CCW Weekend: Is National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Viable?
By Sam Hoober, Gunbelts.com
Last year, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015, known as H.R. 402, was introduced in the House of Representatives. Under H.R. 402, the federal criminal code would be amended, allowing a person who has a valid government-issued ID and a concealed carry permit from one state would be allowed to possess, transport, ship and receive firearms in every other state.
Because of the lack of national reciprocity – particularly with handgun permits – a conundrum is created. People are limited to where they can travel while armed, particularly over state lines. There have been federal concealed carry reciprocity bills, but nothing has come of them so far.
Gun rights advocates have long pushed for national reciprocity, as have a number of lawmakers in Congress. In 2015, a number of bills proposing federal concealed carry reciprocity were introduced into the Congressional record.
According to an NRA blog from March 2015, no fewer than four had gone before the House of Representatives and Senate since the beginning of that year.
Clearly, this is something that people want. Other bills proposing the same things have been introduced in previous years as well, so it’s hardly anything new.
Often enough, issues of what people’s rights specifically are under the law are settled by the Supreme Court, since they are final arbiter of what’s constitutionally allowable and what isn’t. If the issue of reciprocity goes before them, there’s been some discussion that the 2015 SCOTUS case Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the right for same-sex couples to marry nationwide, may lead to federal reciprocity.
Sounds bonkers, right? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.
Generally, state and federal courts in the United States rely on precedent; they rely on previous decisions and the letter of the law to guide them. The case in question upheld that the right to marriage is fundamental. Denying same-sex couples said right is a violation of both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses, since the right is denied to one group of people but not another, and there wasn’t exactly a trial before denying said rights.
Furthermore, because of those factors, any one state can’t decline to recognize a marriage that occurred in another that does.
How that applies to national reciprocity? If carrying a gun on one’s person is recognized by the court as a fundamental right, it’s thus protected under the Fourteenth Amendment’s umbrella as a sacrosanct right that can’t be taken away unequally or without Due Process. Likewise, one state couldn’t refuse to recognize the right despite another doing so.
However, that hinges on the Supreme Court finding that carrying a pistol is protected. Past decisions have centered on the right to merely own a gun, such as in cases involving handgun bans, but haven’t dealt with the right to carry a gun.
The matter has to go before the Supreme Court for a decision. How it gets there requires a court case of some kind and there is no guarantee they would rule favorably. It could result in national reciprocity for pistol permits; it could result in the states being granted dominion over pistol licensure and thus nothing changing at all.
It could also result in nationwide constitutional carry.
Concealed carrying and licensure are a relatively recent phenomenon; it wasn’t until the past couple decades that many states created the path to licensure and began allowing people to carry. Some states cling to the notion that barring people from carrying makes them safer somehow.
Since the various states recognize driver’s licenses, it would stand to reason a pistol license should get the same treatment. Likewise, a lot of people consider the right to carry is within the bounds of the Second Amendment; it does say “keep and bear,” after all.
There are some situations in which a federal standard that everyone must abide by makes things better for everyone, this being one of them. A national concealed carry permit would enable people to carry in every state without fearing arrest and imprisonment in one state for what is law-abiding in another. National constitutional carry would accomplish the same thing.
There are countless examples of people who were jailed, despite being law-abiding citizens all their lives up to that point, for possessing or concealing a gun they are perfectly entitled to have on one side of an arbitrary line, but not on another.
If anything is certain, it’s that a majority of Americans want to be armed. At some point, this issue is going to have to be dealt with. Perhaps SCOTUS will take up this issue.
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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for Gunbelts.com, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click Here To Visit GunBelts.com.