In short time, half of America moves to constitutional carry as more states embrace gun rights
Florida became the 26th state this week to approve permitless carry, with all eyes now watching Nebraska and South Carolina as the next battlegrounds.
Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed legislation into law that makes Florida the 26th state to allow Americans to carry firearms on their person for self-defense without a permit as one of the fastest moving affirmations of the Second Amendment continues to sweep the country.
All eyes are now turning to Nebraska and South Carolina, two states expected to take up such legislation in coming months. Gun rights activists say the summer 2020 riots and the subsequent rise in violent crime in many blue cities gave a jolt to a constitutional carry movement they long wanted to see gain steam.
"The bottom line is Americans watched years, certainly a year of riots and arson and looting. And they decided that they needed to be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Not everybody wants to do that. But they recognize the right to do so," retired Army Lt. Col. Willes Lee, a top official in the National Rifle Association, told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Thursday.
The rapid succession of states to adopt permitless or constitutional carry laws -- as well as major lawsuits seeking to protect gun rights from blue state and Biden administration regulations and bans -- are expected to be major points of conversation at next week's NRA spring meeting in Indianapolis.
Florida's law, generally regarded as "permitless carry," allows for individuals to carry a concealed firearm that is not visible to others. It does not permit the open carry of weapons.
Permitless carry and "constitutional carry" are not strictly the same, but the terms are often used interchangeably.
Generally, "permitless" states may require that individuals meet additional requirements apart from a permit to carry. Constitutional carry states, meanwhile, impose no restrictions on an individual's right to carry beyond their legal eligibility to purchase a firearm, according to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.
Some states with constitutional carry allow both open and concealed carry without permits while others only allow for one or the other.
Here are the states next expected to consider such legislation.
Nebraska's LB77, dubbed "permitless constitutional carry," would allow individuals who can legally purchase a handgun to conceal it without a permit or taking a safety class. It would further eliminate certain local oversights such as the requirement that the local sheriff issue a purchase permit before one can buy a handgun.
The bill cleared its first vote in early March by a 36-12 margin, the Associated Press reported. Later that month, it cleared the second round by a 31-10 vote, per Politico. Sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Brewer, the bill needs to clear a third round in the legislature and secure the signature of Republican Gov. Jim Pillen, who supports it.
NRA's Lee expressed optimism on Thursday that Nebraska would approve the legislation and become the 27th permitless carry state.
"So the next one up we believe is Nebraska and they're close," he told the "John Solomon Reports" podcast. "Although we lost this by one vote last year, they have a bicameral legislature. So they have one more legislative vote and then it'll go to the governor. We believe they're going to come in."
Lee identified South Carolina as another state likely to pass permitless carry in the near future.
"South Carolina is teed up. Their House has a really good bill," he said. "The Senate wants to make amendments. The NRA doesn't support those Senate amendments."
"We want them to pass the House bill. And they will be number 28. The nation is going in that direction," he added.
The state House in late February voted in favor of the measure, which would allow legal firearm owners to both open and concealed carry handguns without a permit. The state Senate previously rejected a comparable proposal two years ago.
The bill would also tighten restrictions on felons, barring those convicted of most felonies from possessing guns.
A panel of senators on Wednesday voted 3-2 to advance the legislation to the full Senate Judiciary Committee, moving it one step closer to approval in that chamber, the Post and Courier reported.
The state has advanced the rights of gun owners in recent years. In 2021, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed the Open Carry with Training Act to allow concealed carry permit holders to open carry guns as well.
In 2021, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a constitutional carry measure that would have allowed individuals to concealed carry a handgun for self defense. Senate Bill 118 had successfully cleared both Republican-led chambers to reach his desk, though they did not override Edwards' veto.
Other states have enacted constitutional carry since then. More consequential, however, is that Republicans have since claimed supermajorities in both the Louisiana House and Senate. In March of this year, Rep. Francis Thompson, the Democrats' longest-serving representative in the chamber, flipped to the GOP, handing the GOP a 70-vote supermajority.
Republicans already held a supermajority in the state Senate, meaning Republicans in the legislature can conceivably overrule a prospective Edwards veto of a renewed constitutional carry effort.
Republican Rep. Danny McCormick in March introduced exactly such a legislative effort that would allow gun owners to concealed carry without a permit, KEEL reported. Louisiana already permits permitless open carry.
North Carolina made headlines this week when Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham switched to the GOP on Wednesday, handing the party a supermajority in the state House. Republicans have a supermajority in the state Senate, meaning the GOP can override vetoes from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Republican lawmakers in February introduced the "North Carolina Constitutional Carry Act" to eliminate the need for a permit in order to carry a concealed firearm.
"Any person who is a citizen of the United States and is at least 18 years old may carry a concealed handgun in this State unless provided otherwise by law," the bill reads, according to WBTV. House Majority Whip Keith Kidwell, R, as well as GOP Reps. Jay Adams, Ben Moss, and Mark Pless have sponsored the measure.
In late March, Republicans in the legislature successfully overrode a veto from Cooper, eliminating the requirement that residents get a permit from local sheriffs before purchasing handguns.
Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.