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RITTGERS: Pistol packin’ mamas

Women need national concealed-carry reciprocity

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Some states would like to remove the words "bear arms" from the right to "keep and bear arms," but the plain fact is that self-defense - and the right to have access to an effective means of self-defense - is protected by the Constitution, and that protection does not end at your front door. The good news is that the House recently passed a bill, H.R. 822, that would require the 49 states that issue concealed-carry permits to honor all state permits. If this bill becomes law, it would be an important step in the right direction and would help women protect themselves against violence while traveling.

What exactly does a concealed-carry permit allow? It merely gives permission to the permit holder to carry a firearm concealed on his person. That's it. It means that a mom can carry a handgun in her purse when she goes shopping, a family can travel with a firearm in the glove compartment of the car (instead of the trunk, which hinders access in an emergency), and a hiker can wear a handgun under her jacket during a hiking trip.

Though the precise application procedure is different in each state, those states issuing permits generally require at a minimum a background check, review by a judge or law enforcement official and payment of a fee. Many states also require a firearms training course.

Unfortunately, states do not uniformly recognize permits issued by other states, and the decisions regarding reciprocity rarely have any rational explanation. This is especially problematic in certain areas of the country, such as the Washington metropolitan area, where the holder of a lawful Virginia concealed-carry permit with a firearm in her purse can become a criminal merely by taking a wrong turn into Maryland.

The website handgunlaw.us provides up-to-date information about the nation's gun laws and ever-changing concealed-carry reciprocity. Michigan and Arkansas permits have the largest reciprocity and are recognized in 39 states. However, Maine's permit is honored in just eight. Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Dakota and Utah honor any valid concealed-carry permit. But California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island do not honor any other state's permit. Illinois and the District of Columbia stand alone in barring all residents from carrying concealed firearms.

Congress has solid constitutional authority to mandate reciprocity among states with concealed-carry laws, which does not rely on a strained interpretation of the commerce clause. The Supreme Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right protected by the Constitution, and in McDonald v. Chicago, it held that the 14th Amendment prevents states from infringing upon that right. Article IV's privileges and immunities clause protects the rights of interstate travel by granting people who are visiting another state the same rights and privileges granted to that state's residents, and the full faith and credit clause gives Congress the ability to compel states to recognize certain decisions made by other states. Therefore, if a state issues permits that grant its own residents the ability to carry concealed firearms while in that state, Congress clearly has the power to mandate that that state extend that same privilege to residents of other states.

As a matter of policy, citizens who pass a background check and a training class should not be barred from bearing arms outside of their homes or home jurisdictions. The ability to carry a weapon can be even more important when traveling, especially for women.

In many cases, women lack the physical ability to defend themselves against or outrun would-be assailants. Intangible factors that make women vulnerable are heightened when traveling because of a tourist's lack of familiarity with her surroundings and local trends in crime.

Taking away a woman's access to effective means of self-defense makes her an even more attractive target. As a woman and a concealed-carry permit holder, I should not have my right and my ability to protect myself and my family depend on what state issues my permit.

Anna Rittgers is a Virginia attorney and senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum.

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