Get the Language Right: Constitutional Carry Bills Don't Grant Privileges, They Stop Decades of Infringement
Headlines are starting to splash around the gun world that Idaho “passes constitutional carry for all.” Here’s a sample of headlines.
While technically correct, all of these headlines and practically everyone out there misses the point. Idaho didn’t “extend,” “expand,” or “approve” constitutional carry. Idaho will end its 132 years of unconstitutional infringement on the right to bear arms on July 1.
You can’t “extend,” “expand,” “grant,” or “allow” something you banned in the first place. What Idaho (and other states in the past) did was repeal their bans on concealed carry. Technically speaking, they still haven’t repealed the ban, just added a host of exceptions to provide the same effect as no ban. Idaho is going back to the way it should be; no prior government permission to carry a weapon for self-defense in the manner that best suits you.
In 1888, Idaho Territory made it illegal to carry a gun in cities, towns, and camps. Rural areas outside of that, it was okay to carry concealed. In 1902, that law was rolled back when the state supreme court found in In Re Brickey that it was unconstitutional to totally ban all carry. The state had to allow some form of carry, and since concealed carry had been so thoroughly demonized, open carry had to be permitted. I haven’t found out when exactly yet, but in the next seven years, the legislature re-wrote the law accordingly.
In 2016, Idaho began a three-session process culminating in Wednesday’s signing of HB 516 that stopped the discrimination against non-Idahoans. In 2016, Idaho stopped requiring permits for state residents. In 2018, the prohibition for 18-20 year-olds carrying concealed was removed. And now, there is no restriction on who can carry concealed (unless you’re a felon or something, but let’s not be pedantic). Idaho has some of the fewest restrictions on carry a firearm in the country.
America’s expansion of gun control was a gradual evolution. The carry restrictions exploded from 1860 to 1890. Concealed carry was called a “pernicious practice” and anyone who carried a gun was maligned as a potential murderer. Even in communities that did not have the problems of Southern Honor violence or were far removed from the “wild west” prohibitions crept into law.
These laws were a failed experiment in crime control through gun control. People still carried, paid fines, and went on their way. Fines were increased. When this didn’t seem to deter the practice, many voices, including hysterical newspaper editorials you can find, called for the penalty to be raised to a felony. Of course open carry was an alternative, but seems to have been practiced even less than today.
Oddly enough, when the process of banning concealed carry was largely complete across the country, America moved to try and ban pistols in the 1920s. The homicide rate had jumped from about 1 per 100,000 before 1900 to 8-to-10 per 100,000 in 1920-1932. Perhaps something else was at work?
My personal theory was that the decline in homicides after the Civil War to the rise prior to the First World War was related to social changes. Society became less tolerant of death. A maturing population removed from war and frontier savagery didn’t approve of killing except in the most extreme of circumstances. At the same time, we start seeing an increase in court cases outlining justifiable homicide and laws narrowly defining self-defense. Juries stopped finding shooters not guilty of murder because the other guy had it coming.
Weapon carrying bans have always been unconstitutional and society has tolerated these dumb restrictions for too long. In the past, it was not a big deal to carry anyway and never get caught or punished. If one did get caught or punished, the penalty was not a big deal for most people. Now, a concealed weapon charge can be a life-altering felony. All because society has been breathing life into a failed crime-control experiment for two centuries.
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