Data: Clash and Carry


While congressional and court battles over the Brady Bill have kept the public's attention on gun laws at the national level, the National Rifle Association has been pursuing a base-hit approach to gun-owner rights, aggressively lobbying state legislatures to permit people to pack pistols. The decentralized strategy is paying off.

Since 1994, 14 states have adopted right-to-carry laws, which allow citizens to carry guns in public, often after passing licensing requirements. Currently, law-abiding residents of 31 states, home to 127 million Americans, can legally carry firearms for self-protection after securing a permit. (Vermont residents don't even need a permit, as the state doesn't regulate gun ownership.)

In 1987 Florida became one of the first states to liberalize its law. Anti-gun activists hyperbolically dubbed Florida the "Gunshine State" and predicted blood-stained streets. A decade later, Florida's handgun homicide rate has dropped by 41 percent, compared to a 24 percent increase nationally, according to FBI data.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) has introduced national legislation that would allow those with concealed-carry permits to pack heat in the other 49 states. In the 30 states with laws permitting the carrying of concealed guns, the local laws would govern. In the 20 states without such laws (including Vermont), a federal code would rule.