With 2012 being an election year, both republicans and democrats will be hesitant to alienate voters with new gun laws. So you shouldn’t expect the coming legislative sessions to produce any meaningful firearms regulation. But last year did see some changes concerning the use, purchase, and carry of firearms. Here’s a round up of what went on and how the legal landscape for guns had changed.
Most notable is Wisconsin’s approval of concealed carry permits that went into effect November 1. About two months later, as of December 28, the Wisconsin Department of Justice had received 64,832 applications for permits, which inundated the department and forced it to shanghai employees from other areas to review the applications and meet agency deadlines. Wisconsin became the 49th state to issue CCW permits, leaving Illinois as the only state unwilling to let its citizens carry concealed.
In California, a law that went into effect the first week of January prohibits you from openly carrying an unloaded handgun. Openly carrying a loaded handgun in California has been illegal for some time, though the state does recognize CCW permits. The new law, however, has come under fire from citizens claiming the regulation is an illegal infringement of their Second Amendment rights. In protest of the new law, many residents vow to openly carry rifles and shotguns.
To that end, Eugene Volokh, an expert of gun laws and a professor at UCLA, Berkley, told CaliforniaWatch.org that, according to the Supreme Court’s decision in the case District of Columbia v. Heller, “the right to keep and bear arms includes a right not just to possess guns, but also to bear them in the sense of carry them.”
New York City is a fairly hostile environment for handguns. Mayor Bloomberg has been a staunch supporter of strict gun control and has worked hard to get illegal guns off the city’s streets. But a pair of recent gun charges against law-abiding citizens may generate some needed change for laws that, some feel, unjustly punish the law abiding.
And just to clarify, concealed carry permits in New York are offered at the discretion of the authorities. If you’re a law enforcement officer, you can secure a permit. If you can convince the authorities that it’s necessary for you to carry concealed—if, for instance, you’re in imminent danger or an owner of a large business—than you’re eligible. Also, the state does not recognize reciprocity of CCW permits, meaning if you have a CCW permit in another state, New York City will not recognize your privilege.
A medical student from Tennessee is the latest poster child for changing New York’s law. When Meredith Graves visited Ground Zero and saw the “No Guns Allowed” sign, she asked a nearby cop if there was a place to store her .32 Kel-Tec. She was then arrested and is potentially facing three and a half years in jail for illegally possessing a firearm in the city. Yes, she should have known the local laws, but even to government officials, the penalty seems misguided.
Peter Vallone (D-Queens), who served as assistant district attorney in Manhattan and is now chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, opposes a US House of Representatives bill that would require New York to recognize CCW permits from other states. But he wrote in an editorial for the New York Post that, “our carry laws are too strict… With cases like Meredith Graves we’re giving the rest of the country ammunition to force passage of the House bill. If that happens, we’ll truly have shot ourselves in the foot.”
Gun laws in New Hampshire are also on the ballot for change. Earlier this week, the House passed a bill that prevents restrictions on carrying a concealed gun in public places. Openly carrying a gun is legal in New Hampshire, but carrying concealed is restricted to the discretion of the publicly funded venue at issue, like a sports arena or hospital. The new law denies the venue its discretion and instead puts those places under the same regulations as they apply elsewhere in the state.
However, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch will almost certainly veto these changes to the law.
In Mississippi, a law passed last summer says that someone who has a CCW permit and takes an eight-hour NRA course can carry a concealed firearm just about anywhere they want—in courthouses, on school campuses, in bars. But the law has also spawned an argument between lawmakers and the Department of Public Safety. The Department is refusing to recognize any training undergone prior to the law’s passage in July. Neither has the Department approved any instructors or courses for such a privilege, according to WREG News of Memphis.
As of this summer, you can now carry concealed in Wyoming without a permit. Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont have similar regulations in place and don’t require a CCW permit to carry a gun in your jacket pocket.