In my last article on gun policy, "Does America Have The Safety On?" I discussed how and where the federal government could improve its regulatory controls on firearms, since deficiencies in policy enable proliferation, instead of restricting it. This week's article focuses on gun control at the state level where laws vary widely, and in many cases are more permissive than federal statutes that regulate the same types of weapon. Few realize that 39 of 50 states require the granting of a weapons permit without consideration of why an applicant wants one or what they plan to use a weapon for. Many allow long-barrel rifles and shotguns to be carried in public places while loaded and without a license, and there are even localities within states that allow firearms to be carried in places expressly prohibited by federal law. As Washington takes to the gun control debate, revising the permissive policies of the states should be at the forefront of any discussion with emphasis on how states grant weapons permits, and amending "shall-Issue" provisions.
Reviewing "Shall-Issue" Jurisdictions
States with "shall-issue" provisions are compelled to grant an applicant a weapons permit so long as the applicant meets the state's requirements for the permit. In nearly every case, a potential applicant is awarded a permit with no regard to: a) why the applicant wants a permit and b) how the applicant intends to use their firearm. On its face, this process appears a constitutionally protected application of the Second Amendment safeguarded from federal scrutiny, but upon closer examination of the Supreme Court's definitions of the Second Amendment, there's a strong case for amending these policies.
In District of Columbia v. Heller the court affirms the Second Amendment's protection of an individual's right to keep and bear arms for "traditionally lawful purposes" under the premise of a "natural right to self defense." However, the court also explains that the Second Amentment does not protect the ownership of any type of firearm for any reason, and upholds the power of the federal government to regulate firearms under the commerce clause and "general welfare and security" phrasing. Shall-issue policies confer weapons permits to applicants without considering if the applicant intends to or actually can use a firearm for a traditionally lawful purpose as the state does not require an applicant to provide good cause. Without such a requirement the state can't possibly know if the applicant would use a firearm that's "in common use" (another condition from District) or for a lawful purpose.