While teaching Concealed Carry Classes, this questions comes up a lot! It can take different choices of words but generally, it comes across as, what do trained firearms instructors think of constitutional carry laws? I can’t speak for all of them, nor can I speak for group of them, so just to clarify, this is my opinion.
The US Constitution is one of the most interesting and overlapping set of rules ever developed to keep and maintain freedom among a nation of people. There is a reason the first 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights! These are the rights of the people of this nation to pursue their own happiness and ensure their own tranquility. I won’t get into each amendment, but I will mention a few since we are talking about the constitution and guns. Let’s start with the 10th Amendment which talks about federalism and the rights of the states over the laws of the federal government. Yes, you read that correctly! States have the right to tell the federal government no, not in my state. Nullification is the right of the state to ignore federal laws when the state has not ratified said law. Now, before you start down a rabbit hole, it is not all encompassing and not perfect, but yes, it is a right of the states. Oklahoma voted to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. Does this mean that a federal law is not valid in a state if the state does not ratify it? I am not a lawyer nor do I pretend to be, but there is case law that sets precedent to support nullification. In 1997, Printz vs United States, the Supreme Court (the highest court in our country) ruled that the federal government could not force state law enforcement officers to conduct background checks on handgun sales. Let’s mention the 4th amendment where you have the right to privacy and prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant that needs to be based on a probably cause established by law. Do Red Flag laws violate this constitutional right of the people? Well, once that Red Flag law goes into effect, it is going to take a challenge to that law, and most likely a challenge up to the Supreme Court before that question is answered. But my opinion is that Red Flag laws violate the constitution.
So in my effort to be fair and show both sides of states vs federal laws, this is the same constitutionally grounded idea that allows states to declare themselves free from immigration laws. It is also the reason why we currently have vastly differences in laws, rules, and acceptability of cannabis in both the medical arena along with recreational use. Immigration and marijuana are just 2 subjects that have lots of controversy between courts of the states and the federal court. So let’s talk about guns now.
The 2nd amendment states clearly the right of the people to keep and bear arms. There are also concepts and ideas that want you to believe our founding fathers did not think about military firearms, semi-automatic firearms, “assault” firearms or any other firearm that was not around over 220 years ago. I disagree with those concepts. I believe the writers of the constitution where thinking clearly as they has just fought a war to separate us from tyranny of England. They clearly saw what a government whose laws only allowed people to do what the government wants them to do and no more. They saw that, in order to preserve our newly acquired way of life, we need to secure that life with a set of rules and laws that limit the government from doing what England was trying to do to our new world here in the Americas. The 2nd amendment was also written to allow people to enforce the right to defend themselves. There are lawyers who can explain this much better than I can, but the general idea here is that you have a right to live, breathe, eat, sleep and be left alone in the privacy of your own home or property. Anyone who wants to hurt your, kidnap you, or try to kill you while you are clearly not breaking any rules, like sitting in your own home on your own property, is breaking laws to try to do such things to you. Criminals use weapons to make you comply. The 2nd amendment gives you the right to own firearms so you can defend yourself against such law breaking people of this world.
Side note, there are documented cases where a convicted felon, legally released from jail, used a firearm to shoot and kill someone. Their defense was they were being attacked by someone and were only defending themselves. Even though they were felons, even though the law says felons cannot have firearms, they were found not guilty because the person killed was proven to be the instigator or perpetrator so the felon who defended himself did not get charged. I think that is kinda crazy but it proves that our government takes our right to defend ourselves rather seriously. Even convicted felons have the right to defend themselves. They lost the right to own firearms, but that does not mean they lost the right to defend themselves. Gray area?? You bet, but it makes a point. The right to defend yourself is important in our legal system.
Many of you have heard me say there are no absolutes and this is the same. I believe everyone has the right to own firearms, until you lose that right through criminal activity. I believe the government has the right to set some rules about when, where, and how your rights are granted, but those should be VERY, VERY limited. I believe private property is the one area that the 2nd amendment is limited by the rights of the property owner. “It is my property and I don’t want people armed on my property” is valid and if I do not want armed people on my property, I should not have to accept that because of a state of constitutional law. Same rules apply to businesses. While looking for classroom space, I found many retail shops that would not rent to me because I support gun ownership. I think I should be able to rent from them, but I agree with their right to deny me based on their private property rights.
Here is where we get into the argument about responsibility of one’s own safety. In my example above, even a convicted felon has the right to defend himself. Since this is established case law, then I have the same right. If I enter a place that does not allow firearms, such as a federal building, movie theater, or school, then said establishment should have legally taken ownership of my safety. With that, if a shooting happens, and I am hurt, I should have every legal right to sue the establishment since they took responsibility for my safety by forcing me to remove my firearm.
I think the 2nd amendment IS the right to carry. PERIOD! I have the right, under the Constitution of the United States, to carry a firearm, concealed or not, anywhere I want to go… PERIOD! If the state upon which I am residing has created a separate set of laws about conceal carry, whether I agree with them or not, I have an obligation, as a resident of that state, to comply with those laws or face the punishment of not complying. If I go to a movie theatre and they don’t allow guns, I leave. I think I should be able to carry since the movie theater is mostly a public building, but private ownership has rights too.
Based on FBI statistical data, areas of our country that have taken away the right to conceal carry, or even own a firearm have the highest crime rates in our country. States like Maine and Vermont have constitutional carry AND have the lowest crime rates and are the safest states in the nation. As an instructor what do I think about mandated training? Contrary to popular beliefs, I do not think mandated training should be in place. I whole-heartedly believe getting firearms training is the only way to be a responsibly armed American. I believe that you are risking the lives of everyone around you if you purchase a firearm and try to use it to defend yourself without receiving any training. But should the state or federal government mandate training before ownership? I don’t think so. Mandating a constitutionally guaranteed right is not a smart idea in my opinion. It is like saying, you can’t purchase a home, or car, or bicycle, until you receive government mandated training lessons. None of those thing mentioned are constitutionally guaranteed rights to own and we don’t have mandated requirements to own them. Any of them, used poorly, or complacently, can cause significant damage to those around you. And if you are thinking, how can I use a house to hurt my neighbors, go read about fire, electricity or gas safety, just to name a few of hazards in our homes. Catch one on fire accidentally and you can take out a few neighbors very easily.
Wrapping all of this around constitutional carry, I believe the constitution gives us the right to carry concealed. I believe no government should interfere with this right and those that do should tread very, VERY lightly. And when I am asked, doesn’t that hurt your own business? There are many services oriented small businesses that are not mandated by government regulation and they do just fine. No one is required to attend Gunsite, Frontsite, or one of the other and many firearms training courses around the country and yet they do just fine. There are many indoor ranges around the country that are making money and there is no government regulation to force you to buy a firearm. Gun ownership, like home ownership, like being a parent, is all about responsibility and doing your best to be responsible.