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.