I wrote above and Cam gave some particularly salient insights as well. I think it’s a pretty comprehensive discussion and well worth the listen.
You can watch the full interview here.
Look at this Interesting New Gun
Also, hey, look at this gun. It’s called the Laugo Alien and it seems pretty cool. There is a combination of technologies here that haven’t really been done together before and I enjoy anytime there’s some new engineering that’s put into a gun.
So many guns are just slight variations on the same design. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But, it doesn’t have to be that way and this thing really piques my interest. Plus, Ian McCollum thinks it’s impressive so you know it’s not just hype.
Of course, this thing starts at like $4,000. So, it’s unlikely to take the world by storm anytime soon. I probably won’t actually buy one unless they become actually affordable.
I haven’t shot this thing yet and there’s always the possibility these innovations don’t actually accomplish much for most shooters. Maybe this really is just a competition gun. But, I want to at least get a chance to shoot it at some point. SHOT Show is coming up next month. Hopefully, I can shoot one at range day and report back.
Ian certainly seems to like it.
Speaking of Ian McCollum, he’ll be a guest on the podcast soon! Please send in any questions you might have for him. He’s a pretty fascinating guy who has managed to build a YouTube empire on gun history videos. Specifically, videos about odd or rare guns. He’s unafraid to critique and even mock the gun industry when warranted and he’s also been at the center of online censorship debates.
So, there’s fertile ground for questions. Let me know what you guys want me to ask him!
That’s it for now.
I’ll talk to you all again soon.