By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, H.R. 38, has passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a vote of 231 to 198. It was one of the first bills introduced in this Congress, and even up to its passage, and now subsequent consideration in the U.S. Senate, there’s been quite a bit of misinformation meant to derail this legislation that would benefit concealed carry permit holders and maintain states’ ability to enforce their laws.
Second Amendment Rights Don’t End at State Borders
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act will do several things. First and foremost, it will ensure that Second Amendment rights don’t end at state borders. It will allow authorized handgun owners who are legally permitted in their home state to carry a concealed firearm in others states that also allow concealed carry. Given that all 50 states, and the District of Columbia, now have some form of concealed carry permit, it would eliminate a dangerous patchwork of laws that concealed carry permit holders must navigate across state lines.
The sponsor of the legislation, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) summed it up when he said, “This is just simple, common-sense legislation that says if you’re a law-abiding citizen we’re not going to turn you into a criminal just for crossing an invisible state line.”
Burden of Proof Lies with the States
The legislation would also shift the burden of proof where it belongs, on the state, to demonstrate a permit holder didn’t comply with their state laws. When it comes to federal lands, concealed carry permit holders would be permitted to carry concealed firearms in the National Parks System, National Wildlife Refuge System and lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.
States would maintain the authority to set their own firearms laws and regulations for issuing permits in within their borders. The legislation provides that a permit holder who carries in another state must abide by that state’s laws and regulations when it comes to carrying concealed. Residents of states that passed Constitutional carry laws would be able to carry in another state with Constitutional carry without having to obtain a permit.
Opposition and Outlandish Claims
That hasn’t stopped opponents of gun rights and firearms from lashing out, sometimes with outlandish claims of what is to come if the legislation is eventually signed into law.
Claim: The U.S. Conference of Mayors, including no less than anti-gun Mayors Bill de Blasio of New York City and Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago, claims concealed carry reciprocity would “remove local governments’ ability to maintain sensible gun standards, and keep a proper vetting process in place …”
Correction: This is just plain wrong. As previously stated above, the bill would allow states to set their own laws and regulations. If a state requires a permit to carry concealed, and a firearms owner comes from a state that has Constitutional carry, that person would be required to obtain a permit from their home state before carrying a firearm concealed in their neighboring state with stricter concealed carry laws.
Claim: Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety claims the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would “make our communities less safe.” That chicken-little sky-is-falling hyperbole has been tried before. It wasn’t’ true then, and it just isn’t true now. As individual states passed laws permitting law-abiding gun owners to carry concealed, predictions of a cataclysm were never borne out.
Correction: The opposite has been true. More than 16.3 million law-abiding Americans have concealed carry permits. This year, more than 1.83 million alone were issued. John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center reported violent that crimes fell, and at a considerable rate. Lott’s study also found that concealed carry permit holders were actually more law-abiding than the population in general, with permit holders committing crimes at even lower percentages than police officers.
Claim: Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords group has been particularly vocal in her groups’ opposition to permitting Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Her group issued a press release following the House of Representatives’ passage, claiming the legislation would “let people with violent criminal histories carry guns.” This is a patently false claim.
Correction: Individuals with a violent criminal history are not permitted to buy a firearm, much less carry that firearm concealed in public. States issuing permits run the same FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) on applicants just as they do on anyone purchasing a firearm. If that individual isn’t allowed to buy a firearm because of a prohibiting factor, including felony convictions, mental health adjudication, domestic violence convictions and a fugitive from justice, among other disqualifying grounds, that person would be barred from receiving a concealed carry permit.
The irony is, this Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, in addition to providing America with an increasingly law-abiding armed citizenry, would also strengthen background checks by incentivizing states to submit criminal and mental health records of prohibited persons.
Advancing to the U.S. Senate
There is still work to be done. A companion bill is still being considered in the Senate, where antigun Senators have vowed to do everything in their power to block the legislation. And, gun control groups like Mayor Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety are already lining up to file lawsuits to thwart the exercise of the Second Amendment.
Larry Keane is the National Shooting Sports Foundation Sr. VP & General Counsel