For gun control advocates any discussion of concealed carry reciprocity is already over. If they have anything to say about it, you will have no such right. Across America, meanwhile, a growing segment of gun owners aren’t talking about gun rights. They’re acting.
Women are increasingly taking responsibility for their own defense. National Carry Academy reported that enrollment in its concealed carry courses rose 24 percent in the weeks following the tragedy in Parkland, Fla. While calls for gun bans reverberated across the mainstream media, concealed carry permits obtained through NCA jumped 120 percent, with women making up half that number, compared with just a third earlier.
Across the Country
It’s a recurrent theme, playing out in a different way. There are soccer moms and single mothers in Arizona. They are African-American women in North Carolina. In Utah, nearly two-thirds of 2017’s new concealed carry permits were issued to women. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 22-year-old senior Brenna Spencer posted a photo that went viral showing her handgun tucked into her waistband that garnered 8,000 retweets and 65,000 likes on her Twitter page.
These women are joining the 16.3 million law-abiding concealed carry permit holders, along with those in 11 states with constitutional carry laws. The rates of Americans qualifying for permits increased from 240,000 annually just a decade ago to 1.83 million last year alone. Three million Americans surveyed reported carrying firearms every day. The same survey found that roughly 9 million people carried handguns at least once a month
Baffling Legal Landscape
If they plan to travel out of state, these new concealed carry permit holders will discover that the patchwork of America’s gun laws is confusing to navigate. Crossing from one state to another, even by accident, can land a vetted permit holder in jail, even if that person passed multiple background checks and qualified with state-required training. There’s no better example of this than Shaneen Allen, a single mother from Pennsylvania who spent 48 days in a New Jersey jail and faced up to three years in prison before being pardoned by former Gov. Chris Christie.
The varying laws from state-to-state means Second Amendment rights often effectively end at state borders. That’s not hyperbole. It’s leaving law-abiding gun owners frustrated and confused. States with the strictest laws, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, don’t recognize any other state concealed carry permit. That’s enough of a problem, such that 24 state attorneys general signed a letter to U.S. Senate and House of Representative leadership endorsing the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017.
That legislation, S. 446, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), got a boost last week. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who was sworn in less than a month ago, signed on to become the 40thco-sponsor of the bill. It’s the very first bill she’s co-sponsored. Sen. Cornyn recently told NSSF and industry leaders that the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is an unfinished priority he intends to push in the remaining legislative year.
The need for reform of how states should recognize what is a Constitutional right is becoming more evident by the week. Last month, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shaprio dropped Virginia from the list of states from which they would honor concealed carry permits but added Alabama and Idaho. Pennsylvanians will still be permitted to carry concealed in Virginia, however.
Sound confusing? Attorney General Shaprio thought it might. That’s why his office posted an online map to check for permit holders to check on whether might be breaking the law when they carry a concealed firearm to or from the Keystone State.
Time to Act
It’s time to clarify the role of the states and put away the rhetoric. Permit holders are increasing in number even as violent crimes with firearms have been decreasing at a remarkable rate. Permit holders are more law-abiding than the general public and are even convicted of crimes at just one-sixth the rate of police officers, who commit crimes at a rate substantially lower than the general population.
Thousands of women are recognizing this and taking responsibility for their safety. They are claiming their inherent right to self-defense in their hometowns that should be equally applicable anywhere else in America. It is time for Congress to follow the lead of the nation’s newest U.S. senator and pass the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.