Concealed Weapons and Federalism

I don’t think that there have been many posts on gun issues hereabouts, but Michael Barone–commenting on David Kopel’s analysis of the spread of concealed carry laws–remarks that the spread of such laws is a good sign for federalism. Nebraska recently became the 40th state to approve a concealed carry (“shall-issue“) law. According to Barone:

Nebraska’s action means that 40 of the 50 states have shall-issue (or even less restrictive) laws on gun possession. This is a great example of federalism: Reforms that could never have passed Congress have swept across the country, as people in some states have learned from the experience of others. While centralized elites have concentrated on restricting gun ownership, with little practical effect, decentralized non-elites in the states have promoted legal gun ownership, with results that seem benign.

Kopel’s analysis and description of the typical process that has occurred in each state that has eventually approved of a shall carry law is instructive. He also explains that, while Rhode Island technically has a shall-issue law, it is not followed. Here’s why:

Rhode Island actually has a Shall Issue law (for issuance by local law enforcement) and a Capricious Issue law (for issue by the Attorney General). The Attorney General has succeeded, at least temporarily, in stifling the local Shall Issue system, but a decision (PDF) of the Rhode Island Supreme Court suggests that this state of affairs is untenable. [Though the Brady Campaign has a different interpretation. – MAC] All that is necessary to implement Shall Issue in Rhode Island is a new Attorney General with a different attitude, or the proper legal challenge. Rhode Island too seems a likely candidate to become a Shall Issue state.

Kopel bases his evaluation of shall-issue in Rhode Island on his own research (PDF, p.20-30 in the file. It is taken from the Albany Law Review).
UPDATE: Meanwhile, David Gelernter believes that a new turn toward federalism can be useful as a way to tamp down the polarization that has arisen in contemporary America. He believes reining in the power of the Supreme Court would be the key. It’s worth a read. (via Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner)

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