American Rifleman - August 2017 - 16
A Generation of Right to Carry
Shows Nothing is Beyond Our Reach
By Chris W. Cox
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s the 30-year anniversary of the Rightto-Carry movement approaches, 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 the Right
to Carry by referendum. Following a bitterly
fought campaign, that included anti-gun
modification of the approved ballot language
and robocalls from then-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. An editorial in The New York Times 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."
The 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 owners of
guns 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
In 1987, when former NRA President
Marion Hammer's tireless efforts led Florida
to pass the first Right-to-Carry law, few could
have foreseen the sweeping progress to
come. Some 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 10 states had meaningful Right-to-Carry
laws. Currently, 42 states respect the Right
to Carry, with 12 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-toCarry Reciprocity will become law. After 30
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.