Constitutional Carry and the Art of Skinning Cats

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On Friday, March 25, Governor Butch Otter signed SB 1389, making Idaho the ninth state to adopt constitutional carry (aka unrestricted carry or permitless carry).

Back in the day, we knew this as Vermont carry, after the one-and-only state whose residents were legally free to tuck guns in their pockets or purses or under their clothing without first asking their state government for permission. Vermont had been that way for generations. And for all those generations, they remained alone.

But now … oh, my.

In some ways, Idaho’s bill isn’t a huge change from its existing laws. Idaho residents already had constitutional carry outside city limits; SB 1389 merely extended it to cities — over the objections of police chiefs, Bloomberg’s Everytown, and the usual hoplophobes who cried the usual cry of “blood in the streets!”

In other ways, what a very, very big deal this is.

For one, the bill explicitly acknowledges the individual right to bear arms and that said people grant only limited powers to state governments:

The legislature hereby finds that the people of Idaho have reserved for themselves the right to keep and bear arms while granting the legislature the authority to regulate the carrying of weapons concealed. The provisions of this chapter regulating the carrying of weapons must be strictly construed so as to give maximum scope to the rights retained by the people.

Like all such bills, it’s full of legalisms that hardcore freedomistas won’t appreciate (for instance, permitless carry is only for those 21 or above; those 18 to 20 must still get permits though those permits are “shall issue”).

But for some of us who’ve been around a long time … it’s a bloody miracle.

Let me take you back to the day

It was a dark day. 1993 and 1994. A rabidly anti-gun president held the White House. A Congress composed of rabidly anti-gun Democrats and wishy-washy Republican “leaders” like Bob Dole stood ready to give Bill Clinton more service than Monica Lewinski ever did.

Wham! They hit us with the Brady Law. Wham! They hit us with the Ugly Gun Ban. Over the next several years, they hit us with more laws to restrict guns, give more funding to anti-gun enforcement, and, in general, extend the powers of both the federal government and local police against We the People.

Dark days indeed.

In 1993, I used my smoking-hot 1200-baud modem to dial into a gun-rights bulletin board in Colorado — half the country away from my Pacific Northwest home. And for me, that’s where I first encountered hopeful change — though I didn’t recognize it at the time.

The Internet, though it existed in the scientific and academic communities, was not yet a thing for ordinary people. But we were reaching out to find each other, anyhow. Some via FidoNet bulletin boards (BBSes) like the one I mentioned, which had been set up by and for fans of writer and gun advocate L. Neil Smith. Or a bigger FidoNet operation, the Paul Revere Network (PRN — where I first met TZP co-founder, Brad Alpert). Others gathered local friends and huddled around short-wave radios, where a handful of firebrands (some as crazy as moonbats, but that’s another story) were beginning to agitate against the looming federal takeover. Many began to gather in the real world to form militias.

I was soon running up $300-a-month phone bills dialing cross-country to various gun-rights and Bill of Rights bulletin boards. (My wallet and I were both so relieved when subscription Internet came along shortly thereafter.) But that first Colorado bulletin board remained my mainstay as long as FidoNet ruled the dawning e-world.

Read the Remainder at Zelman Partisans