Will 2017 be the Year of Constitutional Carry?

If you believe you’re hearing about the subject of constitutional carry a lot lately, you wouldn’t be alone. 2017 is looking to be the year where legislators across the country make one of the largest efforts to expand gun rights.

When state Senator Dave Craig (R-Big Bend) and state Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) announced their proposal earlier this week, it was intended to be about Wisconsin joining the ranks of eleven other states with similar laws on the books. What you might not know is that the Badger State is one of growing list of states across the country pursuing similar legislation. In the past two months alone, states like New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas, and Colorado have introduced their own constitutional carry legislation to varying degrees of success.

“Constitutional Carry,” or “Permitless Carry” as it’s known in legal circles, is when a state allows law-abiding gun owners the right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit or license. This abolishment of permits all together came into vogue after 2010 when Arizona became the third state in the union to go permitless. Prior to that, it had another name; one which might make most liberals’ skin crawl, “Vermont Carry.”

For most of America’s history, no state officially recognized the right to carry a gun without a permit. Vermont famously adopted permitless carry as a result not of legislation, but a state court challenge in 1903. A century later, Alaska became the second state to legalize what it called “Vermont carry.” It wasn’t until Arizona passed a similar law in April 2010 that constitutional carry became the catchphrase, and many states rushed to adopt similar laws.

But that does not mean passing these pieces of legislation have been easy; even in states where one would believe are more gun-friendly. This is not because of disagreements over policy, but questions on whether the law is even needed in the first place. Some of the most unified lobbying groups against constitutional carry, are actually law enforcement organization worried, in part, about public safety.

In ruby-red Utah, for instance, Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, vetoed a constitutional carry law in 2013, and has promised the same with a current proposal working its way through the Utah state legislature. Writing the following in his veto message:

“As a State, we must exercise extreme care that we not impose undue burdens on the right to bear arms, but I have yet to receive any credible evidence that Utah’s current permit process constitutes a hardship.

A similar sentiment was said by South Dakota’s Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, when he vetoed constitutional carry legislation in mid-March:

“I am unaware of a single instance in which a person who could lawfully possess a gun was denied a permit to carry a concealed pistol,” said Daugaard. “Our permit laws are effective in screening people who are not eligible to carry a concealed weapon. Over the last three years, Minnehaha and Pennington Counties have turned down nearly 600 permit applicants who were disqualified due to mental illness or due to violent or drug-related crimes.”

Daugaard vetoed a similar bill in 2012 and had warned he would do the same this session if given the opportunity. In his message to lawmakers the Governor touted the fact he was an NRA member and supports the right to bear arms.

Where support for the Craig-Felzkowski legislation stands in the Wisconsin legisture is unknown at this moment, as is the knowledge of whether will sign the legislation if it hits his desk. But one thing is certain, Wisconsin is but one state following the trend towards constitutional carry; whether it does or not remains to be seen.