Over the last 35 years or so, America has seen a very quiet revolution: the state-by-state growth of Second Amendment freedom in the form of Right-to-Carry (RTC) laws. Women in particular have reason to celebrate and support these laws (and ask that their representatives do the same) for a simple reason: Right-to-Carry laws are women’s rights laws. Specifically, these laws support women in our most vulnerable state: as people for whom “Refuse To Be A Victim” isn’t just a state of mind, but an ongoing situation.
A few words of explanation about what we mean when we say “Right-to-Carry.” The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) defines it this way: “Right-to-Carry (RTC) laws recognize the right to carry concealed handguns when away from home without a permit, or with a permit issued by a state to an applicant who meets requirements established by the state legislature. The laws expand upon the right, recognized in most states, to carry handguns openly without a permit. RTC laws are consistent with the constitutions of the United States and 44 states, the laws of all states, and the common law, all of which recognize the right to use firearms in self-defense.”
As you can see, RTC includes three basic types of carry: Carrying concealed with a permit, carrying open without a permit and carrying concealed without a permit. The first is usually called CCW, the second is usually called OC and the third is called either “Constitutional Carry” or “Permitless Carry.” Permitless carry doesn’t mean that you are breaking the law. Permitless carry simply means that in some states, as long as you are legally qualified to own a gun, you are legally qualified to carry it concealed. It’s often referred to as “Constitutional Carry,” because these types of laws presume that the Second Amendment to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights actually says what it means and means what it says. (Who’d have thought?) Right now, 17 states allow permitless carry and more are considering doing so right now.
All types of Right-to-Carry laws help law-abiding citizens protect themselves regardless of sex. However, they’re of particular importance to women. Women are physically smaller than men, we cannot run as quickly, and we are socialized from a very early age to use violence as a last resort. That means that in any situation in which we are being physically menaced by a man, we are at an automatic disadvantage. There are very few tools that can level that playing field, and most of them are ballistic. Right-To-Carry laws do nothing more than allow you to keep that tool with you at all times, not just when you're on your private property.
However, of the flavors of “Right To Carry,” permitless carry is even more important for women who are dealing with ongoing threats. Even in a “shall-issue” concealed carry state—which means that the state must grant your permit if you meet all of their requirements—you are still required to register yourself with the state. Leaving aside the issue of whether you’re comfortable registering yourself as a gun owner at all, there’s also the problem of anti-gun members of the media focusing the First Amendment against the Second.
Every so often, some bright bulb winks on the idea of going to the state records of CCW permit holders—these are available publicly, generally—and then publishing that list. Here’s a recent example. Here’s another one. Without delving into the ethics of that practice, we must acknowledge that it has happened before, and could again. If it does, it will expose the survivors of domestic violence and stalking victims to having their names and current locations exposed … along with the fact that they are armed.
You might think, at first, that this would have a deterrent effect. That’s not necessarily true. Sure, your average purse-snatcher just wants your property and can be scared off in search of an easier target. However, deterrence isn’t really a factor with attackers who have a personal grudge … and sadly, that’s the type of attacker that too many women deal with all too often. Stalkers rejoice when they learn facts about their target that give them a tactical advantage, and knowing in advance that a woman is armed is a tactical advantage. It tells her abuser that he must take extra measures to take her by surprise.
No man will ever fully understand the ways in which women’s lives are circumscribed by the very real threat of victimization. In fact, many women don’t quite see it, because it’s like asking a fish how the water is today. Where we’ll go, when we’ll go there, who we’ll take with us…we make all of these decisions, big and small, based on what’s probably safest for us. Right-to-Carry laws give us the option of making those decisions based on what is most convenient for us instead. And wouldn’t that be nice?