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Concealed-carry reciprocity loaded in Congress

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Freedom to travel with arms would unlock the Second Amendment

While 2013 was a year of Second Amendment advocates on defense, 2014 is lining up to be a year of gaining ground on gun rights. President Obama continues to issue his dictates. Michael R. Bloomberg is still throwing around millions of dollars. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is just keeping a finger in the dike on Capitol Hill until the midterms. But the American people are ready to get back to strengthening their rights to keep and bear arms.

On Monday, Sen. John Cornyn introduced the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which is the first pro-gun legislation leveled since the showdown over Mr. Obama's gun control votes last April.

"It strikes me that, at a time we're talking about the role of guns in society, we should acknowledge that it is a constitutional right," the Texas Republican told me in an interview Wednesday. "Law-abiding people buy and use guns for legitimate purposes, protecting themselves and their families."

He added that the iron is hot since Illinois became the 50th state to allow for concealed carry, after being forced by the federal courts in 2013 to rewrite its laws.

Anti-gun activists have attempted to make Mr. Cornyn's bill seem extremist. "There's some scaremongering going on out there, but it's pretty straightforward," he said. "It's like a driver's license. It doesn't trump state laws. Say you have a carry permit in Texas; then you use it in another state that has a concealed-carry law."

This popular, common-sense legislation is necessary because the current system is totally convoluted. Each state decides which permits from other states it recognizes as lawful, and some recognize none. Gun owners are stuck doing extensive legal research to travel, but they can still get caught in the thicket. Mr. Cornyn said, "There are some jurisdictions like to play 'gotcha.'"

That is exactly what just happened over New Year's when Maryland police held a Florida man at a traffic stop for three hours to search his car because records showed he had a carry permit. John Filippidis didn't even bring his gun when he drove his wife to a family wedding in New Jersey. But Mr. Filippidis told The Tampa Bay Tribune that he was treated "like a criminal" in anti-gun Maryland for having a gun permit, and he wasn't even cited for a traffic violation.

Mr. Cornyn is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is the first hurdle to a floor vote. (The House passed this legislation in 2011.) Mr. Cornyn last brought up the bill in April as an amendment to "Manchin-Toomey," which was a legislative vehicle for Mr. Obama's gun grab. While the president's agenda only got 52 of the 60 votes needed for passage, concealed carry got 57 votes.

With many Democrats in rural or Western states up for re-election in 2014, Mr. Reid will have to revert to his current dictatorial tactics to prevent getting concealed carry to a vote and possibly passing. The Democratic leader has allowed only four roll-call votes on Republican amendments since July.

The voters' support for the Second Amendment has become so important again that Mr. Cornyn's most well-known primary opponent — of seven — is trying to outgun him in the campaign. Rep. Steve Stockman has touted his endorsement from Gun Owners of America and sent out repeated press releases attacking Mr. Cornyn's record on firearms rights.

Last week, Mr. Stockman put out a statement that said Mr. Cornyn had "opened a new front in the Left's War on Guns." The Texas Republican congressman wrote that a bill on access to firearms for the mentally ill is "nearly identical to Barack Obama's latest Executive Order."

An amused Mr. Cornyn responded, "He must be clairvoyant because the bill hasn't been written yet."

Mr. Stockman's spokesman, Don Ferguson, explained, "The federal NICS gun-owner database was part of the anti-gun Brady Bill, and any proposal to expand it is another attack on gun rights." He added, "No wonder John Cornyn told Texas Monthly, 'I'm not sure what the point is about open carry.'"

Mr. Cornyn said, "Part of what goes along with running for office is, people will misrepresent and lie about your record, and mine is rock solid." The National Rifle Association endorsed the senator for the March 4 primary and gives him an A+ rating.

Gun Owners of America lowered Mr. Cornyn's rating from an A+ in November to a B in December. The group's founder, Larry Pratt, told me in an interview Wednesday that the reduction was a result of the Texas senator's opposition to fellow Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's filibuster over defunding Obamacare back in October.

"This massive privacy invasion on veterans' psychiatric records will be used as a predicate to grabbing their guns," Mr. Pratt said of the health care law. "We think it is pretty major because it's a backdoor issue that has to be explained, and already there's knocking on doors." Mr. Cornyn would only say that the rating drop "sounds like politics to me."

Mr. Pratt explained that his organization is backing Mr. Stockman because he "enjoys fighting" and is an "activist like Cruz who gets out of bed thinking, 'Which liberal head can I make explode today?'"

In a recent poll by Wilson Perkins Allen in Texas, Mr. Cornyn had 50 percent of GOP support, while Mr. Stockman had just 6 percent. Nevertheless, the fact that a congressman is trying to outgun a sitting senator with an impeccable record shows how important the issue is in the nation's second-largest state.

The resurrection of proactive Second Amendment policy and politics shows that the American people will not be cowed by a New York City billionaire or a president who is totally out of touch with their views on the right to keep and bear arms.

Emily Miller is a senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of "Emily Gets Her Gun" (Regnery, 2013).

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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