Concealed carry licenses recognized nationally: H.R.38 – Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017

nationwide reciprocityUnder the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a citizen would only need the one gun permit regardless of where they are.

While the bill was introduced in December of last year, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 is working its way through Congress.  Despite the simplicity of the bill (including the NICS Fix), the amount of misinformation and propaganda is alarming.

The primary purpose behind the bill is to allow law-abiding, permit-holding citizens to cross state lines while armed and not face any legal repercussions.  The secondary purpose is to update the NICS background check system with accurate records.

Section (a) of the first part of the law, while cumbersome in wording:

“(a) Notwithstanding any provision of the law of any State or political subdivision thereof (except as provided in subsection (b)) and subject only to the requirements of this section, a person who is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm, who is carrying a valid identification document containing a photograph of the person, and who is carrying a valid license or permit which is issued pursuant to the law of a State and which permits the person to carry a concealed firearm or is entitled to carry a concealed firearm in the State in which the person resides, may possess or carry a concealed handgun (other than a machinegun or destructive device) that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, in any State that—

“(1) has a statute under which residents of the State may apply for a license or permit to carry a concealed firearm; or

“(2) does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by residents of the State for lawful purposes.

The law also makes it clear that existing state laws aren’t encroached:

(b) This section shall not be construed to supersede or limit the laws of any State that—

“(1) permit private persons or entities to prohibit or restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property; or

“(2) prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms on any State or local government property, installation, building, base, or park.

Further, the law is amended to allow the possession of firearms in some areas open to the public.

2) A person possessing or carrying a concealed handgun in a State under subsection (a) may do so in any of the following areas in the State that are open to the public:

“(A) A unit of the National Park System.

“(B) A unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

“(C) Public land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management.

“(D) Land administered and managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“(E) Land administered and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation.

“(F) Land administered and managed by the Forest Service.”

Now about the “Fix the NICS” section:

Given the purpose of the legislation, it seems to be a proposition to fix the error made by the U.S. Air Force that led to the church shooting in Texas.  The gist of the section requires all federal agencies to upload any records relating to felony convictions and domestic violence convictions that may not be there, whether by policy or necessity.  Agencies that comply with the section receive preference in funds relating to the Bureau of Justice Assistance Drug Court grant program. Non-compliant agencies aren’t denied funds, but could find their funds delayed until compliance is achieved.  Another risk on non-compliance is the potential for a background check to come back good on someone who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase – the NICS check is only as good as the information contained within.

It should be noted that Fix the NICS has nothing to do with concealed carry reciprocity even though Congress has tied them together.

To address other concerns that have arisen over social media:

  • Could this mean that people from states whose gun laws are weaker than others can carry concealed into my state?  Weaker doesn’t mean ‘worse.’  It’s no secret that some state’s laws are more relaxed than others, but common laws that remain with all fifty states include:  (a) The requirement to pass state and federal background check to buy handguns, (b) the need to fill out an ATF form where you, the buyer, declare that you are not prohibited from purchasing or receiving a firearm, and that you don’t fall under prohibitors under the federal Gun Control Act.  The twelve states that have done away with permits for any form of carry still mandate the passage of background checks prior to purchasing a firearm.
  • How do I know that the person coming into my state has been trained?  The law requires that the person have their home state’s gun permit and driver’s license or state ID on them while carrying across state lines.  Getting a gun permit already requires the passing of a firearms safety course.  Safety courses are taught by individual instructors who are licensed by the state – feel free to contact a locally-licensed instructor to learn about what they teach.
  • I keep hearing about how much more dangerous things will be under this new law.  More than forty states already have formal reciprocity agreements with other states, along with states that have declared that they will honor any permit that comes through.  The first part tells all states to honor any permit they see.
  • Seems like the NRA owns Congress and won’t stop until everyone has a gun.  The National Rifle Association doesn’t do anything different to lobby Congress than any other non-profit.  The anti-gun group, Everytown for Gun Safety, has lobbyists in Congress doing the exact same thing, and it’s arguable that they won’t stop until nobody can get or carry a gun.
  • I thought states had the power to restrict this kind of thing.  Due to gun ownership being a protected constitutional right, this is actually a federal power, but since the courts have left gun regulation largely to the states, Congress hasn’t had much to say until now.  There are a handful of states, including Massachusetts and California, who currently refuse to honor any permits from outside the state.  People are entitled to their view on whether they’d rather guns aren’t carried in either state, but from a legal standpoint, neither state should be infringing on the right to carry.

A few things to keep in mind with this legislation:

  1. It only affects armed citizens who are crossing state lines.  At the time of this bill’s passing, twelve states have ended the need to have a permit when carrying.  If the citizen is only carrying within their state’s borders, they don’t need that permit.
  2. The state of Vermont is the only one that doesn’t issue permits since constitutional carry has always been around there.  It’s been long established that non-resident permits are honored in Vermont, and while it’s common knowledge in the gun community that Vermont doesn’t issue permits, it’s not a legal argument in court.  Considering the legislation requires that you hold a permit from your home state, either 49 states will have to recognize their driver’s license or state ID as a permit, or Vermont will have to issue permits for the sake of nationwide reciprocity.
  3. Nationwide reciprocity doesn’t mean that the culture will change on a dime.  States like Massachusetts, California, and New York have established a culture where carrying a firearm is stigmatized and discouraged.  The goal of this legislation is not to force people to accept a culture of firearm ownership, but rather to ensure that law-abiding citizens aren’t stripped of that right when crossing state lines.