CCW Weekend: Barriers To National Concealed Carry Reciprocity
By Sam Hoober, GunBelts.com
Gun rights activists are either already aware or beginning to be aware of a need for national concealed carry reciprocity. At present, the right to carry is abridged, to a degree, by the lack of reciprocity between states for concealed carry permits and/or constitutional carry laws. Otherwise perfectly law-abiding citizens on one side of a line that can only be seen on a map are criminals on the other.
Granted, many licenses do not cross state lines, such as professional licenses for educators, Realtors, and lawyers. Driver’s licenses, though, are honored by all 50 states.
At present, regulating concealed carry permits is delegated to the various states, each of which decides if they will grant another state reciprocity. Typically, each state uses its own licensing criteria for reciprocity; states approximating or exceeding those requirements are reciprocated with and those that don’t are not. Hence, the “may-issue” states (some are no-issue in all but name) which require a personal sign-off from a law enforcement official reciprocate with few or no other states.
Therein lies the problem. Since each state gets to set the rules, the rules differ and thus a citizen of this country can’t enjoy their rights to the same degree in different areas. How, then, to solve the problem?
There are two methods for changing laws. Make a new one or a court can overturn the old one on constitutional grounds. The closest any court case has come to establishing a right to carry is Moore v. Madigan, a case decided by the Seventh District Court of Appeals in 2013. The court held that the state of Illinois’ no-issue policy for concealed carry licenses was unconstitutional. However, before the case could be appealed further (i.e. to the Supreme Court) the state of Illinois passed a law creating a shall-issue permit, mooting the case.
A new law or constitutional amendment can be passed, or a court can determine the law is unconstitutional. National reciprocity would require a federal law mandating all states recognize all other states’ concealed carry licenses, or the creation of a federal CCW license that all states would recognize. National constitutional carry, or permitless carry, could likewise be achieved by the same methods.
However, this requires a law be passed, and while many license reciprocity bills have been introduced – a search of Congress.gov reveals bills for national reciprocity dating back to 1997 – nothing has come of it.
Likewise, a court decision could find that not recognizing an otherwise valid permit unconstitutional or that permits themselves are altogether unconstitutional.
Also standing in the way of either federal legislation or court decisions superseding state requirements for a person carrying a pistol is the Tenth Amendment, which delegates any powers not granted to the federal government to the states or the people. A national reciprocity or constitutional carry law could easily run afoul of Tenth Amendment limits on such legislation and thus be abrogated by court decision. Any law would have to be able to bypass this potential challenge.
Whether with a permit or without, legally carrying concealed is in many respects a recent phenomenon. While some states, such as Vermont, have allowed for a long time, many states didn’t allow it or didn’t allow licensure for essentially anyone who wasn’t well-connected, well-heeled, white and male until the late 1980s. Second Amendment rights are currently tenuous and the United States is, for good or ill, coming to terms with just what the Second Amendment means in this day and age.
However, what is definitely known is things are not working as they are right now.
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