Gun rights advocacy groups believe that, with a Republican President and the GOP’s retention of both chambers of Congress, now is the time for not just fending off attacks on gun rights, but to go on the offense at the federal level.
One of the highest priorities for these groups is federal legislation that would require every state to honor the concealed carry permits issued by every other state.
The appeal of such legislation is undeniable and the logic difficult to refute. Why, after all, would a person’s life cease to be worthy of defending simply by virtue of the person having crossed into another state?
Furthermore, requiring every state to recognize carry permits issued in other states seems well in keeping with the Constitution’s full faith and credit clause, which states: “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.”
Such legislation has been introduced in every recent Congressional session, but hopes for it seem to be particularly high since last November’s election. The exact language differs from one bill to another, with some versions even specifying a mechanism to protect the rights of citizens of “Constitutional carry” states—states that do not issue concealed carry permits because they require no such permit.
The forcible citizen disarmament lobby, their pet politicians, and a complicit mainstream media are all horrified at the possibility, with the Los Angeles Times, for example, calling such legislation “absurd and dangerous.”
One of the more amusing aspects of this debate is that it has led “gun control” advocates, who as a group tend to be enthusiastic about shifting the balance of power from the states to the federal government, to suddenly wail about what they have decided is an attack on “states’ rights.”
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) passionately argued on the Senate floor against a national concealed carry reciprocity bill, crying “Leave us alone. Leave us alone,” while at the same time fervently supporting restrictive federal gun laws that would be imposed on all 50 states.
But would national CCW reciprocity truly be an unmixed blessing for gun rights advocates? Or should we perhaps be a bit more careful what we wish for? It’s hard to find anything not to like in the near-term effects of such a law. More Americans would legally have an effective means of defending their and their loved ones’ lives while traveling around the country.
If the changes stopped there, everyone wins, except for the predatory criminals and the “gun control” advocates who empower them by rendering the rest of us defenseless.
The problem is, there would seem to be no guarantee the changes would stop there. The concern is that, with the federal government having gotten its foot in the door for regulating concealed carry in the states, nothing would stop it from imposing new restrictions the next time power shifts in Washington, D.C.
Most federal regulation of guns is unconstitutional for two reasons. The Second Amendment, with its “shall not be infringed,” is the most obvious one. But the Tenth Amendment’s prohibition against Congress imposing laws in areas not specifically enumerated by the Constitution as being within the federal government’s purview is also a steep hill for a gun law to climb. Or it should be.
Actually, the federal government has been passing gun laws since 1927 and has justified doing so by arguing that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual’s right to own firearms, only a “collective” right—a concept sufficiently hazy that it does not really have to be honored at all.
To bypass the Tenth Amendment, Congress claims every gun law regulates interstate commerce (even when the gun never crosses a state line), and so is within Congress’ authority.
The “collective right” argument was soundly discredited with the Supreme Court’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision of 2008, although few supporters of onerous gun laws seem to have fully given up hope of bringing that concept back from the dead. Depending on how the political winds blow, that may indeed happen.
But now, it is gun rights advocates who are inviting the federal government into the business of regulating the keeping and bearing of arms. Once we do that, how can we later claim that the federal government has no legitimate authority in this area?
The obvious answer is we cannot— not, anyway, without becoming as hypocritical as Senator Boxer was when she whined about the federal government imposing any measure of control over how guns are regulated in California, while at the same time pushing federal laws that would be inflicted on the residents of every state in the union.
Yes, national concealed carry reciprocity may indeed be a battle we can win. But in winning that battle, will we make it much more difficult to win the war?