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06.17.2021 0

TOWNHALL GUEST COLUMN Making America Safe Again: Right to Keep and Bear Arms Almost Fully Realized

At a time when many Americans are distraught about the direction of our nation, individual liberty is expanding when it comes to the individual right to keep and bear arms. 


By Rick Manning

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation on June 16th, making Texas the 21st state to remove all state and local licensing on carrying a handgun within its borders effective on September 1.  Known as constitutional carry laws, the country has seen a wave of state legislatures embracing citizens’ right to keep and bear arms as many other far left cities and states have embarked on defund the police policies while turning a blind eye to organized riots that are ongoing within their borders.

As the National Rifle Association state lobbyist for the southeastern United States in the mid-1980s when the right to carry fight became a legislative war and rallying cry, the current successful expansion of freedom is not a new phenomenon, but the culmination of decades of political sweat.

Constitutional carry is not a new concept as the state of Vermont eliminated all carry permits in response to a court challenge in 1903, and it was not for a full 100 years later until Alaska followed suit.

But the modern movement toward America embracing carrying for self-defense purposes was jump started on a New York City subway car when four assailants attempted to rob Bernie Goetz who defended his life using a handgun.

As the shooting gained national attention, Richard Feldman, the National Rifle Association state lobbyist for New York and a colleague of mine at the NRA, held a news conference in New York City with the late Roy Innis, National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and State Senator Chris Mega from Brooklyn declaring, “A government which cannot protect its citizens has no right denying them the means to protect themselves!“

I can attest that there was not a consensus even at NRA headquarters about going all in on promoting the constitutional right to carry and Feldman put his job on the line by sticking his neck out.  The success of that news conference and subsequent efforts taking on the liberal elites in New York City provided the spark to accelerate and legitimize a movement that had been quietly rolling through states like Georgia and Indiana in the previous 10 years.

Shortly after Bernie Goetz made national news, gun rights leader, Florida’s Marion Hammer, an iconic figure in NRA history, led the charge to change that state’s carry rules to prevent the arbitrary denial of concealed carry permits. After failing to overturn a gubernatorial veto in 1986, the NRA and Hammer’s Florida gun rights group made a determined effort to change the makeup of both the governor’s office and the state Senate, flipping control of the Senate to pro-gun Democrats and the governor’s mansion to a pro-gun Republican.

Hammer immediately put together a coalition of law enforcement groups around the state and the movement to change the concealed carry laws around the nation had a successful model passed and signed into law, which proved to be a critical factor in Florida’s homicide rate rapidly dropping to levels not seen since the early 1960s.

The next year, the state of Texas considered reforming their arbitrary carry laws that had been passed during Reconstruction to deny blacks their constitutional freedoms. In an obscure hallway in the state capitol building in 1987 little had changed as law enforcement told this author in a heated discussion that they knew who should be carrying a gun and who shouldn’t and would make arrest decisions accordingly. It took until 1995 for this abuse to end when Texas joined a wave of “shall issue” concealed carry laws that were sweeping the nation under ongoing pressure from gun owners led by the NRA.

Now, 26 years later, the state of Texas has joined a similar wave in passing constitutional carry joining Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

When states like Florida, which was the bellwether with their “shall issue” law, are included, 42 out of 50 states have ended the arbitrary denial of the right to carry in the United States. The stain of racist gun control laws has largely been wiped away in the south and most of the rest of the nation.

Unfortunately, the stain remains in places like California, New Jersey and in New York. The same place where a young, bookish man refusing to be a victim on a public subway ignited the public’s demand that they be allowed to make the choice to carry a handgun for self-protection rather than relying upon law enforcement to arrive after the assault, robbery or murder had been committed to file a report.

At a time when many Americans are distraught about the direction of our nation, individual liberty is expanding when it comes to the individual right to keep and bear arms.

But it didn’t come all at once, it was an almost 50-year process of education, political pressure, and the proof that law abiding citizens possessing firearms did not cause blood to run in the streets, but instead safeguarded against that happening. Fifty years of fighting the dominant media, the academic elites, some in law enforcement, and politicians determined to impose their wills over that of the framers of the Constitution who wrote the Second Amendment.

Finally, the right to bear arms vision is being almost fully realized and America is safer because Americans have a choice of whether to carry a handgun. It is important for freedom lovers to know that liberty will prevail if they stay true to the fight, organize, and don’t give up. It may take half a century or more, but God’s provision of individual rights will not be denied by narrow, avaricious politicians.

Rick Manning is president of Americans for Limited Government and formerly served as an NRA state lobbyist for Florida when that landmark concealed carry law was passed.

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