Here is the latest in an occasional series of posts designed to provoke thought and discussion on how things are, compared to how they should be.
The premise of this post is that for the most part it is generally held that law-abiding citizens have the right, protected by the Second Amendment, to openly carry firearms. It is equally held that it is a privilege granted by the government, in our case, the Commonwealth of Virginia, to be able to carry a handgun concealed about your person, etc.
We hold diverse views on this situation, ranging from "no big deal", to "government permission dilutes the meaning of the right to keep and bear arms, and is generally harmful to the cause."
It is not my intent to comment on either end of that spectrum, but rather to plant the idea that we may not really be operating under two very different ideologies after all.
Heller and McDonald have affirmed our right to keep and bear arms. Although contrary to what the news media, the gun grabbers and just about everyone else, often including ourselves, will tell you, the Supreme Court has not yet evaluated what are reasonable restrictions on this right. Scalia noted in Heller that there were "presumptively lawful regulatory measures", and that the court was not evaluating them within the scope of the case. (The gun grabbers had a field day with that, as it was practically the only morsel in the ruling that was not a setback for their cause, loudly trumpeting that Scalia proclaimed restrictions were just fine... not at all what he actually said.)
So where do we stand? As I see it we have two major points where the government controls our access to firearms, specifically handguns.
First is the point of purchase, which I will extend to possession. (The only difference I am aware of is a Federal requirement to be 21 years old, to purchase from a FLL, compared to 18 years old to purchase privately or be gifted or otherwise possess a handgun.)
Second is the ability to lawfully conceal a handgun about your person.
We call the first a right, and the second a privilege, but exactly how different are the disqualifiers, or the "presumptively lawful regulatory measures" that restrict our access to this right and this privilege?
I am not a lawyer, but I can read and assemble information. I took a look at several sources: The Federal Form 4473, the Virginia State Police web site, "Firearms Purchase Eligibility Test", and the latest version of the Virginia CHP Application form.
Each of these sources provide a list of disqualifiers, the first two from purchase or possession of a firearm, and the third, from being granted a Concealed Handgun Permit. I don't claim that my list is exhaustive, as I did not chase down the lawful cite for each individual requirement. If you feel my analysis is in error due to that, feel free to do the research and correct me.
I've attached a .pdf file showing a side-by-side comparison of the disqualifiers, for the "right" to bear arms on the left, and the "privilege" to carry concealed on the right.
As best I can tell, there are only three substantial differences added to the test for a CHP:
1. You must be 21.
2. You cannot be convicted of a misdemeanor within the past 5 years.
3. You may not have been enrolled in a residential mental health or substance abuse program within the past 5 years.
There are slight variances in the rest, but they are otherwise very close. Some may not even find it unreasonable to add #2 and #3 to the list of disqualifiers for possession or purchase as well.
Finally, here is the point of the post:
Virginia is a SHALL ISSUE state. We all know what that means. Unless you are specifically disqualified, the government MUST issue a CHP to everyone who asks for one. My suggestion to you is that given the fact that the list of disqualifiers are so similar, it makes no sense to claim that one is a "right" while begrudging the other as a "privilege". In a very real sense, a CHP is nothing more than a citizen informing the state government that he or she WILL BE carrying a concealed weapon. The state has no option to deny that permit, any more than the state has the option to deny the right to openly carry that same handgun. The only difference is one extra application, and a check.
I will grant you that the fee for this stinks, and dilutes my point a little bit. We also pay a fee, just not nearly as much, with every commercial firearm purchase as well. Does that fee change possession or purchase from a right to a privilege? Most would say not.
So I am claiming that in Virginia and the other Shall Issue states, a CHP is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Any distinction between the inherent "right to possess" and the "right to conceal" a handgun makes no sense, because the "presumptively lawful regulatory measures" that distinguish the two are in fact, nearly indistinguishable.
Federal Form 4473
Virginia State Police Firearms Purchase Eligibility Test
Virginia CHP Application