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A Generation of Right-to-Carry Shows Nothing is Beyond Our Reach

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Generation of Right-to-Carry Shows Nothing is Beyond Our Reach

As the Right-to-Carry movement approaches its 30-year anniversary, no states serve as better examples of the enormous progress gun owners have made in securing our rights than Missouri and Florida.

In 1992, when shall-issue concealed carry legislation was proposed in the Missouri House, a Springfield News Leader editorial dismissed the legislation as “outrageous.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board called the measure a “License To Kill.” Weeks later, the Post-Dispatch quoted a state lawmaker, who remarked, “I’m not interested in letting some cowboy out on the street with a concealed weapon.” The legislation passed the House, but faltered in the Senate.

On April 6, 1999, Missourians were given the opportunity to vote to enact Right-to-Carry by referendum. Following a bitterly-fought campaign, that included anti-gun modification of the approved ballot language and robocalls from First Lady Hillary Clinton, the Right-to-Carry measure fell just short, 52 percent to 48 percent.

The narrow margin and underhanded tactics didn’t prevent gun control supporters from crowing about their victory. A New York Times editorial called the result “a major defeat that can only add to the momentum for reasonable gun control.” Handgun Control Inc. contended that the results were evidence that “the political clout of the NRA is waning.”

Despite this setback, NRA was resolute. Then NRA-ILA Executive Director Jim Baker assured Missourians, “While we weren’t successful in passing Right-to-Carry this time, I promise this isn’t the end, but the beginning of our offensive.”   

Today, with all but a handful of intransigent states recognizing the Right-to-Carry, the most important battle is to secure National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity. This legislation would ensure that your ability to exercise your right to self-defense doesn’t end at the state line.

NRA made good on that promise in 2003, when the Missouri Legislature voted to override a veto by Gov. Bob Holden of shall-issue concealed carry legislation, making Missouri the 36th Right-to-Carry state.

Today, law-abiding Missourians don’t need a permit to carry for self-defense.  Last year, the Missouri House and Senate voted to override a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon to enact constitutional carry. The measure made Missouri the 10th state to allow gun owners to carry a concealed firearm without first obtaining government permission.

In a single generation, Missouri went from denying its residents the right to carry, to full recognition of that right. This sea change stands as a testament to the power and persistence of gun owners and the virtue of our cause.

In 1987, when former-NRA President Marion Hammer’s tireless efforts led Florida to pass the first Right-to-Carry law, few could have predicted the sweeping progress to come. State lawmakers predicted Florida would become an “armed camp,” and forecasted “calamity and carnage.” Famously, the national media labeled Florida the “Gunshine State.”

Of course, history proved these hysterical projections false. Florida’s homicide rate fell in the years following enactment of Right-to-Carry. FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data shows that the murder rate in Florida for 2015 was less than half of that recorded in 1987. Analysis of permit revocation data from Florida and other states has repeatedly shown that Right-to-Carry permit holders are more law-abiding than the general public.  

Moreover, Americans have come to recognize the public safety value of robust recognition of the Right-to-Carry. In 2015, Gallup asked survey takers whether they thought the U.S. would be safer if more people exercised the Right-to-Carry. A majority responded that the country would be safer with more individuals carrying firearms. The nation’s positive experience with Right-to-Carry is also likely to have impacted attitudes towards handguns generally. The percentage of the public that supports a handgun ban plummeted from 42 percent in 1987 to a mere 26 percent in 2011. 

Before the movement began in 1987, only ten states had meaningful Right-to-Carry laws. Currently, 42 states respect the Right-to-Carry, with twelve embracing permitless carry.  This is a remarkable record of achievement.

Today, with all but a handful of intransigent states recognizing the Right-to-Carry, the most important battle is to secure National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity.  This legislation would ensure that your ability to exercise your right to self-defense doesn’t end at the state line.

Gun rights supporters have pursued this critical legislation for more than a decade. In that time, there have been some close votes and a few setbacks. But just like in Missouri, Florida and numerous other states, with a relentless and organized effort from America’s law-abiding gun owners, National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity will become law.  After thirty years of the Right-to-Carry movement we’ve come a long way, but we won’t rest until it is the law of the land for all Americans.

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NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.