By: Brenden Boudreau
With most state legislatures now out of session and Republicans in Washington, D.C. and state capitols across the country caving to calls for new gun control, the political climate gun owners find themselves in is the worst it’s been since the early days of the Obama administration.
The backlash against Obama’s various overreaches in his first two years as president led to gun owners making solid gains at the state level while matters were mostly at a stalemate in Congress.
An unprecedented total of ten states passed some version of Constitutional Carry between 2010 and 2017, while many other states loosened restrictions on concealed and open carry.
Constitutional Carry – the basic concept that law-abiding gun owners shouldn’t have to beg for government permission or pay expensive fees to carry a handgun – has quickly become the new, go-to legislation in the gun rights movement.
The expectation is now set for politicians of every stripe to support full-on Constitutional Carry, and nothing less. It used to be enough for elected officials to mouth generic talking points in support of the Second Amendment, and then do a little tinkering with the gun laws here and there every couple years to appease gun owners to get their votes. But we’ve seen a growing number of politicians forced into early retirement for not supporting this landmark reform, and simple lip service supporting the Second Amendment is no longer acceptable.
With success comes new challenges, and the political establishment in states across the country is attempting to get away with doing as little as possible to appease gun rights activists, while also placating anti-gun government bureaucrats and gun control zealots alike.
As more states have adopted Constitutional Carry, policymakers have, in turn, invented devious ways of watering bills down.
When North Dakota passed their “Constitutional Carry” law last year, for instance, it became the weakest version of the law in existence in the country, requiring the assistance of an opinion from the Attorney General of North Dakota to meet the bare minimum standard to be considered a Constitutional Carry state.
Even so, North Dakota’s law is convoluted, only applies to state residents with a valid form of state identification, and can quickly be gutted by a mood change of the current sitting attorney general, or the next one to be elected.
In states like South Dakota, South Carolina, Indiana, and Texas, where gun rights activists have been mobilizing in support of Constitutional Carry for years, the political establishment brazenly tries to ram through lesser forms of “Constitutional Carry.” Their bills are typically chock-full of anti-gun measures aimed at appeasing powerful interests and are introduced under the assumption that gun owners won’t notice the dangerous parts of their legislation.
Strong gun rights movements in each of these states have prevented the successful passage of these bad bills, and in all of the aforementioned states, the political establishment has paid a political price for attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of gun owners.
The political fallout won’t necessarily stop the political establishment from attempting to pass lesser forms of Constitutional Carry again next year, however. It’s up to the gun rights activists in each of these states, and in others, to keep the pressure on and make it clear that they demand nothing less than full Constitutional Carry rights.
Much of this speculation might be moot, though, with Republicans caving across the country to the anti-gun hysteria that’s emerged in the wake of the recent Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas shootings.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott set his state back at least a decade on gun rights after he worked with the Republican-controlled legislature to pass a massive gun control package just months ago.
In Texas, during the same speech in which he declared himself to be the most pro-gun governor in state history, Greg Abbott called for new restrictions on gun ownership and left the door wide-open for a special session of the legislature for the sole purpose of passing gun control.
As it stands right now, gun rights activists are necessarily in a more defensive posture, and the results of the elections this fall will determine the political climate of the opening days of many state legislatures in January 2019.
Not all is doom and gloom for the gun rights movement, though. Greater odds have been overcome in the fight for more freedom, and it is very possible that the upcoming elections will bring a more favorable political environment for the advancement of gun rights.
South Dakota is all but certain to have a governor elected who has publicly pledged to sign Constitutional Carry into law. The same is true of Oklahoma, where earlier this year, Constitutional Carry passed quickly through both houses of the legislature, only to be vetoed by term-limited Republican governor Mary Fallin.
These fights will not be won without a fight, especially with the gun control movement getting a breath of new life in recent weeks from the tragedies of others. Nevertheless, they are achievable victories. And to have any victories in the current climate gun owners find themselves in would be a major blow to the anti-gun cheerleaders in the media.
Brenden Boudreau is the Director of Field Operations for the National Association for Gun Rights, writing from Michigan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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