Gun rights activists rejoiced as the North Dakota Legislature became the 9th state to pass what has been dubbed “constitutional carry” in the latest push for what they claim allows for the full expression of our constitutional rights specifically in regards to our Second Amendment. While it’s important to note Governor Burgum could still veto the legislation, this seems highly unlikely at this point.
For those new to the conversation, one might ask “What is Constitutional Carry?”, as it is a term that has radically changed in definition and only recently gained popularity amongst the average american, as an effort to expand the powers of concealed carry. Historically, constitutional carry used to refer to an individual’s right to carry a concealed firearm, but since all 50 states now allow concealed carry in some form, the definition has gradually shifted.
As of now, constitutional carry refers to laws which allow concealed carry for any individual who would otherwise qualify for a regular firearm purchase without any additional burdens or regulations, and therefore no additional training, taxes or qualifications may be mandated by a state which desires constitutional carry. As a result, constitutional carry has little to do with the difficulty of acquiring a firearm, only the additional difficulties required to obtain a concealed carry permit.
As a hypothetical, if Minnesota had a law which required a mandatory five month waiting period, a background check and former employment by the U.S. military, but upon completion of the criteria you were also permitted concealed carry, Minnesota would have constitutional carry (although such a law would be unconstitutional). On the other hand, if hypothetical Iowa required a background check, but an additional five hours of training for a concealed carry permit, Iowa would fail the constitutional carry test. While our hypothetical Iowa would still be generally more pro-gun, and gun access would undoubtedly be easier it would ironically not pass the constitutional carry test, whereas the more anti-gun hypothetical Minnesota despite being anti-gun by comparison would be called the constitutional carry state.
Due to this problem, when we evaluate constitutional carry laws, we need to see what the state requires to purchase a firearm in the first place, and this is where we need to decide if the state is actually as pro-gun as a constitutional carry legislation would be. In our state, I am happy to say that this constitutional carry bill is not a distraction, but rather an expansion of robust gun rights enjoyed by our state. With virtually no restrictions on the purchase of firearms, North Dakota is not only pro-concealed carry, they are also pro Second Amendment in general, which is a good thing.
Now that we have established that this is not a ruse to be anti-gun while pretending to be pro-gun, we need to have a greater conversation on whether this policy should be pursued. We will have that conversation not from a constitutional perspective, but from a pragmatic one about gun rights and whether they go too far. In our deeply rural state, access to firearms may be more important than in most others, and the ability to keep such a firearm on you is particularly important as well.
Due to the low population density of North Dakota, it’s unlikely that in the event of an attack, we will be able to rely on help from elsewhere. Our state at any given time, has an average population density of at most 11 people per square mile, meaning that should an intruder appear you are, statistically, speaking going to be alone. As a result, it’s imperative that you have immediate access to the ability to defend yourself, which in modern society requires the possession of a firearm which can be used in close quarters, which a rifle and shotgun typically do not allow.
Furthermore, even if one was a former convicted felon, they should still have the right to defend themselves, which our state acknowledges. In North Dakota, murders are relatively rare; there are only 11 per year on average, and there is no evidence to suggest former felons commit murders at a higher rate upon release than any other group or population in our state, so as a result there is no reason to change our existing policies of allowing them firearms upon leaving prison.
Additionally, North Dakota practically already had constitutional carry, with the sole exception of pistols. I find it ironic that it took so long to legalize the carry of the least deadly weapons category, when compared to what was already legal including armaments such as .50 caliber sniper rifles similar to those used by the U.S. military, shotguns and high caliber mid-range rifles such as the AR-15 or the M4. In short, the average person who opposes this bill is getting upset over nothing, I would personally much rather someone concealed carry a pistol than open carry a shotgun for self defense.
For both pragmatic and constitutional reasons, this was the right move, it not only simplified our gun laws while adding consistency, but it gave individuals a reasonable weapon for self defense, which does not carry the added difficulties and potential unintentional casualties of high caliber weapons while simultaneously moving us back towards the textualist approach to our constitution.
Dave Owen is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]