History of Concealed Weapons Carry
Concealed carry has been a controversial topic both from a constitutional and state law standpoint. Many proponents and anti-gun legislators argue about the merits and practicalities of continuing concealed weapons carry in todays urbanized society. With every major shooting by rogue gunmen comes increased pressure from the public onto firearms associations and lawmakers alike to reconsider laws about concealed carry. In this article we examine concealed carry history and trace how its laws have changed from the history of the wild west to the tense standoff between citizens, lawmakers, NGOs and law enforcement.
In the days of the wild west almost every human being carried a firearm – mainly because it was wild enough to warrant it being the decisive factor if one would find himself up against a wild bison or a horde of natives. Although the freedom of weapon law was intended for people to protect themselves against dangers – all manner of unsavory folk began using it to further their unruly intentions. The controlling factor in this unsettling equation of guns, whiskey, and bloodshed was the fact that everyone had a Colt on their belts or a Winchester in their breeches, and men wanting to take lives and property with the power that comes from the barrel of a gun had better be willing to stare down one.
As the chaos of the Civil war faded – militia groups formed up of civilians and freedmen who needed their guns in order to return home to their homes alive suddenly found themselves without need of it. Legislation was soon enacted to prevent concealed carry although it was not exactly needed as carrying a firearm openly in public was still a socially acceptable practice at that time. The law served mainly to prevent the bad guys from making use of it. By 1850 most southern states had laws preventing concealed weapons carry – although this was mostly due to the fact that the state governments did not want to give abolitionists a chance to fight back.
By the end of the civil war most states had fallen into a regulatory pattern outlawing concealed carry where open carry was still allowed. Concealed carry was seen as a deceptive act that upset the balance of power, whereby men who were seen as not carrying firearms were assumed to be unarmed, and men who were carrying firearms had the honesty to let people know openly. Concealment was seen as a ignoble act with the only purpose of gaining surprise over others.
Licensing regulations regarding concealed weapons carry started to surface in the early years of the 1900s and started out in the northeastern states. The passing of New York’s infamous “Sullivan Law” which was seen as an affront to constitutional rights outlawed unlicensed possession of handguns small enough to be concealed. The passage of this law was especially controversial due to it being a “may-issue” law – whereby authorities have discretion whether or not a permit is issued; as opposed to a “shall-issue” law where authorities must give the permit upon the applicant for the license passing all bureaucratic requirements.
As the years progressed numerous other states passed Sullivan type legislation, mainly in response to the increase in violent crime during the prohibition and the mob era. This was due to violent crime being (stereotypically) perpetuated by certain ethnic groups or people with radical political beliefs and the authorities wanted to be able to deny gun licenses to whomever they profiled as having the propensity to carry out armed robberies.
During that time, concealed carry was made legal upon the acquisition of the license, which in practical senses was difficult to obtain. The rise of the National Rifle Association’s campaigning in the 20s led to a great compromise being sought. Firearms would now be, for most purposes deregulated – but the carry of firearms would be regulated. Most states began to adopt regulations based upon either a “shall-issue” or “may-issue” criteria based upon the applicants “good moral standing, and need”. As we move into the 21st century more and more states are realizing the need for concealed carry and are adopting regulations to minimize the potential harm such as requiring mandatory firearms training before the issuance of permits. Some states (such as Texas) have different classes of concealed carry for various types of weapons. Some states have laws allowing certain zones to opt out (effectively making them gun free zones).
Whatever the laws and whether or not they remain efficiency in preventing gun-related violence, the truth remains that gun laws are confusing to law-abiding citizens whether or not they seek to carry guns. It is important to know your local laws and the laws of places you are traveling if you are intending to carry firearms.