Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed constitutional carry into law on February 27, removing all licensing and training requirements for handguns.
The first bill that Stitt signed into law, House Bill 2597, doesn’t change anything about who can legally own a gun, it just removes restrictions for those already legally eligible to carry one. Veterans, active duty, and reserve military will be able to carry without a permit at age 18; everyone else can carry if they are 21 and older.
Certain locations and businesses are still off-limits for carry as well; federal buildings in the state, courthouses, sports arenas, and the University of Oklahoma campus are just a few of the places where carrying any firearm is still prohibited.
Oklahoma isn’t the only state moving toward constitutional carry. Kentucky is currently moving a bill through the state legislative process that would also allow state residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, and so far, 15 other states already have the laws in place.
South Dakota was the 13th state to enact constitutional carry in January 2019; other states that have already adopted it include Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
According to Gunpowder Magazine, three of the four safest states in the country are on the list as honoring constitutional carry: Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Proponents of permitless carry point to these states—and the astronomical rate of crime in states with heavy gun control such as California and Illinois—as proof that constitutional carry can and does lower crime rate.
Some states that don’t have permitless carry yet still have gun laws that make it easy for citizens to open carry. In Montana, for instance, open carry is legal at the age of 14. The law is meant to help Montana teenagers—most of whom grow up hunting—be protected from the high wild predator rate and potential for wildlife encounters while working on farms and ranches.
One obstacle that states like Alabama, where legislators are trying to get constitutional carry passed, are experiencing is pushback from county sheriffs, who gain revenue from issuing concealed carry permits. The money goes into a discretionary fund that isn’t part of the sheriff’s budget but can be spent solely by him. Moving to a constitutional model will end that revenue stream, and sheriffs—at least in Alabama—are not happy about losing that money.
The other facet to Alabama’s constitutional carry fight is that while open carry is currently legal in the state, it is illegal to open carry in a vehicle without a permit—and any pistols carried in a vehicle must be unloaded and locked up. It puts state residents in a legal pickle; carrying their firearm openly is legal until they get into their vehicle, and that’s what Alabama GOP lawmakers are hoping to change with their push for constitutional carry.
With the laws passing in Oklahoma and South Dakota, with a high probability of passing in Kentucky, other states could find themselves allowing permitless carry soon.