Throughout the U.S., the once rare privilege of legally carrying a gun in public places has gone from almost impossible to surprisingly easy, says Politico magazine. Virginia allows citizens to get a permit over the Internet. The right to carry became legal this year in the last of the 50 states when concealed weapons permits were finally legalized in Illinois. In 1981, 19 states banned concealed weapons, and of the states that allowed them, nearly all had onerous hurdles that gun owners had to clear in order to qualify for a permit. Today, only the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories prohibit weapons in public spaces and many of the once-challenging barriers to getting them elsewhere have come down. As of 2011, says the Government Accountability Office, 8 million Americans had permits for concealed guns.
The new laws—and the number of people making use of them—are a testament to the success of a highly focused, well-financed effort over the last two decades by the National Rifle Association to push concealed-carry in every state. The NRA is working to build on that success by pushing Congress to enact a national “reciprocity” law which it claims will fix the problematic patchwork of state statutes that it maneuvered to enact. States such as California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York that rarely issue concealed carry permits and prohibit carrying by out-of-state residents suddenly would be required to allow any of the nation's millions of non-resident permits-holders to carry their weapons.