Imagine what it would be like to live in a state where people didn’t need a government-issued permit to carry a firearm.

Would there be shootouts on the street? Gun crime rates soaring? Danger lurking around every corner?

Or would it be like every other day here in Maine — where no permit is required to carry a firearm that is openly displayed, and gun crime rates are far below the national average.

And, of course, Maine is also a state where people who have no legal reason to be denied a concealed-carry permit can bear arms under cover, so no one knows they are armed.

That makes this a “shall-issue” state, one of 41 where people can either carry freely or must be granted a permit after meeting a few simple standards, unless one of a limited number of legally defined disqualifications applies (such as a record of felonies, abuse or mental illness).

States that require residents to “show cause” to satisfy the standards — or the individual whims — of some official to get permits are called “may-issue” states. Their numbers have been declining since the 1980s.

But what about living in a state where no permit at all is required to carry a concealed firearm? Wouldn’t those jurisdictions be marred by high rates of gun crimes, such as, say, the cities of Chicago and Washington, D.C.?

Well, no. In fact, those cities currently are fighting a rear-guard action against federal courts attempting to enforce recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings upholding the right to bear arms.

As firearms laws are liberalized and gun sales soar to record levels, crime rates have declined, though few of us seem to know that.

The Pew Research Center noted two years ago that, “Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49 percent lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm — assaults, robberies and sex crimes — was 75 percent lower in 2011 than in 1993.”

Still, most Americans were unaware of that good news: As Pew reported, “56 percent of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12 percent think it is lower.”

If you wanted to find a state where anyone could carry a loaded weapon concealed, you’d have to go all the way to — Vermont, that wild and crazy hotbed of firearms fanatics, Green Mountain socialism and a large population of cows.

Or you could travel to Arizona, where many Mainers spend the winter. Or Arkansas, or Alaska. Wyoming has no permit requirements for residents, and Oklahoma allows people from no-permit states to carry as long as they have a photo ID. Many states allow the concealed carry of an unloaded firearm with no permit, even if a loaded magazine is also carried.

Oddly enough, none of those states is anywhere near the top of national lists for crimes committed with firearms. As we ponder why that is true, we also should know that Maine is considering joining them, as are a number of other states, including next-door New Hampshire, along with West Virginia and Kansas.

To that end, Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, has introduced L.D. 652, An Act to Authorize the Carrying of Concealed Handguns Without a Permit, which would authorize Mainers, like the residents of the states listed above, to exercise what some of its proponents call “constitutional carry.”

That’s because, when the U.S. Constitution, including the Second Amendment, was approved, no gun permits were required anywhere in the new United States.

And if you are allowed to carry a firearm openly, why should you be required to jump through government hoops just to put on a coat?

The law, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Michael Shaw, D-Standish, has 96 supporters, including a majority of the House of Representatives, according to the state’s official website, Maine.gov.

The bill still would bar people disqualified from currently possessing firearms from carrying them, and offer permits to allow Mainers to carry concealed in states with reciprocity agreements.

But it recognizes the obvious fact that a person legally carrying a weapon openly does not become inclined to commit a crime by carrying it concealed.

The bill is set for a hearing at 1 p.m. April 8 in Room 436 at the State House in Augusta. Couple that with bills now in Congress to require all states that issue concealed carry permits to recognize those issued in other states, just as marriage and drivers licenses are recognized, and some real advances in firearms civil liberties could be made.

True, it seems unlikely the current president would sign a national reciprocity law, but the next one might.

However, even if that has to wait, our catching up with Vermont doesn’t have to.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. Email at: [email protected].


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