Response to Comments from a Supposed Second Amendment Advocate on Permitless Carry

Too many people have asked for my response to this (click here) opinion letter published in the Idaho Statesman for me to ignore the requests to respond.  The opinion letter was written by an attorney professing to be a supporter of the Second Amendment, but who expresses his disapproval of the permitless carry law.  He expresses what at first glance appear to be concerns for the gun owning community, who this attorney suggests who could be misled by the meaning of the phrase “permitless carry.”  The attorney, also a firearms instructor, touts the permitting system as the resolution that would save us all from disaster.  I disagree.

The Four-Year Rickety Road to Permitless Carry in Idaho : How the People of Idaho MADE it Happen.

© Alexandria Kincaid, Attorney

One rainy morning four years ago, I walked out of Boise’s largest gun shop to find two gentlemen standing in front of the store, clipboards in hand, requesting signatures on a petition.  The petition was to request that Idaho citizens support a permitless carry law.  That was the first time I met Greg Pruett, and I offered my help with his endeavor.

Idaho is known as a gun friendly state with many, if not most, residents owning at least one firearm.  If a law-abiding citizen can own a gun, shouldn’t that person also be allowed to carry it without requesting special government permission?  After all, the United States Supreme Court has confirmed that the Second Amendment protects our individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense purposes.  Having a firearm in your home is helpful, but the ability to protect yourself outside your home where the criminals and terrorists lurk seems pretty basic to most gun owners.

But instead of “legal to own, legal to carry” laws, Idaho has clung to a special permitting process for law abiding gun owners who wish to carry a legal firearm tucked under a shirt or jacket.  The law requires basic training, imposes conditions on age and background, and requires an Idaho Sheriff’s stamp of approval, UNLESS, you are one of the few Idahoans who fall into the law’s exception to this general permitting process.  You see, the politicians who passed Idaho’s concealed carry law also wrote themselves out of the law – any city, county, state, or publicly elected Idaho officials are immune and may completely bypass the need to jump through the permitting hoop.

Greg Pruett, a native Idahoan, decided to change that.  Greg, a military veteran who served over 13 years until he was forced into medical retirement after a tour in Iraq, explained to me that in 2012, he had learned that other states (Vermont, Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming) already had permitless carry. Greg, along with thousands of other Idahoans, believes Idaho should lead the nation in gun rights rather than follow.

In an effort to unite Idaho gun owners to change the law, Greg organized the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, a grassroots gun rights organization that would answer to no one outside the state.  Since its inception in 2012, the ISAA has grown to over tens of thousands of supporters across Idaho. The ISAA has beaten back dozens of illegal ordinances, defeated anti-gun legislation, and led the fight for permitless carry in Idaho.

Part of the fight for permitless carry has been an educational endeavor.  The public and the politicians need to understand that permitless carry does not allow criminals or the mentally ill to carry a firearm.  It also does not eliminate the permitting process – it simply makes the permit optional.  The permitless carry law only affects law abiding gun owners by granting them permission to carry their legal firearms with them outside of their homes and relieving them of the onerous and outdated concealed carry restrictions.  Greg Pruett correctly calls the law an “under the coat” law, because it simply allows law-abiding citizens to lawfully carry their firearms concealed, as in “under a coat.”  This is why law enforcement officials generally support permitless carry laws.  In fact, the Idaho Sheriff’s Association and the Fraternal Order of Police chose to support Idaho’s permitless carry bill in 2016.

Permitless carry also does not necessarily eliminate the state permitting process.  The way Idaho’s permitless carry law is written, people who want a permit can still get one.  Permits are useful for reciprocity purposes, so you can still carry concealed when you travel to other states.  The permist are also still useful for bypassing the NICS background check when buying a gun from a dealer.

Permitless carry protects law-abiding citizens, as it eliminates one of the many legal traps for gun owners:  Concealed carry laws frequently impose arbitrary, geographical boundaries on where a law-abiding citizen can and cannot carry a firearm. Do you know where a city’s limit starts and stops?   If you carry a firearm in Idaho concealed, you may do so without a permit outside of city limits.  If you cross the line into a city, your firearm is still concealed, and you do not have a permit under the current law, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. In this way, concealed carry laws, as well as laws surrounding what firearms can be lawfully possessed and how they can be transported, create a huge pitfall for Americans who have no intention of violating a law, but who inadvertently wind up criminals because they carry their firearm the wrong way or into the wrong place.  I routinely help these Americans in my practice, because they have broken a law such as carrying a firearm the wrong way or carrying the wrong type of firearm in a place where they were not allowed to do so.  These laws are traps for the unwary and otherwise law-abiding gun owners.

The first year Greg proposed permitless carry in Idaho, he took his idea to Idaho’s “pro-gun” legislators.  Greg told me that he learned the hard way that the Idaho politicians, who enjoy an elite status where they do not need a government permit to carry a concealed weapon, didn’t really seem to care that the rest of Idahoans didn’t want to ask government permission either.  The ISAA gathered 3,000 signatures that first year to make permitless carry a reality for the rest of the state. Despite the public’s clear desire to change the law, the politicians instead focused their efforts on passing more gun-related restrictions, including a more stringent permitting process.

“I think we were very naive the first year we went to the capitol. We approached legislators who refused to listen to us.  We tried to play nice and do as they wanted us to do.  We essentially played the game the way they wanted it to be played.”  This game playing, according to Greg, got him absolutely nowhere with the legislation.

The second year the ISAA proposed the permitless carry legislation, Greg saw no improvement.  “We played nice again. We were told once again that we needed to come back next year. We were told that it was an election year and that big bills are generally frowned upon during an election year.  It was “next year” all over again.  We were beginning to understand that the process does not help the people and it isn’t about the people, it’s about the power the politicians hold and their unwillingness to relinquish it.”

Greg finally realized that playing the game the politicians’ way was not going to work, ever. Politicians who tout themselves as pro-gun are not necessarily pro-Second Amendment.

The third year of proposing permitless carry, Greg chose not to play the game, and instead, simply introduced the bill on his own.  “After our print hearing, we thought we were on our way.  But no sooner had we had introduced it and the Speaker of the House and the Secret Gun Committee put a stop to it. So that was that.  They opposed it and so it went nowhere.”

What is the “secret gun committee”?  According to Greg Pruett, it is a secret group of politicians living in the Idaho statehouse.  The group has been called “the secret gun committee” and is an unofficial committee in the Idaho legislature composed of members of the Senate and House that determine what gun bills will go forward. If the committee does not like a firearms related bill, they kill it behind closed doors:  no public vote, no accountability, no public record of the committee at all.  If you think this sounds illegal and contrary to the way Americans are supposed to be represented in the statehouse, you’re not alone.  Greg relayed to me that the “secret gun committee” is the epitome of everything Americans hate about government: it provides political cover for those in the legislature who don’t care for pro-gun measures.

In 2016, Idaho witnessed an extravaganza of chaos surrounding permitless carry unlike anything before.  It would take four new and different permitless carry bills, all proposed in the same legislative session by different players, to get to one that would not impose further restrictions on gun owners, but would actually restore gun rights Idaho.  The bill has passed both houses, and awaits the Governor’s signature.  If the Governor signs it or does not veto it within five days after its presentation to him, the bill will become law and effective on July 1, 2016.

Greg Pruett is quick not to take credit for the permitless carry in Idaho.  Instead, he points to the power of the people. “When the people rise up, make their voices heard, and threaten these guys’ jobs, they tend to listen. If they don’t feel like they are going to lose an election for their stance, then they don’t care.  So the people are really what made all of this possible.”

If you are inspired by the ISAA, Greg has some advice for you: “There can’t be compromise. YOU have to get the people involved and you can’t play the games that the legislators want you to play. They will try to demean you into submission. Then they may try to butter you up so you will compromise.  You demand the best from them and expect nothing less.  You have the people on your side and that is all you need.  Find state organizations who have boots on the ground and a much better pulse on the gun owners of their respective states and join the fight!”



Dispelling Constitutional Carry Myths

Concealed carry laws are governed by each individual state.    The result is that the laws can vary widely between states, and travelers must be wary and knowledgeable of the laws in the jurisdiction to which they are traveling.  This, of course, poses a hardship for law-abiding gun owners who do not wish to be prosecuted for committing a crime simply because they were confused about the law in a certain location.  

Some United States senators have proposed that concealed carry permits should be afforded the same recognition as driver’s licenses in each state, but such proposed legislation has routinely failed to pass in Congress.   You can read more about these failed bills in my prior blog “In Support of HR 822”

Another option to address the complexity created by 50 states with 50 different versions of carry laws would be to pass legislation allowing law abiding gun owners to not only own a gun, but to carry their firearm without obtaining additional governmental permission.   This type of law is referred to as “constitutional carry”.

Constitutional carry reflects the view that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution permits no restrictions or other regulations on gun ownership for law-abiding citizens.  In other words, if a person is not prohibited from possessing a gun, they should be allowed to carry the gun where they wish to carry it without first obtaining additional, special governmental permission.   After all, the United States Supreme Court has held that our right to keep and bear arms is a right for self-defense purposes.  It does no good to own a gun if you can’t take it with you to defend yourself.

Constitutional carry legislation allowing gun owners to carry firearms openly or concealed and without an applicable permit or license is a growing trend.   Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont, Wyoming, and Oklahoma allow law abiding gun owners to carry their firearms without special licensing.  A few states allow open carry without special licensing, and at least 17 additional states have proposed legislation that would allow constitutional carry, although some of those bills have already failed.

Currently, Idaho continues to require concealed carry permits, but open carry is legal without a permit.  A bill to allow constitutional carry was introduced in Idaho in 2011, but failed to pass.    Another bill is set to be introduced in Idaho in the 2015 legislative session, but it recently came to light how misguided some politicians and some of the public are about what constitutional carry really means.

I recently attended a dinner where the issue of constitutional carry was raised by another attendee, Greg Pruett of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance.   Greg directly asked Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney whether he would support constitutional carry in Idaho.    As I listened to Sheriff Raney’s reasons for not supporting such a bill, it became apparent that some politicians fail to comprehend the concept and will mislead the public.   Sheriff Raney exclaimed that he could not support constitutional carry because that would allow criminals to possess firearms.   Wrong.  Constitutional Carry will not override the federal Gun Control Act.  All the “bad people” who are prohibited from possessing a gun still cannot carry a gun.    He then stated that constitutional carry will allow known gang members to carry firearms and inhibit law enforcement’s ability to arrest these gang members.  

Coming from a law enforcement background, I am all about getting the bad guys off the street.  However, if all you’ve got is someone carrying a gun, you don’t get to play judge and jury and call that person a criminal.  If the person is on probation or has been convicted of a felony, is a drug user, is engaging in criminal behavior, or falls into a host of other "prohibited person" categories, then we already have ample laws that prohibit that person from possessing firearms.   The concern that constitutional carry would expand the ability of criminals to possess guns is therefore misplaced.

Idaho and other states will again propose constitutional carry legislation in 2015.  Please help dispel the myths about constitutional carry.  Law abiding gun owners should not have to maneuver through government beauracracy to exercise their right to carry for self-defense purposes.  Greg Pruett has offered a video on the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance’s website.  Greg's video is worth a watch.  Please share the video and this blog and help educate others before the next legislative session.