This is an op-ed by Wide Open Spaces Associate Editor Ellen Fishbein. It does not represent the views or opinions of Wide Open Spaces as a publication.
There are many advantages to nationwide concealed carry reciprocity. However, we have a responsibility to consider the possible unintended consequences.
Recently, a bill to ensure national concealed carry reciprocity has been proposed in U.S. Congress. In other words, if you can legally carry in New Hampshire, you would be allowed to carry in California. Sounds great, right?
To us pro-gun folks, it's common sense, hearkening back to the point we go blue in the face making: the more guns there are, the less crime. I won't go into all the evidence for that here, but if you want to see a bulletproof (ha-ha) argument, you will love More Guns, Less Crime by respected Second Amendment advocate John R. Lott.
It also seems like straight-up better hospitality. The way I see it, not honoring concealed carry permits across State lines is like a State saying, "Criminals can have guns here, but you can't." Not polite.
However, imagine, for a minute, that you're a staunch anti-gun person. I know, I know... bear with me.
As an anti-gun person, concealed carry reciprocity is one of your worst nightmares. So, if the newly proposed bill passes in Congress, you are going to fight back. On the State level, you're going to try to create more "gun-free" zones. You're also going to further restrict the kinds of guns that are legal to own and carry.
Worse yet, let's say reciprocity is passed, but the NFA does NOT get repealed. As an anti-gun person, you might be part of a group that pushes federal restrictions on Second Amendment rights. Your desire to do this will be further amplified by the HUGE recent trend in constitutional carry: the right of any legal gun owner to carry a handgun without a special license. (Currently, constitutional carry States cover 40% of the U.S.). If Congress leaves your State powerless against out-of-state concealed carriers, you are going to do everything in your power, whether at the local or federal level, to restrict those people's rights.
Okay, take a deep breath; you can remove your anti-gun hat now.
The reality is, national concealed carry reciprocity does not necessarily protect our rights as gun owners.
Whether we like it or not, this is a piece of federal legislation, and that opens up opportunities for more federal control over gun rights.
"Hold it right there! The U.S. Constitution is a piece of federal legislation, and it guarantees my right to bear arms," you could argue.
I'd love to be living in a nation where everyone agreed that the Second Amendment clause means what you and I think it means. But there's a difference between how we believe things should be and how things really are.
In truth, we don't all agree on what the Second Amendment means, and until we do, a federal law such as nationwide reciprocity could open a very dangerous can of worms. In this kind of climate, we can manage the risk of widespread anti-gun legislation by leaving issues like concealed carry reciprocity up to the States. Then, at least, people in anti-gun States don't have an extra excuse to try to impose their views on the rest of us.
Are anti-gun folks wrong? Yes, I believe they are. But, they are a large proportion of American citizens, and they're represented by many anti-gun lawmakers and judges at all levels of government. Even though the political climate is in gun owners' favor right now, we can't depend on that to last forever--and when the tides change, concealed carry reciprocity could become more of a liability than an advantage to law-abiding gun owners.
Those are my thoughts on the pros and cons this proposed bill. What's your take?