Weaponsman Sends: Civil Rights Progress 1986-2016

Although a lot of you believe that everything in the “freedom/liberty” department is getting worse, here is a post by Weaponsman that points out a hugely positive aspect in the overall gun rights debate.


In thirty years in the United States, gun rights, as proxied by right to carry arrangements in the several States, have undergone remarkable levels of liberalization. You have probably seen the famous color-changing state map. While the year to year change is interesting, it’s hard to beat an A-B comparison of thirty-year start and finish lines. Here is the status quo ante of1986.


In the midst of Ronald Reagan’s second term, only one state, Vermont, does not restrict the carry of firearms by peaceable individuals. Conversely, 16 states, including most of the Midwest and Southwest, have no provision for carrying firearms for self-defense. The largest block of states, 25, allow officials to issue licenses, but the licenses are discretionary, which means different things in different places — and may depend on the whim of a single official. (in some jurisdictions in MA, NY and CA, it’s like shall-issue; across a town line, it’s like no-issue. A denied applicant has no resource, but to move).

This map is only one proxy for gun rights. In many states, possession and use of National Firearms Act firearms such as machine guns, short-barreled long guns, and suppressors is verboten. In 1986, no state permits hunters to use suppressors (and officials would look at you funny if you did). It’s “settled law” (thanks to a misreading of Miller) that the right to bear arms applies only to the organized militia, i.e., the National Guard when under Title 32 authority, and the rump State militias in those states that have them. (In fact, the New York State Guard, nominally a backfill for the National Guard if mobilized, has become by 1986 a political thing you tried to get appointed to if you wanted to acquire otherwise nonexistent gun rights).

And here is the situation today:


more states, of every possible demographic, have gone completely unrestricted. The no-issue States, which had shrunk to one (Illinois), DC and the Territories, have had their restrictive laws overturned by the courts. The restrictive may-issue states are down to a handful of high-crime coastal hellholes. It’s still just as bad in CA, MA, NJ and NY as it ever was. (And their cities are soaked in criminal violence. For which they blame other states with looser laws… but that don’t have such high crime locally. Peculiar).

Several other states have passed restriction-removing bills but have failed to get them signed by anti-gun governors. (Even then, an anti-gun governor sometimes loses. This year, WV overrode anti-gun Governor Ray Tomblin’s veto; Idaho’s anti-gun Butch Otter wanted to veto the bill, but faced both a veto-proof margin in the legislature, and an election year, which combined to melt his spine). As Art McGrath noted at Conservative Review,

In each of these states there was nonsense peddled about increased crime, shootouts in the streets and warnings of impending bloodbath if permits were no longer required. These same tired arguments were made as concealed carry permits became more prevalent a few decades ago and no such spike in violent crime was observed.

Oklahoma has a very neighborly law: they not only recognize other states’ permits, but also other states’ lack of permits: if you’re a resident of one of the 9 unrestricted states, you may carry while in Oklahoma.

In addition to the progress shown on the map, the last 30 years have seen progress on NFA measures and on hunting. For example. 42 states now permit ownership of suppressors, and 39 of them allow hunting. (The 8 outright-ban states are exactly the same as the 8 restrictive may-issue states, as this map from the American Silencer Association shows).


Bills to liberalize laws are being considered in at least 2 of the 11 restrictive states (NH, which allows ownership but not hunting, and MA[!], which at present allows neither).

So, while activists may be unhappy, especially the ones in the high-crime anti-self-defense coastal hellholes, the trends are highly positive, they are accelerating, and the momentum may well carry freedoms as far as Boston and Sacramento in the future.

The key inflection points have been, in our opinon, five:

  1. The Florida shall-issue law of 1987. (The media prediction of blood in the streets did not come to pass, Florida Man notwithstanding);
  2. The Texas shall-issue law. Same prediction, same result. With those two populous states having gone shall-issue and seeing crime reductions, the ball was rolling in a big way.
  3. Alaska going unrestricted in 1994. The media again talked up “blood in the streets” like they really wanted to see it, but they were disappointed.
  4. The long, slow slog of legal scholarship through law reviews and legal seminars. While wins in legislatures move the black-letter law forward, the momentum would have been lost but for a parallel axis of advance in the courts
  5. The Heller decision (and its follow-on McDonald) put the stake in the heart of the restrictionist argument for the time being, although you still have some state courts (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, for one) with reading comprehension issues. These decisions were products of the legal academy advance, but they just as surely were products of the political advance in the state houses and the

Hat tip, Dean Weingarten, whose Gun Watch site should be on your daily schedule. (Dean also notes that at 5 years of age, Wisconsin has issued 300,000 permits and has had one guy convicted of a crime, making WI permit holders literally less murderous than the famously peaceable residents of modern Japan). The famous graphic, known to many through Wikipedia, is the work of Jeff Dege.



American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE


4 thoughts on “Weaponsman Sends: Civil Rights Progress 1986-2016

  1. This is good news,but(isn’t there always a but?)these laws never should have existed in the first place.I as many believe self defence and means to do so a birth right/natural law that also was reaffirmed in our countries bill of rights.
    That said,given the reality of life is at least heading in the right direction,kudos to all who work tirelessly to end the nonsense

    • Shoulda, coulda, woulda….you know. My point was that there is always so much negative “We’re being screwed”, “The Gov is trying to destroy us!”, etc, and I wanted to point to something positive in an ocean of negative in the gun rights debate, that is all.

  2. Pingback: Weaponsman Sends: Civil Rights Progress 1986-2016 | Rifleman III Journal

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