Book Review: Concealed Carry Revolution (Yamane, 2021)

Sociologist Dr. David Yamane‘s most recent book, Concealed Carry Revolution, tells the history of concealed carry laws, particularly their expansion over the past 30+ years. The book is a standalone volume that will eventually be part of a larger book on “Gun Culture 2.0“, which differs from traditional gun culture in that it emphasizes concealed carry and personal protection much more than hunting as the core focus of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

Many Gun Culture 2.0 types are reasonably familiar with the changes that have occurred since Florida passed “shall issue” carry legislation in the late 1980’s. The book provides a great summary of the wave of shall issue laws and court cases since then, but in my opinion the book’s biggest strength is its discussion of open and concealed carry in the preceding 100 years.

Yamane opens the book with a discussion of gun laws in Tombstone, AZ from 1881, and then steps back even earlier, to British and colonial laws from the 1600’s and 1700’s. Gun control laws passed in Kentucky (1813), Louisiana (1813), Indiana (1820), Georgia (1837), Arkansas (1837-8), Tennessee (1838), Virginia (1838) and Alabama (1839). According to historian Clayton Cramer, these laws were intended to limit carry of concealed weapons to combat the “honor culture” violence that was occurring in rural areas of those Southern states. Yamane includes a great quote from trainer Tom Givens:

Reflecting on his time as a police officer in Tennessee in the 1970’s, Tom Givens says it was common for people to carry guns in their cars that when he pulled someone over he did not ask “Do you have a gun in your car?”, but instead asked “Where is the gun in your car?”.

Concealed Carry Revolution pg 21.

During my childhood in Texas, guns in cars, including rifles carried openly in gun racks, were common. Our state laws allowed open carry of long guns, but limited carry of handguns to situations in which someone was ‘traveling’ (a poorly defined term that gave law enforcement officers great discretion in choosing when or if to enforce laws regarding handgun carry.)

Other books on handgun training history and gun laws indicate that pocket guns were commonly carried by both urban dwellers and rural travelers.

Relevant to current events, Yamane discusses the history of New York City’s “may issue” licensing system, which is being challenged in a Supreme Court case that will start hearings in October. The SCOTUS ruling on this case, if the NYC program is struck down, could lead to the final states that give police and bureaucrats the discretion to deny permits for any reason being forced to implement “shall issue” systems like more than 40 other states. One amicus brief from defense attorneys points out that the NYC system is inherently racist. This should come as no surprise to gun law scholars, who have written at length about the many gun restrictions that were passed to disarm non-whites after the Civil War into the modern era. In 2021, Texas just passed permitless carry, eliminating the requirement for training and paying state fees to get permission to carry a concealed handgun. One of the strongest arguments in favor of permitless carry was economic: the hurdles imposed by state fees and mandatory training affected low income Texans most, and those citizens were often the most likely to be victims of violent crime. As was the case in NYC, lower income individuals with no other criminal record were far more likely to prosecuted for carrying without a license.

Yamane’s book provides plenty of details of abuses of the ‘may issue’ system, in Democrat run states and megacities, both in the form of denials to the poorly connected and the granting of permits to political cronies, celebrities and others, including many of questionable character. In 2017, the officers trusted with running the NYC gun permit program were caught taking bribes and engaging in other corrupt acts.

The book includes a helpful chart showing the spread of shall issue laws, starting with Washington State in 1961, Indiana in 1980, and then the wave starting in 1985 with Maine, North and South Dakota, continuing through the present day with 41 states now having similar shall issue systems in place.

Chapter Four of the book dives into the variances in different state’s training requirements – an issue John Daub and I explore in our own book, Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training. State training and proficiency requirements answer the question “what is the lowest possible requirement we can have to guarantee someone is safe and responsible enough to carry in public?” They do not answer the question “what level of skill and proficiency is desirable for someone seeking to be well prepared to use a handgun in self-defense?’ As we note in our book, this has created a widespread mindset among gun owners (and the general public) that state carry permit training is of some actual value, and is a meaningful credential. The Texas License to Carry shooting test is so easy that a skilled shooter can pass it blindfolded, as John Johnston does in this Lucky Gunner video.

Shooting a Carry Permit Test Blindfolded – Lucky Gunner Lounge

What occurred in Texas during the early days of our state’s carry permit program was duplicated in many other shall issue states. In order to ensure that the mandatory state training was inexpensive and widely available, states set their requirements for instructor certification to the lowest possible standard: NRA Basic Pistol instructor (a program that teaches instructors nothing about defensive shooting skills, nor carry methods, nor how to safely draw from a holster). This created an ‘industry’ where poorly qualified trainers meeting state minimums were able to profit from teaching overly large, low quality classes to customers only interested in the cheapest, shortest, most convenient course. While this approach did make the training inexpensive and easy to complete for permit applicants, it often resulted in very low quality courses full of questionable advice on defensive shooting, gun selection, and even deadly force law.

When permitless carry was proposed in Texas, some instructors protested, complaining that their businesses could not survive the loss of the state forcing people to attend their courses. Gun owners, gun rights advocates and trainers with the ability and expertise to teach more than the state minimum training class were unsympathetic.

Texas, as it was for shall issue carry, was relatively late in the wave of states passing permitless carry. Even as Yamane was finishing up the current version of this book, more states were passing “constitutional” or permitless carry programs, making the final section of the book out of date before the ink had dried on its printing.

UPDATE: Yamane has issued an updated edition of the book, now available as an ebook, addressing permitless carry and the upcoming New York carry permit Supreme Court case.

Despite that minor flaw, the book is excellent primer on the history of carry permit laws, particularly recommended to new gun owners and new carry permit holders in any state.

An interview with Yamane, with John Johnston on Ballistic Radio is here