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Constitutional carry

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, June 09, 2017 12:01 am

I see Michigan is about to allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit. Or at least the bill has passed the GOP-controlled House and now goes on to the Senate, also dominated by Republicans. If it gets through there, it goes to the desk of a Republican governor. So passage seems probable.

Of course, I've stepped in it with such a prediction before. Seeing the Michigan story reminded me that a "constitutional carry" bill was also introduced in the Indiana General Assembly last term, and I predicted easy passage because this state is one of the most gun-friendly in the nation, even more so than supposedly gun-nut-loving states like Texas. I lost track of the bill in the rush of legislative news and had to look it up — and, of course, it failed.

(Btw, apropos of nothing in particular, I notice the news story about the Michigan bill did not once use the term "constitutional carry." Could that be because the term implies a constitutional right to keep and bear arms that the state should not be able to "regulate" with a permitting process, and using it makes the journalists cringe because of their innate prejudice against guns? NAAAH.)

I'm not sure why constitutional carry failed here — I haven't been able to find any coverage explaining it. It might have something do do with all of the police representatives speaking against it. It seems gun-rights activists always expect strong support from law enforcement and seem mildly surprised when they don't get it.

I did see that some of the bill's supporters want constitutional carry to be one of the issues taken up by one of the legislature's "summer study committees," which is where our lawmakers send controversial measures in hopes that they will die there. Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican (natch), said he believes it's not a matter of if constitutional carry will pass, it's a matter of when. "Constitutional carry takes away the unconstitutional and immoral act of government licensing a Constitutional right." Immoral? Strong word.

In the meantime, the Indiana Supreme Court (in the view of many gun-rights observers) has greatly strengthened the case for constitutional carry with one of its recent rulings. Police officers may not detain and question a person based only on a report that the individual has a gun.  In agreeing with the Indiana Court of Appeals' decision handed down last August, the court ruled that officers violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures when they detained and questioned Thomas Pinner after a taxi driver called 911 to report that Pinner had dropped a handgun when exiting a cab at a movie theater.

In other words, mere possession of a gun does not create a "reasonable suspicion" that a crime has been committed. Furthermore, the court said, police may not detain a person solely to determine if he possesses a handgun license: 

The Supreme Court not only ended a long-standing debate, it completely destroyed one of the central arguments against Constitutional Carry in Indiana.  Proponents of Constitutional Carry, which would end the requirement that law-abiding citizens obtain a License to Carry Handgun in order to possess a handgun in public or in a vehicle in Indiana, argue that both the U.S. Constitution (through the Second Amendment) and the Indiana Constitution (through Article 1, Section 32) guarantee the right to bear arms.  As a result, law-abiding Indiana residents should not have to pay a fee to the State and undergo a separate background check to prove that they are eligible to exercise a Constitutionally-protected right. Constitutional Carry recognizes that no additional license or permit should be required if it is otherwise lawful for a person to possess a firearm under both Indiana and federal law.

In discussions about constitutional carry, an issue has bubbled up that I have mixed feelings about: a requirement for gun owners to go through state-approved firearms training. I get the argument that if keeping and bearing arms is a constitutional right, the state has no legitimate reason to set the conditions for when and under what circumstances the right may be exercised. How absurd it would seem if the state had an "OK, now you're well-trained enough for this" permitting process for the right to practice our religion or make use of our free speech.

On the other hand, it makes me a little nervous to know there are so many people walking around with guns they don't know how to use properly and safely. It's especially troublesome in a state like Indiana, where someone can get a lifetime permit, which is just one step away from constitutional carry. The argument is that it's ridiculous to require drivers to know how to operate their cars (yes, yes, I know, not a constitutional right) but not their guns.

(An interesting parallel: People on my side of the political aisle always make the argument, when saying that voters should have to show photo IDs, that people have to show photo IDs for everything from cashing a check to getting on a plane to renting a damn movie, so why balk at having to show one for voting? Well, all those other things aren't constitutional rights, are they?)

Regardless of who wins the argument on state-approved firearms training, I guess we can all agree that people who carry guns they haven't bothered to learn how to use are morons that we wouldn't want drinking large amounts of alcohol at our parties.


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