- - Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The right to self-defense is fundamental to a free people. So says the Second Amendment, and Americans hearing it loud and clear are the proud owners of guns enough to arm nearly every man, woman and child. When ne’er-do-wells turn their weapons against the innocent, it’s responsibly armed citizens who must provide defense in the absence of the police. That’s why rules that force concealed carry permit holders to leave their firearms at home when they travel are foolish rules. Congress must finish the job of empowering the good and responsible man and woman with a gun.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would do exactly that. The bill with 213 cosponsors was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week by a vote of 19 to 11. The measure would enable those qualified to carry a concealed handgun in their home states to carry it in another state where “concealed carry” is legal. Those taking weapons across state lines would be required to keep valid photographic identification and a concealed carry permit in their possession.

Such a law would require states to honor the concealed carry permits issued by other states, eliminating the jumble of conflicting regulations that leave gun owners in legal jeopardy if they mistakenly transport a weapon into a nonparticipating state. Fear of winding up in jail causes law-abiding Americans to leave their handguns at home when on the road, defeating the purpose of a concealed carry permit. The law-abiding should be able to exercise a fundamental right to self-defense in every state.

The Senate Republicans appear to be eight votes short of a 60-vote supermajority, and they will need a boost from Democrats, who contend that reciprocity would threaten public safety by requiring jurisdictions with strict concealed carry requirements to honor permits issued by more “permissive” states.

But holders of concealed carry permits are among the most law-abiding, even more abiding than the police themselves. While the general public commits crimes at a rate 37 times greater than police, cops themselves are seven times more likely to run afoul of the law than concealed-carry permit holders, according to studies done in Texas and Florida, says John Lott Jr. of the Crime Prevention Research Center.

As the right-to-carry movement has slowly spread across the nation over the past 30 years, crime has declined. Between 2007 and 2015, the number of concealed carry permits has climbed from 4.6 million to 12.8 million, and murder rates have fallen from 5.6 killings per 100,000 people to 4.2 per 100,000, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center.

Congressmen concerned about keeping their constituents safe should welcome more permit holders. Enacting reciprocity would protect lives. Congress should liberate the good guy with a gun.

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