Dr. David Yamane is a liberal sociology professor at Wake Forest University researching and writing about gun culture in the U.S. He is trying to understand the shift from Gun Culture 1.0 to Gun Culture 2.0. He is not only a sociological observer, but also an active participant. Yamane shot his first gun at the age of 42 and is now a responsibly armed American. He recently released a book exploring the history of concealed carry laws called Concealed Carry Revolution. We had the opportunity to chat with him about it.
There is no comprehensive but concise history of concealed carry laws in the U.S. How does Concealed Carry Revolution attempt to fill this gap?
My book attempts to fill this gap by summarizing the best available information into a short, readable package for those who don’t have the resources to compile it for themselves. You don’t have to be a professional historian or constitutional lawyer to appreciate Concealed Carry Revolution. The book has seven chapters, but the main text is only 75 pages long. For those who want more nuance and detail, there are 61 endnotes that provide additional information and direction to the sources I draw upon in the book.
Why do you think there hasn’t been a definitive history of the fall and rise of concealed carry in the U.S.?
In my 10+ years studying American gun culture, I have found that most scholars are primarily interested in the negative aspects of guns and gun ownership. Bad outcomes like suicide, homicide and accidental injury or death. Those who have studied concealed carry tend to connect it to these same negative outcomes or other social problems like white supremacy and toxic masculinity. They don’t appreciate, as I say, that guns are normal and normal people use guns.
Associated with this negative view of guns is a desire for greater gun control. Well, allowing ordinary citizens to legally carry concealed weapons is the opposite of gun control.
There are a number of books and articles that provide pieces of the puzzle, some of which I mention below. But this oversight is unfortunate because, even though I attempt to be comprehensive in this short book, it falls short of being “definitive.”
You originally intended for Concealed Carry Revolution to be a chapter in your forthcoming book on Gun Culture 2.0. Why did you decide to publish it as a separate book?
When I first began my research on guns a decade ago, my interest was very focused. It was limited to understanding why individuals choose to carry concealed weapons. To answer that question, I needed to establish the changing legal framework that made concealed carry easier for ordinary Americans. I thought that was the primary context within which people made the choice to carry. So, I began sketching out the rise of shall issue permitting systems.
As I dug into the issue more, however, I came to see that these legal changes — as important as they are — were just part of a broader cultural shift toward defensive gun ownership. I borrowed the term “Gun Culture 2.0” from Michael Bane to describe this broader evolution. My focus expanded to include things like changes in gun advertising and the civilian gun training industry. I actually wrote a chapter for another book on technological developments in guns, gear, ammunition and clothing that facilitate concealed carry based on my observation of the 2016 USCCA Concealed Carry Expo in Atlanta. All of this and more will be part of my bigger book on gun culture.
Presenting my work at the 2019 National Firearms Law Seminar also helped me see that I could best tell the story of Gun Culture 2.0 by focusing on my own experience of quite unexpectedly becoming a gun owner as a 42-year-old liberal professor.
As the focus of my book project changed, all of the thousands of words I had written about the history of concealed carry laws didn’t have a place. Not wanting to see all of that work go to waste, I decided to share it as a stand-alone mini-book.
I like to think of Concealed Carry Revolution as an appetizer to satisfy people while they wait for my larger book on American gun culture.
Can you provide us with a rough timeline of the concealed weapons laws in the U.S.? Can you briefly tell us why the mid-1800s to the ‘70s and ‘80s is known as the “restricted era”?
One of the ways I am able to keep this book concise is by dividing the history of concealed carry laws into broad periods. Although this eliminates some nuance, it does provide a rough but accurate timeline for people trying to get an overview of the issue.
Prior to the 19th century, carrying concealed weapons was largely unregulated. The 19th century, beginning with Louisiana in 1813, was the era of concealed weapons prohibitions.
The 20th century ushered in the era of concealed weapons permits, with discretionary (“may issue”) permitting systems dominating until the 1980s. The combination of concealed weapons prohibitions and discretionary systems where permits were issued makes the years from 1850 into the 1980s a truly restricted era for concealed carry for most ordinary Americans.
May-issue regimes began to give way to liberalized “shall-issue” permitting systems in the final decades of the 20th century. Although other states went shall-issue earlier, including Washington State in 1960, Florida’s 1986 shall-issue law is widely recognized as a turning point in the concealed carry revolution. By the turn of the 21st century, more than half of the states in the country had shall-issue regimes. When Illinois became shall-issue in 2013, it was the 40th state to liberalize its concealed carry law.
With Vermont never outlawing concealed carry or requiring a permit, only nine states retain restrictive may-issue permitting regimes. Depending on the outcome of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen case currently before the Supreme Court, this too may pass.
Of course, the 21st century has seen many shall-issue states liberalize even more by allowing any adult who can legally possess a gun to carry that gun concealed in public without a permit. Sometimes called “constitutional carry,” I prefer the term “Alaska carry” to describe these permitless carry laws. Alaska was the first state (in 2003) to issue permits on a shall-issue basis but also allow people to carry without a permit. As of today, 20 states have such systems in place.
In the first sentence of your book’s introduction, you state that, “It is far easier for a private citizen to carry a concealed firearm in Dodge City, Kansas, or Tombstone, Arizona, today than it was in the 19th century.” Many readers will likely be surprised by this statement. Can you briefly explain why?
Our idea of what “The Wild West” was like are heavily influenced by TV shows like Gunsmoke and movies like Gunfight at the OK Corral. We imagine armed good guys and bad guys constantly carrying guns through the rough and tumble streets of Dodge City and Tombstone. But the reality is that gun carrying by anyone other than law enforcement officials was banned in those places. A famous photo from Dodge City that I mention in my book shows a sign that was posted on Front Street reading, “The Carrying of Firearms strictly PROHIBITED,” and noting that violators would pay a $100 fine. A serious penalty back in the 1870s.
Today, Arizona (since 2010) and Kansas (since 2015) both allow permitless carry on the Alaska model, making it far easier for an average citizen to legally carry a firearm concealed in public than in the late 19th century.
What are some other books or articles you would recommend for readers interested in the history of gun laws in the U.S.?
A lot has been published about guns and gun laws in the U.S., so I don’t want to offend anyone by exclusion, but on gun laws generally my two favorite books are Adam Winkler’s Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America (2011) and Lee Kennett and James LaVerne Anderson’s The Gun in America: The Origins of a National Dilemma (1975).
On concealed carry laws specifically, I recommend Clayton Cramer’s Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform (1999) and Brian Anse Patrick’s Rise of the Anti-Media: In-Forming America’s Concealed Weapon Carry Movement (2009).
I lean heavily on all four of these books in my own work.
How much is your book and where can readers purchase copies?
Anyone interested in Concealed Carry Revolution: Liberalizing the Right to Bear Arms in America has a few options. Paperback copies are available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or you can order a copy through your local bookstore, for $12.95. A Kindle Edition is available through Amazon for $6.99 or for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.
Another way to get a copy of the book is by supporting me on my “Buy Me a Coffee” page (like Patreon only better). Those who sign up as $60 annual members receive a free signed copy of the book and $5 monthly supporters receive a free electronic copy as a “Thank You!”
Anything else you would like to add?
We often focus on gun laws as synonymous with gun regulation. The concealed carry revolution of the past several decades is a major example of gun deregulation. The country’s laws are not where they were at the turn of the 19th century, but we’re closer to 1800 today than we are to 1900. And that’s saying something.