Many agencies have “suspended” the process for applying for concealed carry permits and licenses. (Dave Workman)
“The constitution wasn’t put on hold because of the coronavirus.”
So spoke Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation as he encouraged law enforcement agencies around the country to resume taking applications for concealed carry permits and licenses. It could be considered “friendly advice” or a subtle warning, since SAF has been involved in two federal lawsuits in recent weeks—one in North Carolina and the other in Georgia—were gun permits were the central issue.
In North Carolina, a sheriff was sued for halting, during the coronavirus outbreak, the issuance of permits to purchase handguns. In Georgia, the governor and a county probate judge were sued when the judge stopped issuing concealed carry permits, again a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both cases, Gottlieb said, have been “favorably resolved.”
The reason used by enforcement agencies that have suspended taking new applications for carry licenses is that fingerprinting is required, and that is an up-close process. But activists frustrated by the fingerprint explanation point to city and county jails, where people arrested and booked are fingerprinted.
So Thursday, SAF issued a news release in which the group contended that if an agency has suspended the licensing process, it should not arrest people for carrying concealed.
It’s a bad replay of “Catch 22,” because the law requires licenses or permits to carry concealed in most states, but issuing agencies aren’t accepting applications, so the process is not available.
Out in Washington State, many if not most agencies have not been taking new concealed pistol license applications for about two months.
“Where state law requires a license or permit to carry concealed in public,” Gottlieb said, “issuing agencies cannot be allowed to arbitrarily stop that process, using the coronavirus outbreak as the reason.”
SAF’s announcement was picked up Friday morning by The Shooting Wire. It could be hitting nerves across the legal landscape, since the organization is known for not being shy about taking government officials to court. Since the COVID-19 outbreak led agencies to cut back on their services in late February and early March, SAF has been involved in about a dozen federal legal actions.
“The right to bear arms,” Gottlieb stated, “translates to the right to carry, and like other rights protected by the Constitution, that right is not limited to the confines of one’s home. Ever since the SAF victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago ten years ago, the Second Amendment has been incorporated to the states via the 14th Amendment. A lot of people apparently have forgotten that, but we haven’t. You cannot suspend a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right, especially in times of emergency.”
There is no small irony that the Seattle-based and billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility, headquartered only a few miles from SAF’s national headquarters in Bellevue, is out with a roster of politicians and candidates in Washington State who evidently would be first in line to support a shutdown of the license application process. It might best be described as a list of people Evergreen gun owners should vote against.
The Alliance, which has pushed through a trio of gun control initiatives in Washington in recent years, is endorsing more than two dozen candidates, because they support so-called “commonsense” gun controls.
Over the past two months, Washington has reported a decline in the number of active CPLs, which has declined more than 1,600 since early March.
During that period gun sales have increased, with many of those sales to first-time buyers wanting guns for personal protection. If those people want to carry their firearms outside the home, what are they supposed to do if they can’t submit an application?
“If a sheriff’s or police department is not accepting carry license applications,” Gottlieb said, “they should not arrest someone for carrying without a license.”