Gun Rights Advocates Take Aim at Concealed Carry Bans

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - After victories in five states already this year, concealed carry advocates are turning their attention to the handful of remaining states that continue to prohibit gun owners from carrying a concealed firearm.

Battles are brewing in the Ohio and Wisconsin legislatures, and Second Amendment supporters are hoping to soon end prohibitions in Kansas as well. Those states, along with Illinois and Nebraska, ban concealed firearms.

Four states - Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and New Mexico - enacted laws this year to become shall-issue states, meaning each has a set of stipulations that gun owners must meet to be issued a permit. Alaska eased its law to allow its citizens to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

Despite a court challenge to the Missouri law, which has delayed its enforcement, concealed carry advocates have been pleased with their success. The wave of activity has also given gun rights advocates a boost in states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

"People who thought this can't happen suddenly looked at our neighboring states and said, 'Yes it can.' That definitely added a lot of momentum to this," said Dick Baker, treasurer of the Wisconsin Concealed Carry Association.

Even though the fight in Wisconsin is far from over, Baker said the tide started to turn when neighboring states Minnesota and Michigan passed similar laws. But before gun owners start carrying concealed firearms in Wisconsin, they must first win over a hostile governor. A vote before the state Senate is expected next week.

In Missouri, it didn't matter that Democrat Gov. Bob Holden nixed the concealed carry bill; lawmakers had enough votes to override his veto. Baker said he was unsure how such a situation would play out in Wisconsin.

Concealed carry advocates in Ohio are facing a similar predicament. Republican Gov. Bob Taft opposes a bill passed by the Republican-led state House of Representatives. Instead, the governor prefers a plan crafted by the Senate that includes restrictions on carrying a concealed firearm while in a vehicle. Republican Senate President Doug White has sided with Taft.

Gun owners are hoping to convince White to change his mind by holding a rally in his hometown. Because the state supreme court has allowed Ohioans to carry their firearms in plain view but not concealed, gun owners have marched at the rallies with firearms in their side or shoulder holsters.

"The limitations on what you can and can't do and the training requirements are some of the strictest in the country," said Jeff Garvas, president of Ohioans For Concealed Carry. "In all of the states that have passed concealed carry, there isn't a single state that has the restrictions the governor is trying to impose."

Gun control advocates in Ohio and Wisconsin are fighting to keep concealed carry illegal in their states. The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence cites a poll taken in 2001 that shows 69 percent of Ohioans oppose a concealed carry law.

The organization's executive director, Toby Hoover, said a vocal minority was leading the effort. She questioned whether the pro-gun rallies would have any impact.

"They're trying to provoke people to object to them carrying [firearms] openly," Hoover said. "Then from that, they can conclude that since they can't carry them openly, they have to carry them concealed. Our perspective is that if it's absolutely necessary for you to carry a gun, then carry it openly because I have a right to know."

In Wisconsin, Republicans in the state Senate tried to appease critics this week by amending the concealed carry bill to allow private businesses to prohibit citizens from carrying firearms on their premises. The bill, however, still faces a veto threat from Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle.

For opponents of the bill like Jeri Bonavia, executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, the idea that concealed carry will result in a reduction in crime is simply a flawed concept. She also questioned whether gun owners support the idea.

"This really is not a reflection of public sentiment," Bonavia said. "This is a good business opportunity for the gun lobby and the gun industry."

Besides Ohio and Wisconsin, concealed carry advocates are looking at Kansas as a possible target. In Illinois and Nebraska, legislation has been met with resistance.

Kansas State Rifle Association President Phillip Journey said the state was close to having a concealed carry law in 1997, but the governor vetoed it. Journey said gun rights advocates have made some progress since then with other firearms-related concerns.

Ideally, Journey said he would like Kansas to enact a law similar to the one in neighboring Missouri. He said the recent activity there could make a difference in his state.

"I think it has been helpful in bringing the issue back to the public consciousness," Journey said. "The grassroots political activity that results from that should effectively help persuade some of the fence-sitters in the legislature."

See Related Story:
Missouri Supreme Court Refuses Concealed Weapons Case
(Oct. 14, 2003)

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