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Concealed controversy: Our 'Mother, may I' gun policy

The state Department of Safety created a controversy this summer by changing some language on the state’s concealed carry license application. The language seemed to imply that the department has wide discretion when deciding who gets concealed carry permits. The controversy raised a very important question about the state’s concealed carry license: Why do we have one?

State law requires a license for the concealed carry of a firearm. A gun owner has to apply to a specific state or local official, who “shall issue a license to such applicant... if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear injury to the applicant’s person or property or has any proper purpose, and that the applicant is a suitable person to be licensed.”

The law does not define “suitable person to be licensed.” It has been broadly interpreted to mean anyone not barred by another law from owning a firearm. Felons, for instance, would be denied, but any legal gun owner would be granted a license.

If that is so, then why bother with the process? Just let all legal gun owners carry concealed. If that is not so (the only reason to have a licensing process is to bar some legal gun owners from carrying concealed), then we have a state law that grants government officials the easily abused power to decide whether citizens are “suitable” for concealed carry. Vermont has a simpler process, which is that there is no process. That state has no prohibition on carrying concealed. No one has to ask the government’s permission. If you legally own a gun, you can legally carry concealed. It works for Vermont. It can work for the “Live free or die” state, too.

Eric Church
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