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Have Gun, Will Travel: Concealed Carry Reciprocity on the Move in Congress!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Christmas came early last year for supporters of the Second Amendment, as the U.S. of House of Representatives passed H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act on Dec. 6. National Right to Carry reciprocity has long been the NRA’s top legislative priority. H.R. 38 is by far the strongest, most comprehensive version of this legislation we’ve seen to date. Its movement through the House was an historic development in Congress’ protection of our right to keep and bear arms.

Needless to say, it has also provoked a massive response by anti-gun forces, who will say or do anything to stop it. National reciprocity is truly a worst-case scenario for them; if it becomes law, it will debunk once and for all the myth that the carrying of firearms by law-abiding Americans is incompatible with public safety.

Indeed, the steady march of right-to-carry laws across the American landscape has refuted this premise already. Opponents of the bill are simply on the wrong side of history.

At every step in the development of concealed carry, we’ve heard predictions of “blood in the streets” and “a return to the Wild West.” But the 30-year movement to liberalize concealed carry laws has continued because these outcomes have not materialized.

By any measure, America’s experience with the carrying of concealed handguns in public has been a success. Every state now has a legal process for issuing concealed carry licenses, with nearly 17 million licensees nationwide. Untold thousands more can lawfully carry concealed in 12 states without a license.

The nationwide violent crime rate remains at an historic low, and licensed concealed carriers have proven to be among the most law-abiding people in the United States. In a 2013 survey of verified law enforcement officers by the website Police One, 91% of respondents supported the concealed carry of firearms by competent, law-abiding civilians. Late last year, 24 attorneys general in the U.S. – each state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official – signed onto a letter urging passage of national reciprocity legislation.

This is because innocent lives have been saved by those who lawfully carry firearms. As much as the anti-gun opposition denies this, and as much as they dismiss these individuals as “statistically insignificant,” real people with families and loved ones are alive today because of these laws. This has been proven both anecdotally and statistically time and again.

If the anti-gunners applied the same rule they apply to gun control – the “if it saves just one life’ test – they would have no choice not only to support concealed carry reciprocity, but to insist upon it.

Indeed, most arguments against national reciprocity can proceed only by outright falsehoods or by endless and increasingly convoluted double standards.

It would allow domestic abusers to carry firearms, opponents insist.

No, it would not. No federally prohibited person could carry under the bill, and those include anyone who has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or who was subject to an outstanding domestic violence restraining order.

Opponents also claim national reciprocity would violate “states’ rights” and make states with low or no standards at all for concealed carry the de facto national standard.

This is the most ridiculous argument of them all, especially coming from those who recognize virtually no limit on federal authority to restrict the rights of gun owners, even if it disregards the policies adopted by the states themselves.

But when the same assertions of federal authority are trained in the other direction, to protect the civil right to keep and bear arms, we’re supposed to believe we’re suddenly facing a constitutional crisis.

Make no mistake, the protection of civil rights from state infringements is the essence of H.R. 38 and one of the federal government’s most important functions.

Contrary to what opponents of the bill claim, no one who supports concealed carry – least of all the states who administer the laws governing eligibility – wants dangerous people to have firearms. This is exactly why every state has disqualifications from obtaining a concealed carry license for things like felony convictions. And even in those states that don’t require a license to carry concealed, certain categories of presumptively dangerous people are prohibited from possessing firearms at all.

And while gun control advocates can always suggest yet another category of people they’d like to see disqualified – usually for minor misdemeanors or extra-judicial determinations – it’s not these far-flung disqualifiers that separate the licensing regimes in pro- and anti-gun states.

The real difference is whether or not the typical person with no criminal background, who follows all the application procedures, can reasonably hope to obtain a license.

In 42 states and the District of Columbia, the answer is “yes.”

In the remaining eight states, the answer is “no.” In these “may-issue” states, even well-trained gun owners with spotless backgrounds will still be denied a concealed carry license unless they can demonstrate an extraordinary “reason” for one that distinguishes them from the public at large.

How does this work in practice?

In places like Hawaii, Maryland, and New Jersey, it means basically no one gets a concealed carry license at all.

In places like California or Massachusetts, it depends on whether your local licensing official is pro- or anti-gun.

And in places like New York City, it means the people who get licenses are the rich and famous – actors, bankers, media personalities, etc. – or, according to multiple corruption prosecutions, shady types who can hire “expediters” to bribe the licensing bureaucrats, disqualifying histories notwithstanding.

None of those systems is consistent with the idea of treating the bearing of arms as a fundamental civil right.

Nor is these states’ treatment of travelers who are otherwise lawfully carrying concealed. New York and New Jersey in particular are infamous for “making examples” of even the most innocent mistakes. In some cases, a broken taillight or un-signaled lane change is all it takes for an unwitting motorist to discover his or her out-of-state license will not be recognized.

Even those who readily volunteer their mistakes to the police are treated like dangerous criminals, their firearms seized, their vehicles impounded, and lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences threatened by unforgiving prosecutors.

Recent cases have included decorated veterans, a single mother, a prison guard whose vehicle was hit by a drunk driver, a nurse and medical student, even a utility worker who had come to help restore power after a storm.

Indeed, those watching the mark-up of H.R. 38 in the House Judiciary Committee were treated to the bizarre spectacle of anti-gun committee members trying to explain why they opposed the concealed carrying of handguns even by active federal judges. The same jurists who are America’s final authority on the Constitution and U.S. law were portrayed as intolerable risks for senility, instability, domestic violence, and “abuse of dating partners.” Ranking member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) even went so far as to suggest that police officers shouldn’t be trusted to carry concealed handguns across state lines.

What motivates their opposition to the law is not whether this or that concealed carrier has a certain level of training or sufficient indicators of reliability, but their desire to eliminate the carrying of arms for self-defense to the greatest extent possible. No safeguard would satisfy them. The rest of us, however, should applaud the Members of Congress who voted for the most important piece of self-defense legislation since 1789.

The bill that passed the full House also included the Fix NICS Act of 2017. This measure reinforces the NRA’s consistent position that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System should be instant, accurate, and fair.

To that end, the Act would add additional layers of transparency and accountability to the system and incentives for federal agencies and states to fully report disqualifying records. It would also create a new 60-day deadline for resolving appeals of erroneous denials, a process that currently can take over a year.

Fix NICS would not create new classes of prohibited persons. It is focused on eliminating reporting gaps like the one that allowed the perpetrator of last November’s terrible murders in Texas to slip through the cracks.

The package that is now before the Senate is Congress’ strongest affirmation of the right to self-defense that I’ve seen. This is literally the opportunity of a lifetime.

That’s why I am urging every gun owner in America to reject the hysteria and misinformation surrounding these measures and to urge your senators to send them to President Trump for his promised signature.

If we stay focused and united, our greatest victory could well be at hand.

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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.