The top legislative priority for gun owners in the previous Congress was passage of a national concealed carry reciprocity bill. The measure sailed through the House on a bipartisan 272 to 154 vote only to die at the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who refused to bring it to the floor. Since President Obama won’t waste an opportunity to exploit the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the measure is being brought back to life.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, Indiana Republican, earlier this month proposed a law to give anyone who can legally carry a concealed weapon in his home state the right to do so in another. Citizens of Arizona, Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska, where permits are not required, wouldn’t have to obtain one to take advantage of the reciprocity.
“If we’re going to talk about gun laws, let’s make sure both sides are presented to the American people,” Mr. Stutzman says. “This is nothing disrespectful to Newtown or other shootings. This is more for law-abiding citizens — who have a right to carry in their states — to eliminate confusion so they have their Second Amendment rights protected and recognized.” The National Rifle Association supports this legislation.
Illinois was the last state in the union refusing to recognize the right to bear arms, but an appeals court in December declared the Illinois policy unconstitutional. The Illinois legislature has until this summer to adopt a concealed-carry law. That leaves the District of Columbia the only jurisdiction in the country that won’t allow Americans to leave home with a legal firearm.
There’s a need for clarity on carry policies. Some states recognize only their own permit, while others recognize the permits of states with which they have reciprocity agreements. Some states issue non-resident carry permits that can be used within their own borders or are acceptable in certain other states.
“We have a very mobile society,” explains Mr. Stutzman, who has had an Indiana carry permit since 2009. “When people question whether they can carry in a certain state and err on the side of confusion and not take the gun, they just had their Second Amendment right infringed upon.”
The right to bear arms is crucial as a deterrent to crime. Over the past 20 years, the number of “shall issue” states has gone up by 21, while violent crime has steadily declined to the lowest levels in history. Criminals target places where they know no one else is armed, including the gun-free zones of Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., and the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc.
Despite the demonstrated benefits, some states are moving in the wrong direction. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane issued a notice earlier this month denying citizens the ability to carry on a non-resident Florida permit.
This is why a national reciprocity law is needed. Reluctant state attorneys general should not have the ability to deny Second Amendment rights based on their fact-free personal beliefs. House leaders should show courage, and take up this legislation. America’s 100 million law-abiding gun owners deserve their constitutional rights.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.