By early June, West Virginians will be able to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, thanks to the state legislature’s successful effort to override Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of House Bill 4145.
West Virginia is not alone. So-called “permitless carry” is on the wish list of gun-rights groups across the country. A few weeks ago, Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a bill into law expanding permitless carry in that state. Similar bills have been introduced in more than a dozen other states that would allow citizens to freely carry concealed weapons without permitting or any additional background checks.
There is a bizarre but widespread logic that underpins the push for permitless carry. West Virginia delegate Saira Blair, who wrote the legislation, declared in an op-ed that that “permitless concealed carry bill will enhance safety.” State Senator Charles Trump, a supporter of Blair’s bill, made similar arguments, claiming that “arming of law-abiding West Virginia citizens, without red tape, without enormous expense that deters people from seeking licenses, will make us safer.”
Around the country, other sponsors of similar legislation are singing the same tune. Colorado State Senator Vicki Marbles wrote language into her own permitless carry legislation asserting that “this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.”
In New Hampshire, State Senate majority leader Jed Bradley, the primary sponsor of a permitless-carry bill, told New Hampshire Public Radio, “I actually think that if we allow what’s called constitutional carry, in other words without a permit, we’ll be an even safer state than we are today.”
This is plainly not true—social-science research has consistently shown that more guns leads to more gun violence. But these legislators aren’t alone in their belief to the contrary. In a national poll I commissioned, Public Policy Polling found that 61 percent of gun owners believe more guns leads to less crime. (Only 37 percent of non–gun owners and 36 percent of people with guns in their households believe the “more guns, less crime” theory to be true.)