- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2011

As elected officials in Congress, we take seriously our oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the liberties and rights afforded to American citizens. This includes the Second Amendment, and we believe the bureaucratic, piecemeal right-to-carry reciprocity system in our nation threatens the ability of law-abiding American citizens to exercise this vital constitutional right.

The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, H.R. 822, provides a bipartisan, common-sense solution to this problematic system. We are proud to be sponsors of this legislation, which has overwhelming support in the House, with 245 bipartisan co-sponsors and counting. The intent of our bill is simple: If you can legally carry a concealed weapon in one state, you can legally carry a concealed weapon in all states.

H.R. 822 would allow any person with a valid state-issued concealed-firearm carrying permit or license to carry a concealed weapon in any other state. It would not create a federal licensing system but merely would require states to honor one another’s carry permits, just as states recognize one another’s driver’s licenses. Concealed-carry permit holders would have to obey the concealed-weapon laws of the state they enter, just as drivers must obey speed limits and basic safety laws of whichever state they are driving in, regardless of where they are from.

The ideas proposed in this legislation are not new. In fact, hundreds of reciprocal agreements exist between many states across the country. The problem lies herein: Many of these reciprocal agreements don’t match up, and law-abiding gun owners are left with a confusing piecemeal system in which states recognize permits from some states but not others.

For example, North Carolina recognizes conceal permits from South Carolina and Georgia, but not New Mexico. New Mexico, however, honors conceal permits from North Carolina. This confusing, fast-changing bureaucratic patchwork of reciprocity agreements is difficult for citizens to keep up with and follow. Our legislation would create a more uniform, streamlined and simpler system.

If you look at the statistics, it is clear why our bill has amassed widespread support from law enforcement agencies and both Republicans and Democrats from across the country and political spectrum. It is well-documented that citizens with carry permits are more law-abiding than the general public. In Florida, for example, only 0.01 percent of nearly 1.2 million concealed permits issued have been revoked because of firearm crimes. Additionally, according to the FBI, states with right-to-carry laws have a 22 percent lower total violent crime rate, a 30 percent lower murder rate, a 46 percent lower robbery rate and a 12 percent lower aggravated assault rate compared to the rest of the country. Similar FBI statistics show total violent crime rates drop once states adopt right-to-carry laws. We think these numbers speak for themselves.

American citizens have had the constitutional right to bear arms since the founding of our nation. We think no law-abiding American should be forced to give up this right at the state line. This simple and straightforward legislation is a long-overdue reform that will allow Americans who already carry firearms in a safe and responsible manner to protect themselves and their families when they travel across the United States - nothing more and nothing less.

Rep. Heath Shuler is a North Carolina Democrat. Rep. Cliff Stearns is a Florida Republican.

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