In 2001, Michigan became a âshall issueâ state for concealed carry, meaning that any adult who meets the qualifications for the permit is supposed to receive the permit (versus âmay issueâ where a judge or county sheriff decides if a permit should be awarded, with criteria that can vary widely). Before shall-issue became the law in that state, there was a rather fierce battle fought in Michiganâs political and media circles.
âBlood in the Streets! Shootout at the OK Corral,â says attorney Steve Dulan, remembering the rhetoric of shall-issue opponents read in newspaper editorials and heard in testimony before various legislative committees. Michigan, they swore, would see dead bodies galore if shall-issue was passed.
Armageddon never happened. In fact, an opponent of shall-issueâwho represents a Michigan law enforcement association that opposed the changeârecently confided to Dulan, âI gotta admit, we were completely wrong about that âblood in the streets thing.âââ
Today, 401,000 Michigan citizens have active Concealed Pistol Licenses or CPLs, with half of those permits awarded in the last five years. Problems with CPLs? Very few. And it appears many people here now understand that good guys can and do legally carry concealed firearms.
Dulan says that in the Michigan media, among everyday people and even with the law students he teaches at Cooley Law School in Lansing, the view of handguns and the people who carry them are more positive than heâs ever seen.
âOf course, not everyone thinks this way,â says Dulan, who is on the board of Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners. âBut most of the fear is gone, and people are much more accepting of CPLs. Itâs hard to argue that the CPL is a bad thing when your relative or your neighbor has oneâand you know theyâre good people.â
Polls and surveys reveal a positive view of concealed carry at the national level, too.
In April, a poll done by the research organization Ipsos found a majority were in favor of concealed carry. When specifically asked if they supported or opposed, âLaws allowing law-abiding citizens to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon,â total support was at 75 percent; 49 percent of respondents âstrongly supportedâ the law. Just 13 percent opposed.
The Ipsos poll also found that 67 percent supported laws which allowed âcitizens to use deadly force to protect themselves from danger in public places.â
Thatâs quite a turnaround. In 1959, the Gallup Organization reported that 60 percent of the Americans it surveyed favored a ban on civilian possession of handguns. Fortunately, that has changedâdramatically. As Gallup noted in 2011, âsince 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a [handgun ban], with opposition around 70 percent in recent years.â
Why the about-face? Growing numbers of people with concealed-carry permits is a key reason, says well-known Second Amendment advocate and author David Kopel.
Currently, 41 states have shall-issue or a similar carry permitting process, Kopel notes. âThis means that, at the shopping mall, at restaurants and just walking on the sidewalk, a certain percentage of people are going to be practicing concealed carry.â
Concealed carry has been widely covered by the media, albeit usually in a negative manner. So even though most people donât practice concealed carry, these same people are still very aware that it is occurring in public.
âAnd their obvious experience is that law-abiding people with guns are not incipient maniacs,â says Kopel. âThat people who avail themselves of the right to practice concealed carry simply are not a problem.â
Why, then, the very anti-handgun responses (indeed, anti-firearms in general) that Gallup polled in the past? As Kopel points out, from about 1960 and into the 1990s, anti-gun groups such the Brady Center kept insisting that guns were bad, people who had them were untrustworthy, and therefore ever more restrictions were needed.
While gun owners understood the lies here, people with little to no gun experience often accepted what they heard at face value. Guns were bad!
But the 1990s saw the tide begin to shift, starting with the Clinton-era assault weapons ban and the political backlash it caused for those who had voted for this law, led by the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment groups. The courts saw a stream of cases challenging anti-gun laws, too, culminating with the Supreme Court ruling in Heller v. District of Columbia in 2008 that the Second Amendment was an individual, Constitutional right.
Meanwhile, Second Amendment advocates were pushing their state legislatures for more shall-issue laws. Anti-gunners began their âblood in the streetsâ chants. Yet as more states went to shall-issue, such claims were easy to dispute. Concealed-carry permits increased, and there were very few problems. Turns out, Kopel notes, that people with these permits are actually more law-abiding than the norm.
âThese extremely pessimistic and negative views of people, as expressed by the anti-gun groups, no longer carry the weight they once did,â Kopel says.
If you think a societal view doesnât matter, consider two separate events from last June. In Wisconsin, where concealed carry became the law in November of 2011, the state agency administering carry permits asked the legislature for an extra $780,000. Seems the agency has been overwhelmed with applications, more 120,000 in eight months and had to hire some 30 extra people to keep up with demand.
At the very same time, just north of the border, in anti-gun Canada? Anti-gunners were calling for a complete ban on civilian ownership of handguns, with some politicians lending their support to the idea.