While gun owners win major victories in the states, major threats still loom.
PROTECTING THE SECOND AMENDMENT in Washington, D.C., is a full-time job for more than a few people. Enemies of the Second Amendment occupy some powerful positions here, from the West Wing of the White House to both houses of Congress.
More often than not, however, the everyday threats to our rights come not from Washington, D.C., but from our state capitals. Fortunately, the state capitals also provide the best opportunities to win new protections for our rights. A look at NRA-ILA's work in the 2010 legislative sessions so far shows that we're making important progress in many states.
Since the 1987 passage of Florida's landmark Right-to-Carry law, the ability of citizens to carry firearms for personal protection has been a high-profile issue for gun owners across the country. So far this year, nine states have improved their Right-to-Carry laws, including Arizona, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.
The biggest changes in Right-to-Carry came in two very different states: Arizona and Iowa. These two states are a case study on how to achieve legislative victories by working one step at a time.
Not long ago, Arizona completely banned the carrying of concealed handguns. Then, in 1994, with help from a lot of hard-working gun owners in Arizona, NRA-ILA succeeded in winning passage of a "shall issue" permit system.
This year, the Arizona legislature adopted S.B. 1108, a "constitutional carry" bill, which affords law-abiding citizens the right to carry without a permit. Arizona now becomes the third state (after Vermont and Alaska) not to require permits for concealed carry. Following the lead set by Alaska in 2003, Arizona also retains its "shall issue" permit system, allowing residents' permits to be valid under reciprocity or recognition laws when traveling outside Arizona.
Iowa, on the other hand, has been a "may issue" state for nearly a century. As in many "may issue" states, officials in some counties readily issued permits, while those in a few counties arbitrarily denied applications. This year, after a long debate, Iowa scrapped its discretionary permit law in favor of a true "shall issue" system, which guarantees that qualified applicants will not be denied their permits. While some argued that Iowa should move immediately to an Alaska-style "constitutional carry" law, it became clear as the debate went on that this was not yet feasible in Iowa.
As always, NRA-ILA doesn't stop at simply seeing a Right-to-Carry law enacted. Year after year, we go back to the states to reduce the restrictions and red tape that prevent gun owners from fully exercising their right to carry.
This year, for example, New Mexico and Virginia amended their laws to allow permit holders to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol. (A similar bill in Tennesee was pending at press time, in response to a court decision striking down an earlier law on "restaurant carry.") Wyoming reformed its system for setting up carry reciprocity in order to increase the number of states that are recognized. And, Delaware extended the term of its carry permits.
This was also a great year for gun owners in Indiana. First, H.B. 1068 was passed to protect gun owners' privacy by limiting public access to lists of permit holders. This ensures that anti-gun media outlets cannot publish the names and addresses of permit holders. In addition, Gov. Mitch Daniels, R, signed H.B. 1065, which contained both a prohibition on the confiscation of guns during declared states of emergency and legislation to protect the rights of employees to keep legally owned firearms in their vehicles while on publicly accessible parking lots.
Alabama and Kentucky both passed "no-net-loss" laws to protect the current amount of public hunting lands. In addition, Alabama repealed its state law banning the possession of short-barreled rifles, so that Alabamans will be able to own these firearms in compliance with federal law.
And three states--Arizona, Arkansas and South Carolina--put constitutional "right to hunt and fish" amendments on their fall ballots. If passed by voters, these provisions will help ensure that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy our hunting heritage.
Unfortunately, not all lawmakers are so eager to protect gun owners' rights, and NRA-ILA has been working hard to stop a number of anti-gun measures. Some of the proposals are reruns of bills that have failed in the past, or are repackaged anti-gun ideas that gun banners have been promoting for years--such as bills in Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin to restrict and regulate gun shows, or proposals in Illinois, Connecticut, New York and Maryland to ban semi-automatics. Anti-gunners in Illinois and Massachusetts are pushing "one-gun-a-month" laws, and legislators in Connecticut and Illinois are looking to ban private sales of firearms, even between family members.
We've seen these proposals before, and more often than not we've defeated them. But if we relax even a little, anti-gun legislators will press forward and our rights will take a serious hit. Our opponents don't give up, and they never seem to run out of bad, new ideas to promote. (Just to show how far the anti-gunners will go if we don't stop them, Massachusetts' S.B. 978 calls for a study on putting global positioning systems in guns. That Big Brother proposal gives a whole new meaning to the term "gun tracing.")
Then there is California, where it's clear that the enemies of freedom will never be satisfied until they have completely eliminated gun ownership. California has already passed most of the laws on the gun-ban groups' wish list, but that hasn't slowed down the push for even more laws to erode gun owners' rights.
In a direct assault on the future of hunting in California, A.B. 2223 would ban lead shot for hunting. The real purpose of this bill has nothing to do with protecting the environment or wildlife. Its real intent is to attack our hunting heritage. This bill would make hunting more expensive and force hunters to use hard-to-find non-lead ammunition, in turn reducing the revenue that flows to conservation programs from the sale of hunting licenses.
Unsurprisingly, A.B. 2223 has the support of extremist animal "rights" groups like the Humane Society of the United States, as well as radical environmental groups who oppose hunting in general. This bill is not about science, because there is no legitimate scientific data to support claims that using lead shot in hunting has any negative impact on wildlife or the environment. But this effort has never been about protecting wildlife or the environment. It's about reducing the number of hunters. The anti-hunting radicals want to make hunting so expensive that hunters give up.
Next is A.B. 1934, which may be as clear a demonstration of irrational "gun phobia" as we have seen. Anti-gun politicians in the legislature want to ban open carry of unloaded guns. And why? Because even the sight of a firearm frightens them!
A.B. 1934 is a knee-jerk reaction by anti-gun legislators to punish citizens for engaging in a legal act. In reality, the open carrying of firearms by law-abiding citizens is forced by California's unfair concealed carry law, which allows citizens from some counties to receive a permit to carry, while neighbors in the next county are denied that basic right for reasons of politics rather than public safety. Rather than further restrict the right of self-defense for law-abiding gun owners, the Assembly should ensure that all Californians are treated equally by enacting a statewide "shall issue" Right-to-Carry law, with clear standards for the issuance of a carry permit that all counties must follow.
Finally and perhaps worst of all, A.B. 1810 would expand California's registration system to include long guns. This is a direct assault on gun rights, as it has been proven time and again that the only real value of registration is to help governments confiscate firearms in the future.
Besides the impact on Second Amendment rights, expanding the registry to include long guns would be a huge waste of taxpayer money at a time when California is drowning in red ink. Anti-gun legislators in Sacramento should pay attention to what is happening in Canada, where the Parliament is debating a repeal of the nation's failed long gun registry. The Canadian government has discovered by trial and error (mostly error) what gun owners already know: Gun registration is of no real value to law enforcement and is next to impossible to implement. Canada has spent billions trying to enforce the registry--far more than proponents claimed it would cost. Since California has 3 million more people than all of Canada, it's clear that besides being an affront to the Second Amendment, a long gun registry will cost California taxpayers dearly as well.
One thing I know about our opponents is that they never give up. If they fail to pass an anti-gun law, they try again. If they win passage of an anti-gun law, they come back next year and ask for a new restriction. So gun show restrictions lead to registration, which leads to gun bans, which lead to mandates for "smart" guns or GPS chips in our hunting rifles.
But they won't succeed if we do our part. As we have proven again this year in legislatures across the country, when we work together, we can expand our freedoms and stop the anti-gun agenda in its tracks.