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Your right to self-defense shouldn't end at state borders

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This Labor Day weekend, many families will pack up the car for one last road trip to the beach, lake or park before summer ends. Unfortunately, many of them will have to check their right to self-defense at the state border. Thankfully, there is legislation making its way through Congress that would fix this.

The bill is the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 822) and it would allow any person with a valid, state-issued concealed firearm permit to exercise their right to carry a firearm in any other state that affords that right to its own residents.

The bill was introduced by Congressmen Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Heath Shuler (D-NC) and it currently has 242 co-sponsors and the full backing of the National Rifle Association. By any benchmark, H.R. 822 has overwhelming bipartisan support.

Currently, 49 states have laws that permit concealed carry in some form or another. In all but eight of those states, the average, law-abiding citizen can carry a firearm without having to navigate an overly restrictive — and in some cases intentionally impossible — bureaucratic process. Only the state of Illinois completely forbids its citizens from carrying concealed firearms outside their homes and workplaces.

The problem is that interstate recognition of these various permits is not uniform. Some states have broad laws in place that liberally recognize permit holders from other states. Other states are more restrictive, and still others refuse to recognize any state’s permit but their own. This can create issues for travelers.

The National Right-to-Carry Act would solve this problem by requiring the various states that allow concealed carry to recognize each other’s permits — much in the same way they recognize each other’s driver’s licenses.

Imagine if America treated state driver’s licenses the same way we treat the right to carry, and every time you drove across a state line you weren’t sure if you were allowed to legally operate a vehicle in that state. If you knew you weren’t allowed to operate a vehicle in a certain state, you simply couldn’t drive there.

There are some who agree with the spirit of H.R. 822 but are concerned that it would create a “federal gun licensing” system. This is simply not true. The bill explicitly protects the right of each state to issue its own permits and determine its own rules and regulations with regard to concealed carry — such as where carrying is prohibited and where it’s allowed.

This is similar to how one highway can have different speed limits, depending on the state in which you’re driving. You can drive on the highway regardless of which state you’re from, but you are required to obey each state’s basic rules of the road.

Others have voiced concern that H.R. 822 would violate the Tenth Amendment right of every state to make its own laws. Again, this is not the case. The Second Amendment guarantees the fundamental, individual right of every law-abiding citizen to bear arms. This is an inalienable right that neither the federal government, nor any state government, may infringe upon. And in fact, the 14th Amendment gives Congress the power to protect citizens from state infringement of their constitutional rights.

Our basic right to self-defense has been recognized in law for centuries. We shouldn’t be forced to forfeit this right at the state line. Call your representative today and ask if he or she is a cosponsor of H.R. 822. If the answer is yes, please thank them and urge them do what they can to push this bill forward.

If the answer is no, then please urge them to become a co-sponsor today, and to support your fundamental right to defend yourself and your loved ones … regardless of which state you happen to be passing through.

Chris W. Cox is the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) and serves as the organization’s chief lobbyist.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.