Cato Policy Analysis No.
October 22, 1997
Ten years ago this month, a controversial "concealed- carry" law went
into effect in the state of Florida. In a sharp break from the conventional
wisdom of the time, that law allowed adult citizens to carry concealed
firearms in public. Many people feared the law would quickly lead to
disaster: blood would literally be running in the streets. Now, 10 years
later, it is safe to say that those dire predictions were completely
unfounded. Indeed, the debate today over concealed-carry laws centers on the
extent to which such laws can actually reduce the crime rate.
To the shock and dismay of gun control proponents, concealed-carry reform
has proven to be wildly popular among state lawmakers. Since Florida
launched its experiment with concealed-carry in October 1987, 23 states have
enacted similar laws, with positive results.
Prior to 1987, almost every state in America either prohibited the
carrying of concealed handguns or permitted concealed-carry under a
licensing system that granted government officials broad discretionary power
over the decision to grant a permit. The key feature of the new
concealed-carry laws is that the government must grant the permit as
soon as any citizen can satisfy objective licensing criteria.
Concealed-carry reform reaffirms the basic idea that citizens have the
right to defend themselves against criminal attack. And since criminals can
strike almost anywhere at any time, the last thing government ought to be
doing is stripping citizens of the most effective means of defending
themselves. Carrying a handgun in public may not be for everyone, but it is
a right that government ought to respect.