The Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2013 (H.R. 2959) has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah). The bill would allow any person who is not prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm under federal law and who has a valid, concealed firearm permit to carry a concealed handgun in any state that issues its own residents permits to carry concealed firearms. Persons carrying a handgun in another state pursuant to H.R. 2959 would be subject to the laws of that state with respect to where concealed firearms may be carried. Similar legislation to H.R. 2959 passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011 by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 272-154.
H.R. 2959 would not create a federal licensing system, nor authorize the federal government to interfere with the powers of the states to set standards for the issuance of carry permits, nor establish federal standards for carry permits, nor override state laws allowing for the carrying of firearms without a permit. Rather, it would simply require the states to recognize each others’ carry permits.
This is not a new or untested concept. Since 2004, certain active and retired law enforcement officers have been authorized to carry concealed firearms throughout the United States based on identification issued by the agencies that employ or formerly employed them. Most states that issue carry permits or licenses already have statutes that grant reciprocity or recognition to non-resident licenses or permits under various circumstances. Meanwhile, Right-to-Carry Reciprocity legislation has been introduced in Congress since 1995.
• The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for defensive purposes. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Court ruled that “the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right” throughout U.S. history, and that the Second Amendment protects “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” In McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), the Court ruled that the protections of the Second Amendment extend to infringements under state and local laws.
• The Seventh and Ninth Circuits, among other courts, have affirmed that the individual right protected by the Second Amendment includes the carrying of firearms in public for self-defense. In the 2012 case of Shepard v. Madigan, authored by Judge Richard Posner, the court ruled that the “confrontations” of which the Supreme Court wrote in Heller “are not limited to the home.” The court accordingly held, “A right to bear arms thus implies a right to carry a loaded gun outside the home.” The Ninth Circuit similarly held in the 2014 case of Peruta v. San Diego County that Second Amendment protects the right of responsible, law-abiding persons to carry a firearm outside the home for self-defense.
• Every state has a concealed-carry firearm permit law. Forty-two states, accounting for two-thirds of the U.S. population, readily issue concealed carry permits or licenses. Thirty-nine have “shall issue” laws, requiring that carry permits be issued to qualified applicants. Four states do not require a license or permit for the lawful carrying of concealed firearms. Only the District of Columbia prohibits entirely the carrying of firearms in public for self-defense.
• Citizens with carry permits are more law-abiding than the general public. In Florida, the state that has issued the most concealed firearm carry permits—due to its large population and the relatively early date of its Right-to-Carry law—only about 0.01 percent of permits issued have been revoked because of firearm crimes by permit holders. Other states that keep such statistics have had similar experiences.
• Violent crime rates have decreased, as the number of Right-to-Carry states has increased. The nation’s violent crime rate hit an all-time high in 1991, when only 17 states, accounting for 25 percent of the nation’s population, had Right-to-Carry laws. Since then, the number of states in which carry permits are readily available has risen to 42, accounting for 74 percent of the population, and the nation’s violent crime rate has fallen to a 42-year low. (Data: FBI.)
• The right of self-defense 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 recognize the right to use force in self-defense. The Supreme Court has recognized 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.”
• Concealed carry has proven to be sound public policy in the United States. H.R. 2959 recognizes both the increased popularity of concealed carry and the increased mobility of the U.S. population. The current patchwork of state and local laws and reciprocity arrangements can prove daunting and confusing for even the most conscientious and well-informed concealed carry permit holders. People carrying in good faith and strictly for defensive purposes have been arrested and subjected to prosecution for inadvertent violations, sometimes as a result of voluntarily disclosing their possession of firearms to law enforcement officers. H.R. 2959 allows law-abiding Americans to exercise their rights under the Second Amendment with confidence and peace of mind, while still allowing states to enforce their own standards of conduct and restricted places of carry for those in possession of firearms.