The U.S. House isn’t the only place where National Right-to-Carry reciprocity is up for debate this week—it’s also being debated on op-ed pages and social media as well. From what I’ve seen, the argument from gun control activists seems to hinge on the idea of “local control”: Local communities should have the authority to set their own laws when it comes to who can carry a concealed firearm. I’ve even heard a few Second Amendment supporters express misgivings about the proposed legislation, based on a philosophical desire to advance “federalism” or “states’ rights.” While I most definitely subscribe to a philosophy of limited government, it seems to me that the real argument about national Right-to-Carry reciprocity isn’t one of “federal rights” versus “states’ rights.” It’s one of “individual rights” versus “government authority.”
The Supreme Court has recognized that our right to keep and bear arms is a right held by individual Americans. In the Heller case, the Court struck down Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns, and two years later, the Court sent Chicago’s gun ban to the dustbin of history as well. In doing so, the majority of the Supreme Court declared that our right to keep and bear arms can’t be violated by any level of government, be it from the overarching federal government to the smallest town council. What other enumerated right do we completely lose when we leave the confines of the state we live in? When I was in Bristol for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race earlier this year, I didn’t possess more First Amendment rights on the Virginia side of State Street than when I was standing on the Tennessee side of the road. My Fourth Amendment rights aren’t null and void if I travel from Alexandria, Va., to Washington, D.C. Why should my right to bear arms be nullified? Or, to put a real human face to this question, why should women like Shaneen Allen face years in prison for bringing a legally owned firearm from Pennsylvania into New Jersey?
With the election of Phil Murphy in New Jersey, gun owners from outside the Garden State who make the egregious error of thinking their constitutionally protected rights are acknowledged there can expect a rude awakening. Personally, I worry about Virginia turning into another state hostile to the Right to Carry. At the moment, Virginia has what amounts to universal recognition of concealed-carry licenses, but that only happened after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring scrapped a majority of Virginia’s concealed-carry reciprocity agreements with other states. The resulting uproar caused Governor Terry McAuliffe to step in and broker a deal with Republicans in the legislature, resulting in the reciprocity agreements being restored and strengthened. Now McAuliffe is on his way out, and Herring is still the attorney general. Ralph Northam, the governor-elect, had a lot of help from Michael Bloomberg and gun control groups, and certainly won’t stand in the way of our anti-gun AG. I don’t want to see Virginia become the kind of place where we put people in prison for bringing a gun they legally own and carry in their home state into ours.
To me, that’s the question at the heart of this current debate. Our courts, but more importantly our Constitution—as well as the constitutions of more than 40 states—have declared the right to keep and bear arms to be an individual right. Not a privilege, but a right. When it comes to concealed-carry laws, there are fewer than 10 states left that still require individuals to show some sort of special need before they can carry a firearm. And not one state has gone back to that standard once they switched to a “shall-issue” system. For the past 30 years, the movement in the Right-to-Carry debate has been in one direction—toward full recognition of that right. At a time when voices on the Left and the Right are talking about the need for criminal justice reform, it is appalling that so many anti-gun politicians and activists don’t want to recognize our right to bear arms—they want to criminalize it, complete with a prison sentence and a felony conviction. It’s time to fully legalize the Second Amendment in the handful of states that refuse to acknowledge the plain text of the Constitution and the Supreme Court decisions. If it takes an act of Congress, then so be it. It’s time for national Right-to-Carry reciprocity.
Use Your Power!
Please contact your U.S. representative and ask him or her to vote YES on H.R.38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. To reach your representative by phone, call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative’s office. Or, to reach your representative via email,click here.