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For the rather large white fellows pictured above, carrying around a handgun just isn't enough anymore. They want the right to lug around their assault-style weapons wherever they go, because, goddamnit, this is America and the freedom to tote your gun -- any gun -- to the grocery store, while walking the Doberman or over to Elmer's house across town is enshrined in the Constitution.

Or something.

The NRA and the concealed and open carry crowd have made great gains in expanding the right to carry a weapon since the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Of course, the NRA and a lot of the gun crowd, particularly the gun toters, would have most Americans believe that carrying a weapon on one's person was as close to a God-given right as any right in the good ol' U.S. of A. Hell, we've been doin' that since the days of the ol' West when most real `Mericans had six-guns strapped to their hips, right?

Well, buckaroos, sorry to disappoint, but no. That's a myth. For more than 100 years, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1980s, it was illegal in nearly all states to strap on a handgun and roam the streets -- unless you were law enforcement or had a very rare special use permit.

What's so surprising is that even many concealed and open carry permit holders, including a number of (supposedly) well-informed gun toters and gun proponents here at Daily Kos, don't know the history of concealed and open carry laws in the United States. They have bought into the NRA propaganda that makes it seem as if strapping a handgun to one's side "has always been, and should always be" the law of the land.

Even in gun-crazy Texas, carrying a handgun outside of one's home beyond one's own property was not the law until 1995.

See, the thing is, the nation matured following the insanity of the civil war and decided that, hey, maybe having a bunch of folks wandering the highways and byways of America armed with pistols may not be the best thing for a civilized society. So the powers that be in most states banned the carrying of handguns, except in the case of sworn law enforcement personnel or the aforementioned rare, special use permit holders. Yep, even in Texas, toting around a pistol (except on you own land) was outlawed for more than 100 years:

It will probably be helpful to briefly cover the history of open-carry in Texas before getting into the issues that have arisen in the past and that we can expect to hear again in 2013.  Since shortly after the end of the Civil War, it is been illegal for Texans to carry handguns outside your home, except in very limited circumstances (see above).  

In 1995, the Texas Legislature passed the first concealed handgun statute creating a system whereby Texans and nonresidents could obtain a Concealed Handgun License. The statute requires everyone who carries a handgun under the authority of their Concealed Handgun License to keep their handgun concealed so it will not be seen by the general public.

The push for concealed or open carry as either may issue or shall issue began in the late 1970s. Prior to 1976, only New Hampshire (1923), Vermont, Washington (1961) and Connecticut (1969) had legal handgun carry on the books.

Georgia Governor Zell Miller pushed through a concealed carry law at the NRA's urging in 1976. Indiana passed a bill in 1980, Maine and North Dakota in 1985, and South Dakota in 1986. Florida's law came on line in 1988, and other states then fell like dominoes:

  • 1989 - Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia
  • 1990 - Idaho and Mississippi
  • 1991 - Montana
  • 1994 - Alaska, Arizona, Tennessee and Wyoming
  • 1995 - Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, Utah, and Virginia
  • 1996 - Kentucky, Louisiana, and South Carolina
  • 1998 - Alaska

Many folks here probably remember a time when the NRA was an organization dedicated to promoting the use of guns for sport, from hunting to competitive shooting. That was the NRA's primary mission right up until the late 1970s, just about the time the number of hunting licenses issued by states began an inexorable decline.

The NRA and its real constituency, the gun manufacturers, could see the handwriting on the wall: shotguns, hunting rifles and target pistols just weren't going to cut it anymore. The NRA and gun makers needed to open a more lucrative market for their products.  

Thus, the dawning of the NRA and the gun makers' genius marketing strategy -- "handguns-as-self-defense" -- and the concurrent lobbying efforts to pass legislation in state after state to permit the carrying of handguns, either openly or concealed, in public spaces.

Now, our country is awash in guns. Among developed nations, the U.S. is an extreme outlier, with the gun death and injury rates to prove it.

So perhaps we can make an effort in the coming year to openly discuss our nation's gun insanity. We can explode the myths, and focus specifically on why we, as a nation, should be doing the bidding of the NRA and the gun makers in allowing an increasing number of citizens -- many of them frightened, out-of-shape white guys like the gun toters pictured above -- to be roaming the streets with pistols strapped to their bodies.

After all, is this any way for a civilized society to behave?

A vast majority of our leaders didn't think so from the 1860s all the way through the late 1970s. They were right. Why are we going backwards as a civilization instead of forward into a more just and peaceful world?

[UPDATE]
Meteor Blades points out, below, that open carry was permissible in many states for varying periods of time. The chart I linked to does not cover open carry, but only concealed carry. My mistake. The chart is not labeled as such. In addition, the source I cite on Texas is an NRA member and gun rights supporter. He has his information wrong. Open carry (with limitations) was permissible in Texas. Concealed carry was passed in 1996.

I was out of town yesterday (at the Maple Leafs vs. the Redwings in the Big House in Ann Arbor!), away from the computer or I would have edited sooner. My mistake and I apologize.

I would also appreciate it if the gun crowd would not alter my tags. Thanks.

Originally posted to Bob Johnson on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 02:12 PM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA, History for Kossacks, and notRKBA.

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