I drove to the NRA Meeting in Atlanta yesterday, the 26th of April, 2017. I had been visiting family in Dallas, Texas, so it was only 800 miles.
On the way, I reflected on the last time I was in Atlanta for more than a flight change. It was over 40 years ago, when I was in the Army.
What happened then was not important. But what has happened in the last 40 years has been phenomenal for Second Amendment Supporters.
In 1974, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was only six years old. It had not been improved by the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. Travel with firearms was a bit dicey. I figured my military orders would keep me out of trouble for the firearms I had in the car, but it was far from certain.
Now, in 2017, I drove with confidence from Texas to Georgia, with jacket on or off, carrying openly or concealed as convenience and temperature dictated.
In 1974, Texans had no right to carry, except in extremely limited circumstances, such as on their own land. There was an affirmative defense if you were carrying while travelling. That meant you could be arrested, and then have to prove to a judge that you really were travelling. There was some precedent to indicate traveling might be interpreted as crossing a county line. Today, both concealed and open carry are legal and accepted with a shall issue permit, and reciprocity for the permit extends to many states.
I crossed the line into Louisiana, noting that gas prices dropped momentarily to $1.99 per gallon. In constant dollars, it is close to the price paid for gas in 1974.
The scenery was beautiful. Louisiana passed an improved right to carry amendment in 2012. Their constitution had given the legislature the right to regulate the wearing of concealed weapons shortly after they became a state. The 2012 amendment took away that specific power.
Louisiana has a shall issue permit and wide reciprocity, and open carry without a permit, for anyone over 17. A talk radio station in Louisiana extolled the virtues of small government, and railed against an anti-business tax. In 1974, it was hard to find any commentary on the air extolling limited government and holding to the Constitution.
Mississippi came into view as I crossed the river. Mississippi had very restrictive carry laws in 1974, especially if you were black. In 2016, Mississippi joined the Constitutional Carry club. You do not need a permit to carry in Mississippi, openly or concealed. It does not matter if you are white or black, because you do not need to apply for a permit. I felt as if I were in friendly territory.
I had forgotten how beautiful the South is. The gently rolling hills, greenery covering the fields, expansive, dense woods, lots of pretty wild country. That is the way it was as I rolled through Alabama. In 1974, Alabama had concealed carry permits that were issued by County Sheriff offices. Issue of permits were to locals that the Sheriff approved of. Even today, a sheriff has a some "discretion" in issuing permits. Obtaining a permit from out of state was practically impossible in 1974. Open carry was likely to get you hassled.
In 2017, open carry is recognized as legitimate. Concealed carry in many formats, does not require a permit. The Alabama Senate has passed Constitutional Carry. Alabama is likely to joint the Constitutional Carry club soon.
The traffic in Georgia left a little to be desired. Georgia has required a carry permit for a long time. An outsider had no real chance of getting a Georgia permit in 1974. Wisconsin had no statutory system of issuing permits then (my residence was in Wisconsin at the time). Georgia would not have recognized a Wisconsin permit, in any case. The Georgia permit changed from "may issue" to shall issue" in 1989. Georgia recognizes both my Arizona and Florida permits, as it does permits from 30 other states, including Wisconsin. A permit is good for both open and concealed carry, and covers knives as well as handguns.
I felt quite comfortable carrying a handgun and knife in Georgia. I carried in the World Congress Center in Atlanta where the NRA Meeting is being set up. I wore a jacket, but if it becomes warm in the press room, I will have no problem openly carrying my Glock 17. I did it at the NRA Meeting last year.
Second Amendment supporters have made tremendous strides in 40 years.
40 years ago, most activists believed they were fighting a delaying action, hoping to hold onto what was left of Second Amendment rights for as long as possible. We were told that demographics and the growth of Urban America were against us. We were given bad information. That sounds rather familiar, thinking of recent pronouncements from academia.
The fight to restore Second Amendment rights has been long, hard, and fruitful. Incrementalism has worked. Another justice who takes his oath seriously has been confirmed to the Supreme Court. The second U.S. President in the history of the NRA is going to speak at the 2017 annual meeting. The Trump administration is rolling back administrative rules. National reciprocity has many co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate.
The Trump administration is the beneficiary of 40 years of hard fought battles to restore Second Amendment rights. The Trump Administration is expected to carry that battle to Congress, and win it.
Much remains to be done. Numerous infringements remain in the statutes and regulations. But Second Amendment supporters are winning, and the NRA has been a large part of those victories.