As we reported last week, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security recently held a hearing on H.R. 822, the "National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011."
This critically important bill, introduced earlier this year by Congressmen Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and cosponsored by more than 240 of their colleagues, would enable millions of permit holders to exercise their right to self-defense while traveling outside their home states.
There is currently only one remaining state (Illinois) that has no clear legal way for individuals to carry concealed firearms for self-defense. Forty states have permit systems that make it possible for any law-abiding person to obtain a permit, while most of the others have discretionary permit systems. (Vermont has never required a permit.)
H.R. 822 would mark a major step forward for gun owners' rights by significantly expanding where those permits are recognized. Dozens of states have passed Right-to-Carry laws over the past 25 years because the right to self-defense does not end when one leaves home. However, interstate recognition of those permits is not uniform and creates great confusion and potential problems for travelers. While many states have broad reciprocity, others have very restrictive reciprocity laws. Still others deny recognition completely.
H.R. 822 would solve this problem by requiring that lawfully issued carry permits be recognized, while protecting the ability of the various states to determine the areas where carrying is prohibited within their boundaries.
Unfortunately, but predictably, H.R. 822 continues to be attacked in some quarters, namely the anti-gun media, like the New York Times and the Washington Post; anti-gun organizations, like the Brady Campaign, and New York City Mayor Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns; and, regrettably, even some so-called pro-gun organizations.
Opponents of the legislation claim that it tramples on each "states' rights." But states don't have rights, only powers. And while many anti-gun lawmakers who've long pushed national gun bans, national bans on private gun sales, national waiting periods and other federal restrictions have suddenly become born-again advocates of "states' rights" to oppose this bill, several provisions of the Constitution give Congress the authority to enact interstate carry. Congress also has the power to protect the rights of citizens, nationwide, under the 14th Amendment (please see related article from last week's Grassroots Alert).
Next, despite what a handful of "pro-gun" activists say, the bill would not create a federal licensing system, nor would it establish a minimum federal standard for the 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 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.
H.R. 822 is a good bill for gun owners. Don't listen to false and misleading accusations. Read the bill yourself and read our fact sheet to get the facts. Then, please contact your member of Congress and urge him or her to support the earliest possible consideration of H.R. 822 this year.