As the Senate begins to debate reforming the nation’s gun laws, one issue has cropped up that could change the tenor of the whole discussion on Capitol Hill: universal concealed carry reciprocity.
According to the Washington Post, Senate Republicans plan on introducing an amendment that would allow individuals with valid state-issued concealed firearm permits to carry a concealed firearm in any other state that also issues concealed firearm permits or licenses.
In other words, and in theory (the language of the amendment has yet to be finalized), a law-abiding gun owner with a CCW in Florida or Wyoming or wherever would be able to carry concealed in all the other 49 states without fear of being arrested or brought up on charges for illegal weapons possession.
Toward the end of 2011, the House of Representatives actually passed a national reciprocity bill, called H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, by a bipartisan vote of 272-154. At that time, supporters of the bill likened it to drivers’ licenses.
Former Congressman Bob Barr said, “the bill is based on the Constitution’s ‘full faith and credit clause,’ which is also the basis of other laws that guarantee state-issued licenses — like drivers’ licenses — are recognized by states other than the ones issuing them.”
“It’s kind of like having a driver’s license,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) told POLITICO in a Nov. 2011 interview. “There are some states that have stricter driving laws than others.”
Unfortunately, the National Right-to Carry Reciprocity Act never made its way through the Senate (it came close, two votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster), thanks to a coordinated effort by New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who submarined the bill by arguing it threatened public safety and would put police officers at greater risk.
Now, though, the landscape has shifted and pro-gun Senators might see a national reciprocity amendment as a way to buffer a vote for the controversial Manchin-Toomey proposal on expanded background checks. Instead of coming back to their constituents empty-handed or with a look of defeat, lawmakers could argue that they negotiated a fair deal, conceding background checks in exchange for concealed carry reciprocity.
Initially, Sen. Toomey (R-PA) wanted to include a CCW reciprocity provision in his proposal, but Democrats at the negotiating table nixed the idea, saying that he’d have to offer it up as a separate amendment. Nevertheless, Toomey is optimistic about its chances.
“I hope we get there,” Toomey told reporters.
Universal concealed carry reciprocity is anathema to gun control proponents. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called it “the most pernicious” amendment under consideration, adding, “This legislation could change Times Square into the OK Corral.”
“To allow criminals to go to other states, get a permit for concealed carry, and then carry their guns concealed here is outrageous,” Schumer explained. “Times Square is different than rural Wyoming, and our police don’t need even law abiding citizens having the right to carry guns.”
Schumer also expressed serious concern about the CCW reciprocity amendment being approved, which could, some gun control activists have argued, derail the entire debate and prevent any gun control reform bill from clearing the Senate.
“God forbid it gets in the main legislation. … Then people would have to weigh what to do,” Schumer lamented.
Meanwhile, conservative Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) embraced nationwide CCW reciprocity (start video above at 7:00 minute mark).
“Someone who has a conceal-carry permit has been background-checked. That’s why they have one…I think that should be part of the bill,” he told ABC’s This Week.
What will happen? That could depend on us. Over the next few days, we should be pushing our respective senators to fully support the national concealed carry reciprocity amendment.
[I’m going to contact mine today. Let’s see, I live in California, so that means I would have to contact… Damn. I guess it’s up to you guys.]