The House of Representatives is expected to take up concealed carry reciprocity legislation today (Tuesday, Nov. 15). H.R. 822, sponsored by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), will allow many people who possess a concealed carry permit in one state to carry in other states as well.
While well-intentioned, there are several concerns with this legislation. In an effort to address these issues, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) introduced separate legislation (H.R. 2900), which has the support of GOA.
Please read on to learn more about specific problems with H.R. 822 (the bill coming to the floor tomorrow) and the differences between it and H.R. 2900.
And then, it is vitally important for all gun owners to contact their Representatives and urge them to cosponsor H.R. 2900.
Flaw #1: H.R. 822 Destroys Vermont Carry
In Vermont, it has long been the case that law-abiding residents and non-residents alike could carry a concealed firearm, except for use in the commission of a crime. The state, incidentally, also has the distinction of consistently being ranked one of the safest states in the country.
H.R. 822 does not grant reciprocity to residents of Vermont, as the bill requires the presence of a physical permit in order to qualify. The state would be forced to move to a permit system for purposes of reciprocity, in effect being punished for having a system that is “too pro-gun.”
Separate legislation H.R. 2900—supported by GOA and introduced by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA)—would recognize the right of Vermont residents to carry in other states, requiring only that a picture identification (such as a drivers license) be in possession of the person carrying.
Flaw #2: H.R. 822 Undermines Constitutional Carry
Following the lead of Vermont, several states have taken up the issue of Constitutional Carry—where citizens do not need to obtain government permission before carrying a concealed firearm. Criminals, after all, are not inclined to line up at the sheriff’s office or police department in order to obtain a permit to carry, so such requirements primarily burden the law-abiding segment of society.
In recent years, Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming have passed Constitutional Carry laws based on the Vermont model. Montana passed such a law that covers 98% of the state, and Texas passed a “constitutional carry lite” law that applies to firearms carried in a vehicle.
These states, however, left in place a permitting system specifically for the purposes of reciprocity. And although upwards of 6 million Americans have obtained permits, most gun owners do not get a permit because they don’t like a system that treats their liberty as a privilege granted by the government.
About 98% of the adult American population, therefore, will be left out of the expansion of rights under (H.R. 822) whereas under H.R. 2900, more and more citizens will be covered as Constitutional Carry gains momentum. In this important respect, H.R. 822 pulls the rug out from under state legislatures which are considering Constitutional Carry, while H.R. 2900 does not.
Flaw #3: H.R. 822 Does Not Help Many Residents in “May Issue” States
H.R. 822 allows for carry in any state except for Illinois and the state of one’s residence. This will prove to be a major obstacle for gun owners to carry in their home states in many instances.
In many states, a person must be one of the lucky few or well-connected citizens in order to get a carry permit. Simply put, in some areas (i.e., California, Maryland, and Massachusetts), it’s nearly impossible for residents to get a permit.
Residents can get an out-of-state permit, but under H.R. 822 they would be unable to carry in their home state. This, obviously, creates the odd situation of requiring states to recognize the permits of non-state residents, but not recognizing those of state residents who have out-of-state permits.
On the contrary, H.R. 2900 allows recognition in any state that allows concealed carry, thus letting citizens who live in these restrictive “may issue” states to still carry handguns in their home state so long as they hold a valid out-of-state permit.
In the landmark McDonald v. Chicago decision (2010), the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment is incorporated to the states by the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. H.R. 2900 simply puts “teeth” into that ruling.
Flaw #4: H.R. 822 Takes Expansive View of the Commerce Clause
H.R. 822 relies on an abused and expansive view of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The bill states that because firearms “have been shipped in interstate commerce,” the Congress in justified in passing this legislation. That is not the “commerce” the Founder’s envisioned as they sought to remove barriers of interstate trade.
The modern and broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause would, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Gonzales v. Raich), confer on the federal government the power to “regulate virtually anything – [until] the federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”
The Broun bill ensures that citizens enjoy the “full faith and credit” protection that is guaranteed in Article IV of the Constitution.
Respecting the Constitution
Any federal legislation that imposes demands on the states must be scrutinized carefully by the language of the Constitution. At this point, a cynic might correctly point out that Congress passes bills on a weekly basis that go beyond what the Constitution allows. But we must be especially careful, as people who work towards federalism and constitutional government, not to fall into the trap of the end justifying the means.
H.R. 822 would certainly benefit many Americans, although that number represents only a small fraction of all gun owners. But the bill has several deep flaws that could be fixed by Rep. Broun’s legislation.
ACTION: Contact your Representative and ask that he or she urge the leaders of the House to amend H.R. 822 to fix its serious concerns. The pre-written letter also asks your Rep. to cosponsor the Broun legislation.
Used with the permission of Gun Owners of America