Rhetoric vs. Reality on Constitutional Carry

When it comes to the debate over guns, it is often easy for the rhetoric used to become quite loaded; especially from opponents who wish to restrict freedom and legal use.

That certainly was the case earlier this year when a bill allowing permitless concealed carry, or what is commonly known as “Constitutional Carry” was introduced in the Wisconsin legislature. State Democrats opposed to the measure were often quick to the trigger with imagery of increased violence and anarchy.

Here’s just a sample of what has been said so far over the course of the debate.

State Rep. David Crowley (D-Milwaukee): 

“One of my greatest concerns is for the safety of the children of Wisconsin and Senate Bill 169 places all children at risk. Passing this legislation would bring us closer to the days of the Wild West, not move us forward to solve the problems of the 21st century.”

State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse): 

“In the wake of mass shootings, Republicans want to arm more teenagers.”

State Rep. Leon Young (D-Milwaukee):

“Just recently, over the Milwaukee Memorial Day weekend, 18 individuals were wounded and four others killed as a result of handgun violence. I am against this bill because more guns can lead to more violence.”

Ominous stuff, huh? Guns in schools! Guns in malls! Untrained, unregulated cowboys shooting up whenever and wherever they please!

There’s one problem with all that “Doom and Gloom” rhetoric. It rare, if ever meets the reality of what’s to come.

2017 looks to be the year of “Constitutional Carry” in many state legislature across the country. If Wisconsin were to enact its own proposed version of the legislation by state Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) and state Sen. David Craig (R-Big Bend), it would join a number of states who already have a similar law on the books. States which have been living with such rules and regulations for a number of years allowing those state considering similar legislation to see the results.

Since 2007 with a number of states passing concealed carry laws, permit holders nationwide have increased by nearly 10 million. Today, over 14.5 million Americans hold such permits, at the same time violent crime across the country has dropped 22 percent.

Idaho, which passed its own legislation last year, received a chorus of “Doom and Gloom” warnings from gun control groups and law enforcement about “constitutional carry.” In the ensuing year, none of their hyperbolic claims to fruition.

When the Idaho Legislature enacted its permitless firearms concealed carry law a year ago, it was not without warnings from a broad spectrum, including anti-gun groups and Idaho chiefs of police.


The warnings are still in place, but so far, adverse results haven’t materialized.


“We believe dismantling the longstanding and effective permitting system without taking additional precautionary steps will weaken public safety,” Bill Bones, Jeff Lavey and Rick Allen, chiefs of police in Ada County, wrote in a letter to the Idaho Statesman last year. “Our concealed weapons licensing system is the only way to determine the person is not a felon or dangerous person prohibited from possessing firearms.”


Coeur d’Alene Police concur that the permitless carry law has disabled at least one tool police used to check felons for firearms, but Detective Jared Reneau said the state’s latest gun law seems to have had little effect on crime rates in Coeur d’Alene.


“It hasn’t been a topic of discussion,” he said. “We haven’t noticed a significant increase.”

Another concern by critics of the Felzkowski-Craig legislation is that people will no longer seek training or seek a permit. That too, has not been the case in the land of the russet potato.

Ed Santos, who operates Center Target Sports in Post Falls, which has trained 24,000 firearm owners in 12 years to obtain a concealed permit, has noticed no downward trend in its business.


Santos said some thought the number of concealed carry permits would decrease because they would no longer be needed.


“That has not been the case,” he said. “We’ve actually seen an increase.”


He attributes that to firearms owners becoming accustomed to carrying without a permit, and wanting to travel to other states with a gun in their belt. In most states, they need a concealed permit to do that.


“We really haven’t seen a negative impact,” Santos said.

Whether Wisconsin passes its own “constitutional carry” law remains to be seen. But if the results in Idaho are any indication, much of the rhetoric about the turning the Badger State into a bullet-ridden landscape is completely out of touch with reality.