If the hype of the anti-rights crowd and their friends in the media is true, all Americans are on the verge of being gunned down in the streets if a new bill that was just introduced in the House becomes law. The new "national reciprocity" bill would require all states to recognize the concealed carry licenses and permits issued by other states, and would also protect the right to carry for citizens from states where no license or permit is required.
The bill, H.R. 38, was introduced by North Carolina Republican Richard Hudson and is just the latest in a string of similar bills that have been floating around Congress for a number of years. The key distinguishing feature of this one is the protection of carry rights for people who are not currently required to obtain a license to legally carry a concealed firearm in their home state. Vermont, for instance, has never had a law against carrying a concealed firearm, so they have never had a licensing system. Eleven other states, like Alaska and Arizona, do offer licenses, but the licenses are not required for carry within the state. Lawful unlicensed carry is referred to within the rights community as "Constitutional Carry," alluding to the idea that the Second Amendment is the only carry license any U.S. Citizen should ever need. Most Constitutional Carry states also offer licenses so that their citizens who choose to obtain one can avoid hassles and delays when purchasing firearms – the license allows them to forgo the National Instant Background Check System – and those who wish to carry when visiting other states where their state's licenses are recognized.
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There is a bit of a rift within the rights community over the idea of federal legislation forcing states to honor carry permits from other states. The main argument being one of state autonomy. Many gun rights advocates believe such measures violate the Ninth and 10th Amendments since the feds assume authority to force states to recognize others' licenses. There is also fear of establishment of some sort of federal minimum standard for issuance of carry licenses. The concern is that if a federal standard is accepted, the standard could eventually be tightened to the point that no one would be able to get a license. There is also the simple concern that what the feds give, the feds can take away. Many would prefer to just keep the federal government out of the carry debate and leave it with the states.
The Hudson bill avoids any hint of national standards and addresses the recognition issue from a "full faith and credit" perspective – having states honor them as they do other states' drivers licenses. The basic argument is, if Arizona trusts me to carry a gun, and I do so safely, why would I be considered a threat in New Jersey? Realistically, most people who commit violent crimes with firearms are not first-time offenders. Most have extensive criminal records and are actually forbidden to even touch a firearm or ammunition under federal law. This fact seems to elude those who are always calling for additional firearm laws. The criminals are already illegally in possession of firearms, so what is another law going to do? Does anyone suppose criminals illegally carrying firearms are going to do it more, or be more dangerous, if more honest citizens are carrying firearms? Laws against them carrying them don't seem to be much of an impediment. Conversely, liberalizing lawful carry – with or without licensing – has never resulted in the "blood in the streets" predictions of the hoplophobes. Turns out that criminals and stupid people do criminal and stupid things regardless of laws, while responsible citizens act responsibly, regardless of the laws.
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There are some real concerns among rights advocates regarding the details of H.R. 38. The provisions for honoring the carry rights of citizens of Constitutional Carry states seems to have been added as an afterthought, and the protections against prosecution should be much stronger. It looks like the bill was written to require states to honor the carry licenses and permits issued by other states, then amended to also honor the right to carry if such a right is recognized by the person's home state. That amendment makes the original section somewhat redundant, as it would cover everyone, but it really should be more carefully worded. The bill should simply and clearly mandate that every state must recognize and honor the carry rights legally enjoyed by citizens when they are in their own home state – whether by license, permit, or recognition as a right – and there should be real consequences for any state or officials who fail to fulfill their obligations under this law.
Expect to see Congress – particularly the Senate, where the pro-rights majority is very thin – use the existence of the two separate sections, and the disagreement within the rights community, as leverage to water down the bill and divide advocates.
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Since the Senate will be the harder test, I would prefer to see the bill advanced there first, rather than going through the struggle and publicity of a big battle in the House, only to have the legislation die in some Senate subcommittee. If we can get a decent bill through the Senate, it should fly smoothly through the House; meanwhile the needed improvements can be worked out for the House version. The new president has already committed to sign a national carry bill upon arrival on his desk.
So far an equivalent to Rep. Hudson's bill has not been introduced in the Senate. Hopefully, that will soon be rectified. In the meantime, readers are encouraged to give their representatives a call to urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 38, while addressing its shortcomings.
Media wishing to interview Jeff Knox, please contact [email protected].