What if I told you that the Federal Government is not doing enough to impose laws on individual states? Probably you would give me the well-rehearsed and sound arguments for limiting Federal power, and further reductions in the size of the State.
However, there is one – and perhaps only one – area in which Federal action is much needed: Concealed Carry reciprocity. At the moment, there is an absurd patchwork of state-level laws covering the right to carry a concealed weapon, and responsible gun owners often accidentally commit crimes by traveling across state lines with their concealed weapon.
This piece of legislation represents a brief and unusual moment of common sense on behalf of national lawmakers. With so many States now willing to recognize concealed carry permits issued elsewhere, it is finally time to standardize the situation across these “united” States. Even anti-gun liberals would now have to admit that the present system of concealed carry permits is simply not fit for purpose.
Before I go through the details of the act, let’s look at a few real-life situations where it would have an effect. Remember the recent shooting at an Alexandria, Va., during the Congressional Baseball Game?
Well, I don’t meant to take anything away from the heroic Capitol Police officers who responded to the threat. Without their swift action in neutralizing the shooter, the incident could have been much worse. As Rand Paul later told CNN, “Nobody would have survived without the Capitol Hill police … it would have been a massacre without them.”
A much under-reported aspect of the story, though, is that because it took place in the District of Columbia, even those members of Congress who normally carry a weapon in their home State were caught unarmed. This is because the DoC is one of the few remaining States that does not recognize concealed carry permits issued elsewhere. As Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) noted, “We had nothing but bats to defend ourselves.”
Though the attempted shooting grabbed the headlines, it’s also worth paying attention to the myriad smaller problems created by the current situation with concealed carry. Take a look at the maps produced by USA Carry, which detail which States honor concealed carry permits, and you’ll spot an immediate problem: there are five different levels of recognition, and no reasonable citizen is going to spend hours researching where their permit applies, and where it doesn’t.
In practice, this means that everyday hundreds of Americans accidentally break the law by carrying their pistol across State Lines. This is a blatant limitation of our right to self-defense, a right which is particularly important for the growing number of women who carry a handgun for self-defense. As the NY Daily News points out, if you are going on a long car journey across State lines, you may want to carry a gun.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (HR 38) aims to change this, by requiring states to recognize licenses issued elsewhere. While Michael Bloomberg and the rest of the anti-gun lobby have recently claimed victory against this measure, in reality it now has 212 co-sponsors, and needs just a little more support to pass.
Those who oppose the measure claim that it will lead to an increase in gun-related crime. This is an absurd argument, for the simple reason that the only people who are going to be affected by this law already have a concealed carry permit and regularly carry. Now, we can argue about whether the process for applying for such a permit is stringent enough. But I don’t think anyone can argue that criminals care if their permit is recognized across State lines.
The act is being pushed hard by the current administration. Though many have tried and failed to get detail on Trump’s actual policy toward gun control, the fact remains that he became President with the backing of the NRA, and concealed carry reciprocity is one of that organization’s biggest objectives.
The NRA make grand claims for concealed carry reciprocity. John Boch, the executive director of Illinois-based Guns Save Life, and a member of the Second Amendment Coalition tasked with advising Trump on gun issues, sees the act in historical terms.
“[No other president] has ever had a coalition that was tasked with unwinding gun control from the last 100-plus years and restoring the Second Amendment to what it was originally written, back to approaching 230, 240 years ago,” he told Al Jazeera. “I don’t know of any administration that has respected the Second Amendment, not in the last century, certainly not into this century, until we’ve had Donald Trump here. And it’s amazing, the change.”
Call me a sceptic, but I’m not sure that the act, in itself, will have this effect. Nonetheless, it is just one part of a broader commitment to Second Amendment rights currently shown by this government. There is just one problem …
The Case For Federal Legislation
The problem is that concealed carry reciprocity is a classic example of the application of Federal power on individual States, something which I normally oppose.
Historically, the power of our home states were what protected us against the normally anti-gun Federal government. This was especially true during the Obama years. As a liberal conservative, I therefore found myself arguing strongly, for many years, that the rights of my own State should not be overrun by the Fed.
On the other side, the debate over the bill has exposed a strange paradox in the position of the ideological left: while they remain committed to the big state, and to ridiculous levels of Federal oversight, in this particular area they hypocritically recognize States’ rights.
It seems, therefore, that the bill has inverted the normal positions of right and left on the balance of power between government and States. You may have your own feelings about this, of course, but I would say that as pragmatic conservatives, we should be flexible: it is no hypocrisy to say that, in this particular issue, the House needs to act to protect our freedoms.