a permit to do what now?

When the average citizen wants to carry a gun in public, there are four different ways for local governments to handle the issue.

The first system is one in which no carry permit is needed at all–no permission slip from the government required.  If you can legally own it, you can legally carry it in public.  This system is the only one that really jives with the Constitution, which means that it’s naturally the least common one.  Only two states out of fifty have such an enlightened approach to their citizens’ exercise of Second Amendment rights: Vermont and Alaska.  (Note that the blood is not running knee-deep in the streets of Fairbanks or Burlington, despite the dire predictions of shoot-outs over parking spots that, according to some, are inevitable when “everyone carries guns”.)

The second system is one in which no permits are issued to anyone.  Local law enforcement has no discretion in the matter, and no amount of money and influence can get you a permit to carry, because the state and local authorities simply don’t issue any.  This sounds terribly restrictive–and it is, no question about it–but it’s actually only the second-worst possible system.  Illinois is an example of a no-issue state (and the crime rate in Chicago is a pretty good indicator of the effectiveness of a no-issue system.)

The third system is one in which the local law enforcement authority (county Sheriff, town/city Chief of Police, or State Police) can grant a permit, but have full discretion when it comes to approving or denying the application.  This is the worst possible permit system for one reason: it makes the system corruptible.  Historically, “may issue” permit systems have been used for leverage by the issuing authorities, especially when the office issuing the permits is an elected one (like County Sheriff.)  More often than not, a “may issue” system is turned into a reward mechanism for political or financial support.  An example of such a system is New York City, where the application process for carry permits is intentionally difficult, and where Joe Average has absolutely no chance of getting a carry permit…while the Intelligentsia (like Donald Trump and Robert DeNiro) have no trouble getting one.  In practice, “May Issue” almost always means “I may issue you a permit if you’re rich or politically well-connected.”  (Here’s a good object lesson on why “may issue” carry permits are always a bad idea.)  Lastly, the original intent of “may issue” permit systems was to enable the local authorities to keep guns out of the hands of “undesirable” ethnic groups.  In the South, blacks were routinely denied, and whites always approved.  The Sullivan Law in New York City was originally enacted to keep the Italian immigrants disarmed. 

The fourth system is called “Shall Issue”, and it’s the preferred way to go if one absolutely has to have a permit system in place.  Under Shall Issue systems, someone comes up with an objective set of requirements for getting a carry permit, and then the issuing authority must issue that permit to any applicant who fulfills those requirements.  Among the folks who dislike their fellow citizens being “allowed” to carry guns, the “Shall Issue” system is the second-least popular, right after “No Permit Needed”, because it gives no discretion to the sheriff or chief.  That’s precisely the good thing about it, however: it sets an objective list of standards, and it isn’t arbitarily based on the whims of the person signing the permits.  Many states with a permit system have adopted “Shall Issue”, among them my home state of New Hampshire.

Personally, I think that the only approach in harmony with the Bill of Rights is the first one, where no permits are needed.  There’s no paperwork, no bureaucracy, no opportunity for graft or favoritism, and absolute impartiality.  (Note that people who commit crimes with guns still get arrested and convicted in Alaska and Vermont.)  It simply makes no more sense to require a permit for carrying a gun without criminal intent than it does to require a permit for reading a book or going to church…and if you can tie the exercise of one part of the Bill of Rights to a government-issued permission slip, you can do the same with the rest of those rights. 

Whether you like guns, or dislike them, the right to keep and bear them is part of the Bill of Rights.  If you value the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you should be as appalled at the idea of having to ask City Hall for permission to carry a pistol as you are at the idea of asking for permission to speak your mind against the government, or attend the church of your choice, or receive a trial by jury.  Otherwise, you have no leg to stand on when someone else starts requiring permits to exercise the parts of the Bill of Rights you do support.


17 thoughts on “a permit to do what now?

  1. Jay G. says:

    How’s that go? The power to permit is the power to deny?

    Something like that.

    Nailed it on this one, Marko. Good on ya.

  2. Jeff says:

    I prefer the may issue I’m stuck with in MA to the no issue of IL. In MA, may issue is effectively delegation of the choice between shall issue, may issue, and no issue to the individual towns. My town is effectively shall issue. If you’re not statutorily prohibited, you get a permit. Obviously, I agree that no permit needed is the best option followed by shall issue.

  3. Grape Ape says:

    It seems like there may have been a decent argument for shall issue back in the day when records were stored on paper. But is seems pretty pointless these days. If a cop becomes aware that you are packing and want to be sure you are kosher, he won’t just look at the permit and he won’t just have dispatch confirm that it is still valid, he will run (a condensed version of) the same background check that was run when you applied.

    So where is the value of the permit? Unless of course your goal is to reduce the number of law abiding citizens carrying by making more difficult and expensive to do it legally…

  4. MarkHB says:

    All rights, in the final analasys, come down to property rights.

    The right to own one’s own stuff.
    The right to own one’s own place to put one’s stuff in.
    The right to own oneself.

    If you take away the right to defend these things by every available force, then you have try anarchy – which is what weaponlessness is. Because then illegally operating people will know you can’t protect your stuff, your home and your body – and will use illegal weaponry to take it from you. Because they’re already scofflaws.

    Shall Issue is good, yes. But sadly FedGuv has taken it upon itself to destroy the civil liberties concommittant with being able to defend oneself anyway. One hopes this trend will be reversed, but come Tuesday, one sees no candidate who thinks The Individual and their rights and obligations as defined by the Constitution and Bill of Rights matter a wet slap.

    So one wonders what really may pass, regardless of one’s “rights” to self-defence, when the Gubment sees itself as something to be served, not something to serve.

  5. Weer'd Beard says:

    I’m pretty sure I read about Illinois Aldermen and Judges having carry permits and handguns inside Chicago. I’m not so sure about Wisconsin.

  6. lenf says:

    Of course, here in NH the “shall issue” law is for concealed carry or carrying a loaded pistol or revolver in a motor vehicle. Openly carrying a pistol or revolver is fine, though usually considered in bad taste. The fee is $10 for a four year permit and the permit must be issued within 14 days. If denied, cause must be given in writing within 30 days. Renewal at the end of the four years is another formality. I also received a form letter from the chief stating “The granting of this permit should not and cannot be construed as approval of the use of a firearm in the protection of property. The following RSA’s outline when and how force may be used.”

  7. since it’s unlikely that the next few years will have states awakening to the enlightened approach of ak and vt we might hope for the following:

    in the “shall issue” state of fla, if you pass nics you can get your cwp, so why bother?…add the logical premise of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and you’ve got a decent compromise.

    no permit means no dossier; go about your business like a free American should and no one knows if you carry or not, but someone who infracts a law and is toting gets a quick nics; fail and it’s jail.


  8. Mike says:

    “I prefer the may issue I’m stuck with in MA to the no issue of IL.”

    I live in another may-issue state, and CA’s may-issue is seriously fucked up. Try living in a county that will NOT issue under any circumstances outside of political “favors”. It’s so frustrating I’ve thought about going to police academy to become a reserve officer. Of course, most departments don’t allow their reserve officers to carry concealed off duty, so that would be the end of that little loophole if I ever got caught… and it would cost me a ton of money and time.

    Marko is right – I’d prefer California be “no-issue” than “shall-issue”. A lot of the people who’ve managed to get their CCWs here are too scared of pissing their issuing agencies off to get active in pushing for shall-issue. Just another form of corruption of the may-issue system – intimidation. Not sure if your system “works” this way or not, but in CA, the issuing agency has the authority to revoke your permit at any time, for any reason. It’s 100% discretionary, and they can even place restrictions on your permit – times, locations, etc. – for carry.

  9. Dan Brock says:

    Maybe stating the obvious here but…
    Why do you need permission is you feel this is a fundamental human right?
    A note from the cops to make it okay?
    Fuck ’em. Refuse to play.
    I refer you to my guru, Phil Luty:
    Click on “Mantra of the British Gun Owner” but don’t stop there.

  10. jimbob86 says:

    “So where is the value of the permit? Unless of course your goal is to reduce the number of law abiding citizens carrying by making more difficult and expensive to do it legally……”


    They want less of a thing (guns carried by law abiding citizens), so they make that thing more expensive, hazardous (legally), and inconvenient.

  11. ilcylic says:

    MarkHB saith:
    The right to own one’s own stuff.
    The right to own one’s own place to put one’s stuff in.
    The right to own oneself.

    If you take away the right to defend these things by every available force, then you have try anarchy – which is what weaponlessness is. Because then illegally operating people will know you can’t protect your stuff, your home and your body – and will use illegal weaponry to take it from you. Because they’re already scofflaws.

    Hey now. Don’t try to pin this on my end of the philosophical fence. The terms “anarchy” and “chaos” are not synonymous. Philosophical anarchocapitalism derives from a respect for property rights so absolute that even the libertarians think we’re batshit insane (and hey, maybe we are, but at least we’re philosophically consistent).

    Anarchy gets a bad enough rap for the things it does stand for, without being subject to ridicule and scorn for positions it doesn’t take.

    Vermont and Alaska style carry are very anarchist. After all, they have no rules about it at all.

  12. karrde says:

    I was a young adult (too young to buy a pistol) when Michigan went from may-issue to shall-issue.

    Of course, Michigan is fairly hunting-gun-friendly, but also has a mish-mash of laws relating to the more liberal urban areas.

    (I suspect that the License to Purchase a Pistol business is a holdover from racist gun-control days…likewise with the Safety Inspection for newly-purchased pistols…both carried out at the Police Station…)

    Some official government agency in Michigan set out to do a study of Concealed-Permit issuance under may-issue, and came to the official conclusion that permits were most likely to be issued to family of policemen and friends of the Sheriff.

    I wish we had unlicensed carry, but the politicians of Detroit would not like it. (Why? Gang-members carry anyway…)

  13. Gaston says:

    Virginia allows open carry in all except a few places. Virginia is a “shall issue” state for concealed carry.

  14. Matt says:

    Maryland is a “May Issue” state that gun rights advocates are desperate trying to make “Shall Issue”. Especially given we have the example of Virginia right next door. I used to live in VA and had a carry permit there.

    The problem here is exactly as described: corruption. In this case, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee has the power to keep a bill “in the drawer”. Because he favors defense lawyers, he has never allowed the bill to come up for a vote despite unanimous support for it. By “unanimous”, I mean not one single person or gun control group of any stripe testified against it in hearings on whether to allow it to be sent for consideration. Not one. It has happened twice now over the past two years.

    It is suspected if the bill is allowed to come out and be voted on by the House, it would likely pass. If not, we’d at least like to have the fairness of a vote on the bill on its merits. As it stands right now, the Chairman of a committee has more power than the Governor to veto legislation. Potential future legislation the citizens want to be heard, in this case.

    Maryland is essentially a “one party” system and the politicians don’t like it when the citizens demand they actually do their jobs and represent our interests. Especially when we ask them to.

  15. MarkHB says:

    ilcylic, forgive me. Let me say instead, chaos. Is that better?

  16. Chuck says:

    You missed Wyoming. We are required to have a permit for concealed carry, but , open carry is allowed.

  17. anonymous says:

    Didn’t the new Bitch Sheriff of Orange County California just revoke hundreds of permits?

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