The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Bill

Posted on February 22, 2011

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H.R. 822, introduced in the U.S. House by Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), would allow any person with a valid state-issued concealed firearm permit to carry a concealed firearm in any state that issues concealed firearm permits, or that does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms for lawful purposes. A state's laws governing where concealed firearms may be carried would apply within its borders. The bill applies to D.C., Puerto Rico and U.S. territories. It would not create a federal licensing system; rather, it would require the states to recognize each others' carry permits, just as they recognize drivers' licenses and carry permits held by armored car guards. Rep. Stearns has introduced such legislation since 1995.

• H.R. 822 recognizes the significant impact of the landmark cases, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), which found that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms and that the protections of the Second Amendment extend to infringements under state law.

• Today, 49 states have laws permitting concealed carry, in some circumstances. Forty states, accounting for two-thirds of the U.S. population, have right-to-carry laws. Thirty-six of those have "shall issue" permit laws (including Alaska and Arizona, which also allow carrying without a permit), two have fairly administered "discretionary issue" permit laws, and Vermont (along with Alaska and Arizona) allows carrying without a permit. (Eight states have restrictive discretionary issue laws.)

• Citizens with carry permits are more law-abiding than the general public. Only 0.01% of nearly 1.2 million permits issued by Florida have been revoked because of firearm crimes by permit holders. Similarly low percentages of permits have been revoked in Texas, Virginia, and other right-to-carry states that keep such statistics. Right-to-carry is widely supported by law enforcement officials and groups.

• States with right-to-carry laws have lower violent crime rates. On average, right-to-carry states have 22 percent lower total violent crime rates, 30 percent lower murder rates, 46 percent lower robbery rates, and 12 percent lower aggravated assault rates, compared to the rest of the country. The seven states with the lowest violent crime rates are right-to-carry states. (Data: FBI.)

• Crime declines in states with right-to-carry laws. Since adopting right-to-carry in 1987, Florida's total violent crime and murder rates have dropped 32 percent and 58 percent, respectively. Texas' violent crime and murder rates have dropped 20 percent and 31 percent, respectively, since enactment of its 1996 right-to-carry law. (Data: FBI.)

• The right of self-defense is fundamental, and has been recognized in law for centuries. The Declaration of Independence asserts that "life" is among the unalienable rights of all people. The Second Amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms for "security."

• The laws of all states and the constitutions of most states recognize the right to use force in self-defense. The Supreme Court has stated that a person "may repel force by force" in self-defense, and is "entitled to stand his ground and meet any attack made upon him with a deadly weapon, in such a way and with such force" as needed to prevent "great bodily injury or death." (Beard v. United States (1895))

• Congress affirmed the right to own guns for "protective purposes" in the Gun Control Act (1968) and Firearm Owners' Protection Act (1986). In 1982, the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution described the right to arms as "a right of the individual citizen to privately possess and carry in a peaceful manner firearms and similar arms."

It is important to note that, despite what a handful of self-proclaimed "pro-gun" activists claim, H.R. 822 would not create a federal registration or licensing system, nor would it establish a minimum federal standard for a carry permit. Rather, it would require the states to recognize each others' carry permits, just as they recognize driver's licenses and carry permits held by armored car guards.  Unfortunately, these self-proclaimed "gun rights" supporters, who have no active lobbying presence in Congress or any legislature, have an agenda that has very little to do with promoting the interests of gun owners.

Here are the FACTS about a few of their claims:

Myth: H.R. 822 would involve the federal bureaucracy in setting standards for carry permits, resulting in "need" requirements, higher fees, waiting periods, national gun owner registration, or worse.

FACT: H.R. 822 doesn't require -- or even authorize -- any such action by any federal agency.  In fact, since it would amend the Gun Control Act, it would fall under a limitation within that law that authorizes "only such rules and regulations as are necessary to carry out" the GCA's provisions.  No federal rules or regulations would be needed to implement H.R. 822, which simply overrides certain state laws.

Myth: H.R. 822 would destroy permitless carry systems such as those in Arizona, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming.

FACT: H.R. 822 would have absolutely no effect on how the permitless carry states' laws work within those states.  For residents of Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming, where permits are not required but remain available under state law, H.R. 822 would make those permits valid in all states that issue permits to their own residents.  Residents of Vermont, where no permits are issued or required, could obtain nonresident permits from other states to enjoy the benefits of H.R. 822.

Myth: If H.R. 822 moved through the legislative process, it would be subject to anti-gun amendments.

TRUTH: By this logic, neither NRA, nor any other pro-gun group, should ever promote any pro-gun reform legislation.  But inaction isn't an option for those of us who want to make positive changes for gun owners.  Instead, we know that by careful vote counting and strategic use of legislative procedure, anti-gun amendments can be avoided or defeated.

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