I drove to the NRA Meeting in Atlanta this week.  I had been visiting family in Dallas, Texas, so it was only 800 miles. On the way, I reflected on the last time I was in Atlanta for more than a flight change. It was over 40 years ago, when I was in the Army.

What happened then was not important. But what has happened in the last 40 years has been phenomenal for Second Amendment supporters.

In 1974, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was only six years old. Travel with firearms back then was a bit dicey. I figured my military orders would keep me out of trouble for the firearms I had in the car, but that was far from certain. Now, in 2017, I drove with confidence from Texas to Georgia, with jacket on or off, carrying openly or concealed as convenience and temperature dictated.

In ’74, Texans had no right to carry, except in extremely limited circumstances, such as on their own land. There was an affirmative defense if you were carrying while travelling. That meant you could be arrested, and then have to prove to a judge that you really were travelling. There was some precedent to indicate traveling might be interpreted as crossing a county line. Today, both concealed and open carry are legal with shall-issue permitting, and reciprocity for my permit extends to many states.

I crossed the line into Louisiana, noting that gas prices dropped momentarily to $1.99 per gallon. In constant dollars, that’s close to the price paid for gas in 1974.

The scenery was beautiful. Louisiana passed an improved right to carry amendment in 2012. Their constitution had given the legislature the right to regulate the wearing of concealed weapons shortly after they became a state. The 2012 amendment took away that specific power.

Louisiana has shall-issue permitting and wide reciprocity as well as open carry without a permit for anyone over 17. A talk radio station I tuned into in Louisiana extolled the virtues of small government and railed against an anti-business tax. In 1974, it was hard to find any commentary on the air extolling limited government or holding to the Constitution.

Mississippi came into view as I crossed the river. Mississippi had very restrictive carry laws in 1974, especially if you were black. In 2016, Mississippi joined the Constitutional Carry Club. You don’t need a permit to carry there, openly or concealed. It doesn’t matter if you are white or black…no permit required. I felt as if I were in friendly territory.

I had forgotten how beautiful the South is. The gently rolling hills, greenery covering the fields, expansive, dense woods, lots of pretty, wild country. That’s the way it was as I rolled through Alabama. In 1974, Alabama had concealed carry permits that were issued by county sheriffs. Permits were issued to locals that the sheriff approved of. Even today, a sheriff has a some “discretion” in issuing permits. Obtaining a permit from out of state was practically impossible in 1974. Open carry was likely to get you hassled or worse.

In 2017, open carry is recognized as legitimate. Concealed carry in many formats, doesn’t require a permit. The Alabama Senate has passed a constitutional carry bill and Alabama is likely to joint the Constitutional Carry Club soon.

The traffic in Georgia left a little to be desired. Georgia has required a carry permit for a long time. An outsider had no real chance of getting a Georgia permit in 1974. Wisconsin had no statutory system of issuing permits then (my residence was in Wisconsin at the time). Georgia would not have recognized a Wisconsin permit, in any case. The Georgia permit changed from may-issue to shall-issue in 1989.

Today Georgia recognizes both my Arizona and Florida permits, as it does permits from 30 other states. A permit is good for both open and concealed carry, and covers knives as well as handguns.

I felt quite comfortable carrying a handgun and knife in Georgia. I’m carrying here in the World Congress Center where the NRA Meeting is being set up. I wore a jacket, but if it becomes warm in the press room, I’ll have no problem openly carrying my GLOCK 17 as I did at the NRA meeting last year.

Forty years ago, most activists believed they were fighting a delaying action, hoping to hold onto what was left of Second Amendment rights for as long as possible. We were told that demographics and the growth of urban America were working against us. As with so many other subjects, we were given bad information.

The fight to restore Second Amendment rights has been long, hard, and fruitful. Incrementalism has worked. Another justice has been confirmed to the Supreme Court. The second U.S. President in history is going to speak at the NRA meeting here. The Trump administration is rolling back administrative rules and regulations. a National reciprocity bill has many co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate.

The Trump administration is the beneficiary of 40 years of hard fought battles to restore Second Amendment rights and America’s gun owners expect them to carry that battle to Congress. And win it.

Much remains to be done. Numerous infringements in various states and jurisdictions remain. But Second Amendment supporters are winning and the NRA has been a large part of those victories.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

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19 Responses to The Road to Atlanta: Gun Rights Progress in the Last 40 Years

  1. Good thing you didn’t have to come through the People’s Democratik Republik of Maryland so you aren’t sitting in a jail cell right about now instead of enjoying the convention. The draconian “Gun Safety Act of 2013”, like the sword of Damocles, hangs heavy over our heads.

  2. I totally agree. We need to stop and look around and take account of the victories of the past few decades. It gives me strength to keep fighting till we win the whole thing back. Bloodless revolutions are cool, they take time, but I think it’s worth it in the end.

    • “Bloodless revolutions are cool, they take time, but I think it’s worth it in the end.”

      We want it bloodless.

      Let there be *zero* doubt, if it takes blood, the Left will have no problem spilling it to get what they want…

      • To clarify – What do you think their intent was when they handed out MRAPs and select-fire weapons to civilian LE agencies?

  3. Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
    – Ronald Reagan

    I remember 1976. It was the bicentennial of our fine nation. It was also a year when gun control efforts were on the rise and Massachusetts had a referendum to ban all handguns. Yes, ban all handguns. Today, politicians can mouth “nobody wants to take away your guns,” but people do and have tried. Tell the next generations to take this stuff seriously.

  4. How’s that traffic in Atlanta today? I moved away a few years ago don’t miss one bit of Atlanta. Did you get caught up in that whole collapsed part of 85 mess?

    Great write up, sometimes it’s easy to forget the way things used to be and assume today is the worst it has ever been

    “I had forgotten how beautiful the South is. The gently rolling hills, greenery covering the fields, expansive, dense woods, lots of pretty, wild country. That’s the way it was as I rolled through Alabama.”

    I agree I live in north Alabama, have never had any sheriffs discretion, most of them around here are very supportive of anyone who wants to carry

    • Just take a right turn onto Carter Boulevard, then a left onto Peachtree Street, then a right onto Carter Street, and a left onto the Peach Blossom Bypass. That’ll get you there!

      Or at least that’s what it seemed the GPS was telling me the last time I was down there! Every street seemed to be some variation on Carter or Peach.

  5. Unfortunately, the good news in this article highlights how America is becoming two ever more distinct countries on gun freedom. While most of the South and a good chunk of the West and Midwest is moving forward, the Left Coast and Northeast are becoming ever more restrictive. I have a Florida permit that will work in much of the nation, but first I’d have to get there. While CT has a horrible AWB, our carry permit situation is better than many other Blue states – but we’re pretty much hemmed in by NY, NJ and MA – so we can’t drive, and if you live in southern CT the nearest airports are all in NY. We used to drive to PA to go shooting with friends, but nowadays I wouldn’t take anything but bolt or pump guns across NY to get there.

    • “…the Left Coast and Northeast are becoming ever more restrictive”.

      Maine passed constitutional carry (cc) in 2015, and New Hampshire passed cc in 2017. Vermont has had it forever.

      In 2016, Maine fought back Bloomberg’s attempt to impose so-called “universal background checks” – we defeated the referendum despite being outspent 6 to 1. The only (of five) referendum question to be defeated.

      Even Massachusetts finally “cried uncle” and no longer requires an in person interview for a non-resident LTC renewal (which is for the most part shall-issue). My guess is that they were getting over-run with non-resident LTC applications and insisting on an in-person interview was no longer feasible.

      Things are not as bad as you make it out to be in Northern New England — and it has the potential for influencing Southern New England in a pro-freedom way as people interact with each other in this region.

  6. I hope that the national rising gun tide will lift places like NJ and California with them.

    If that fails, the Supreme Court may be our last and only hope.

  7. Another thing to celebrate is that, generally speaking, the polling on 2A issues gets better and better for us.

    I don’t have the time right now to look up 1976-77 polling, but IIRC, that would still be in the timeframe where a majority of the public supported the notion of a blanket ban on handguns.

    Today, generally speaking the people of this country do no support expanded gun control from the status quo, and that is something to both jealously guard and be thankful for.

    • yes ALL the trends on the polling show long term fundamental shift in support of gun owners rights.
      I the past 20 to 30 years:
      Support for handgun bans, down in 40, 30, 20 10 and five year polls
      Support for assault rifle bans down in 30, 20, 10, 5 year polls
      Gallup Favorable of NRA rising for 20 years, now 56%
      Number of Americans in 1990 who said owning a gun made a home safer: 37%. Today: 63%

  8. Yes the times and the NRA have changed. I was a 5 year old black kid when the Mulford Act was passed in California. Blacks lost their gun rights. But the white Jewish defense league and all other whites in California got to keep and display their guns in public.

    I think the NRA believed the Black Panther Party For self-Defense had to many criminals in it. And that is why the leadership didn’t support them. While at the same time the Deacon For Defense and Justice were supported by the NRA with guns and ammunition. Both groups killed bad government guys dressed in police uniforms.

    The NRA and American are much better now.

  9. Let’s keep the pressure up and push even harder for return of lost liberty. It’s long way to go before we get where things stood before June 26, 1934.

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