In the United States, the term “constitutional carry” is a neologism [a newly coined word or phrase] for the legal carrying of handgun, either openly or concealed, without the requirement of a local, state or federal government permit. Constitutional Carry is also referred to as Vermont Carry, “[f]or many decades, the only state to allow “constitutional carry” of a handgun (i.e. without any government permit) was Vermont. From the formation of the 13 original states, “constitutional carry” was the law in all states until the 1800s. By the 20th century, all states except Vermont had enacted concealed carry bans, with the exemption in most states for those citizens with a permit. Due to wording in its state constitution and decisions made by the state courts, Vermont has never been able to have a restriction on the method of how one could carry a firearm, and thus, in this regard, Vermont stood entirely separate from the rest of the United States for quite some time. Because of this, constitutional carry is still sometimes referred to as “Vermont carry”.” – Wikipedia. It is also commonly referred to as “permitless carry,” but as you can see what is called “constitutional carry” today is much less than Constitutional. For one, it only applies to handguns and not long guns like shotguns or rifles, so it does NOT meet the general definition of the right to bear ARMS in general as stated in the 2nd Amendment. Secondly, it only applies to local or state level permits while still maintaining the federal level infringements on gun ownership, such as mandatory background checks.
As with most, if not all, attempts to restore natural constitutionally protected rights via legislation, it is messy and uneven at best. In 2003 Alaska followed the Vermont “constitutional carry” model by simply decriminalizing the carrying of a concealed weapon, open carry was already legal and unregulated. Whereas Arizona in 2010 set a new standard with their version of “constitutional carry” in that they had a pre-existing concealed carry permit system that was at one time mandatory which they made voluntary. By removing the REQUIREMENT for the permit they made concealed carry legal without a permit, but retained the permit system for those who wanted a permit for the ability to carry in other states under reciprocity agreements. Wyoming is a bit of a mix of the two, in that they have “constitutional carry” for state residents, but visitors must have a concealed carry license from a recognized reciprocity state to carry concealed while open carry for visitors is unregulated. Then there is Arkansas with there “accidental constitutional carry” legislation, depending on who is interpreting it and how they interpret it, open carry may or may not be legal in Arkansas. As of right now, that question is currently still up for debate and potential court rulings one way or another. The most recent addition to the “constitutional carry” club is Kansas, following the Arizona example Gov. Brownback signed their “constitutional carry” bill into law on April, 2nd 2015 and it will take effect July 1st, 2015 making the concealed carry permit voluntary for reciprocity and allowing concealed carry to be practiced just as open carry is already legal without a permit.
Even these states that have so-called “constitutional carry” still fall under federal regulations regarding who can legally own a gun in the first place and again typically only apply to handguns. While some allow for the unregulated carry of long guns, it is not typically included in the “constitutional carry” parameters of their legislation. A more accurate and descriptive name for such laws would be something like “legal permitless hangun carry” laws, but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it that “constitutional carry” does. It does however bring up an issue later on when we reach the point of reestablishing TRUE Constitutional Carry nationwide.
What is TRUE Constitutional Carry you ask? “The Right of the people to keep and bear ARMS” as stated in the 2nd Amendment does not limit that right to hanguns. Arms is a general and all inclusive term that covers knives, swords, pistols, rifles, shotguns and any other type of weapon to be invented at some future time that does not fall into any given pre-existing category. TRUE Constitutional Carry can only be achieved at the national level in order to be considered truly “Constitutional” as in the “law of the land” Constitution. That is why I said the current “constitutional carry” laws are actually “legal” permitless carry rather than LAWFUL carry. What is legal or illegal is determined by legislation on a local, state or federal level. What is LAWFUL is determined by the Constitution and though the two SHOULD be the same, there are literally thousands of laws on the books at all levels of government that define legal and illegal things that are in direct violation of the Constitution. If you doubt that to be the case, simply look at the steady flow of court cases making their way through the State and Federal Supreme Courts for an official ruling or clarification and that doesn’t include the thousands of unconstitutional laws that nobody ever even bothers to challenge in court. So, while the movement towards “constitutional carry” in more and more states is a good thing and a trend that must continue, it is still a far cry from TRUE Constitutional Carry in America. Restoring rights to any degree is always a positive move in the right direction, but do not become complacent with such simple coined phrases as “constitutional carry” because we are still light years away from being the true Constitutional Republic that our Founders intended. TRUE Constitutional Carry and the right to keep and bear ARMS in general should be our ultimate goal along with restoring ALL of our natural, constitutionally protected rights that have been trampled and infringed upon over the last century or so.
Jon Britton aka DoubleTap is Chief Operating Officer of CDH, Inc., a regular contributing author and regularly involved in most aspects of their social media. “Writing was never a goal or even vaguely contemplated as a career choice, it just happened, an accidental discovery of a talent and a passion.” A passion that has taken him in many directions from explorations of the zombie subculture and zombie stories to political advocacy. Joining the U.S. Air Force right out of high school, Jon had the opportunity to experience many different parts of the world and different cultures. His post military career path, both white collar and blue collar, allowed him to work alongside both CEOs and average Joes. As a founding member Cold Dead Hands his study of human nature and writing ability found a purpose. His zombie roots provided a variety of issues from prepping to human behavior under crisis to firearms that he applies to his advocacy for gun rights. A ravenous appetite for the study of history combined with his current events political junkie addiction led to him writing an e-book Gun Sense: Past, Present and Future.