In 2001, Michigan became a "shall issue" state for concealed carry, meaning that any adult who meets the qualifications for the permit is supposed to receive the permit (versus "may issue" 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 Michigan's political and media circles.
"Blood in the Streets! Shootout at the OK Corral," 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-issue — who represents a Michigan law enforcement association that opposed the change — recently confided to Dulan, "I gotta admit, we were completely wrong about that 'blood in the streets thing.'â€‰"
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 he's ever seen.
"Of course, not everyone thinks this way," says Dulan, who is on the board of Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners. "But most of the fear is gone, and people are much more accepting of CPLs. It's hard to argue that the CPL is a bad thing when your relative or your neighbor has one — and you know they're good people."
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, "Laws allowing law-abiding citizens to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon," total support was at 75 percent; 49 percent of respondents "strongly supported" the law. Just 13 percent opposed.
The Ipsos poll also found that 67 percent supported laws which allowed "citizens to use deadly force to protect themselves from danger in public places."
That's 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 changed — dramatically. As Gallup noted in 2011, "since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a [handgun ban], with opposition around 70 percent in recent years."
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. "This 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."
Concealed carry has been widely covered by the media, albeit usually in a negative manner. So even though most people don't practice concealed carry, these same people are still very aware that it is occurring in public.
"And their obvious experience is that law-abiding people with guns are not incipient maniacs," says Kopel. "That people who avail themselves of the right to practice concealed carry simply are not a problem."
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 "blood in the streets" 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.
"These extremely pessimistic and negative views of people, as expressed by the anti-gun groups, no longer carry the weight they once did," Kopel says.
If you think a societal view doesn't 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.