Are gun laws changing? Yes, they always are and will continued to for the foreseeable future. The change is driven by local ordinances and legislative bills that are passed on the state or federal level, state administrative rules, executive orders and presidential actions, and court decisions. The important thing is to recognize when they do change and how to appropriately respond.

Arm Yourself with Knowledge

It is vital to know the gun laws of the areas in which you live or through which you plan to travel. We’ve said it a thousand times, and we’ll say it a thousand more: knowing these laws is essential to your safety and keeping you out of jail. Regardless of if you have a permit or not, a gun owner should be familiar with the laws governing the firearm he or she is carrying.

For instance, does the state you live in or are traveling through have preemption over some or all firearms laws within that state? The state of Wisconsin has preemption of firearms laws. However, cities may restrict the discharge of firearms (except in the case of self-defense). Not all states have preemption over concealed carry laws. So, even if a permit holder can legally carry in the state of Virginia, for example, individual municipalities may restrict the possession of firearms and ammunition on property owned by the municipality, including public parks. Just because your state does something one way, doesn’t mean another state does it the same.

Sound complicated? It sure is. Just be aware (or beware) that laws vary within each state and do your best to educate yourself about them.

Change Will Come

One thing is always guaranteed. Laws are always in flux, based on new bills or proposed ordinances at the state or federal level. Some are favorable to gun owners … and others aren’t. In any given year, there may be bills proposed at the state level that range from allowing permitless carry of handguns to restricting firearms at various locations. It’s even possible for bills contradicting one another to be proposed in the same state. In 2021 alone, four states (Iowa, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming) enacted permitless carry (or constitutional carry) laws. On the other hand, states such as Oregon are adding more gun-free zones. Good or bad, change will come. We need to know how to best respond when it does, especially if it is unfavorable to gun owners.

So What Do You Do?

Of course, if the change is favorable, that’s great. However, your job doesn’t end there.

Get to know the new gun laws. They may not be as straightforward as they sound. For instance, if your state passes a “stand your ground” law, make sure to know what constitutes the use of deadly force. Too many people have the misconception that stand your ground means you can simply shoot any person who walks on your property without repercussions. That is far from the case. A firearm only should be used in self-defense if you face serious bodily harm or risk of death. The use of deadly force should never be taken lightly. 

Likewise, do you know what preemption means? How about if your state passes open carry? What does this entail and what is or isn’t permitted? You see where we are going with this. This goes back to the concept that you can never arm yourself with too much knowledge. Your mind is your greatest weapon.

If unfavorable gun laws are passed, what can you do? Make your voice heard. Individuals in the firearms or concealed carry community can make their views known to lawmakers at every level of government. Write letters, send emails and make phone calls to your senator and representatives. Start a grassroots organization. (This two-part article from the April and May/June 2020 issues of Concealed Carry Magazine explains how.) Explain how gun ownership is having a positive, not negative, impact. Be an active participant. And don’t assume “someone else will handle it.” We need everyone to chip in.

Indispensable Resources

It is impossible for you to memorize every gun law in every state. Even if you were able to, they are constantly changing, remember. Don’t put the burden on yourself to try to remember every single gun law. We’ve got you covered. That is why we created the U.S. Concealed Carry Gun Laws and Reciprocity website. The USCCA Reciprocity app is now available for mobile devices from the Google Play or the Apple App stores as well. Both are resources that cost you nothing, and you can trust them to help you navigate convoluted and ever-changing gun laws in the U.S.