Yesterday saw the first congressional hearing on H.R.822, a bill to make concealed carry reciprocity universal in the United States (click here for an overview of what H.R.822 proposes). In that hearing members of congress heard from Charles H. Ramsey, commissioner of police for the city of Philadelphia, PA. And he wasn’t too pleased with the idea.

It didn’t take long for Commissioner Ramsey to get to the point.

I am here today to urge Congress to oppose H.R.822, the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act.” This bill would eliminate the right that states now have to set their own public safety laws, in consultation with law enforcement professionals. This legislation is not aligned with our vision for the future of policing. It is counter to what the field of law enforcement needs to create safer neighborhoods, towns and cities.

The main point that Commissioner Ramsey makes in his testimony is that the law would remove the ability for each state to set their own rules about concealed carry. It’s a point that he articulates very well and, at least on the surface, makes a lot of sense.

Every state legislature has intensely debated what minimum standards should apply within their borders and has put those standards in place. For example, thirty-eight states will not grant permits to people convicted of certain violent misdemeanors, such as assault, stalking or sex offenses. Thirty-six states do not issue permits to people under the age of twenty-one. Twenty-nine states deny permits to alcohol abusers, including—in many states—people convicted of driving under the influence. And thirty-five states require some type of gun safety training or live-fire practice.

We have a uniquely diverse nation. What works where I currently serve as Commissioner in Philadelphia, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, does not work for our neighbor across the river in New Jersey. Our laws for obtaining a permit are vastly different, based on well-debated decisions made at the state level. This bill would allow people to carry concealed and loaded guns in every state, without consideration for the minimum standards created by their governments.

The idea of each state having the right to dictate the law of the land within their own borders is something that dates back even to the Articles of Confederation and is one of the fundamental beliefs of the United States. It’s a brilliant point (and one that I agree with), quickly followed up by another brilliant point.

Consider the following situation, which could happen if this bill were to become law. A police officer in Brookfield, Wisconsin has just pulled over a speeding driver who is a resident of Texas. Through conversation with the driver, the officer learns that he has a gun, and the driver presents a concealed carry permit from Utah, which grants non-resident permits.

How is the Brookfield officer supposed to verify that the Utah permit is real and up-to-date? And to what degree does the out-of-state and non-resident permit give the officer confidence that the individual is responsible, well-trained and thoroughly vetted?

This is all happening in the context of a traffic stop where tensions may already be running high. The officer is faced with an individual who has a loaded gun, and the officer is unable to verify whether the person is carrying that gun legally. With this law in effect, police would see an out-of-state permit, and simply be required to honor it. The consequences for our front-line police officers could be severe and dire.

As it stands right now, there is no centralized system to verify concealed firearms permits. Such a system exists with driver’s licenses, but the records for concealed carry permits are stored (or not) in individual counties across the United States. Implementing national reciprocity without fixing that issue may lead to counterfit permits and unfortunate outcomes.

Despite these excellent arguments, the Commissioner didn’t exactly seal the deal. He tried to present a case where someone was denied a concealed carry permit in their own state, got it somewhere else with reciprocity, and then committed a heinous murder.

In 2005, a man named Marqus Hill had his concealed carry permit revoked by Philadelphia Police after he had been charged with attempted murder. During the revocation hearing, he attacked an officer. But later, he got a new permit from Florida despite his record. Hill then used his Florida permit to carry a loaded gun in Philadelphia. He eventually shot a teenager thirteen times in the chest, killing him in the street.

Cases such as Marqus Hill, unfortunately, are becoming more ordinary, as more people whose desire is to cause harm, use the current system to circumvent Pennsylvania’s process.

What the Commissioner failed to mention was that the teenager he shot was attempting to steal Mr. Hill’s car. In the state of Pennsylvania, the use of deadly force is justified in the defense of one’s property (car, in this case) under state law 18 Pa.C.S. § 507. He has been charged with murder by the Philly D.A.’s office, but as far as I can tell has yet to be convicted.

The other interesting testimonial slight of hand comes from the statement that “[c]ases such as Marqus Hill, unfortunately, are becoming more ordinary.” If the only case you have available to cite comes from a single incident in 2005 and you’re not able to provide statistical evidence to back up your claim then it becomes a little fishy. If cases like these are becoming more ordinary, then why don’t you present some more cases to back that claim up?

Commissioner Ramsey’s case to congress brings up some good arguments, but failed to back them with anything beyond hypothetical situations and one cherry-picked case. He tried to tie it all together with his closing paragraph.

As we face the challenge of keeping our citizens and our officers safe, I ask Washington to partner with local law enforcement agencies, and develop reasonable approaches that protect citizens, protect our officers, and support states’ rights to provide public safety for their communities.

While I would love to carry in Times Square, this actually might be the best immediate outcome we could hope for. If the only thing this bill did was open the conversation on a national scale and start to get people working on solutions to these issues then I’d be happy. For now. The current bill’s chances in Congress are about as good as my chances of owning a full auto M240, but with the elections coming up things may start to look a little more rosy.

View the full text of Commissioner Ramsey’s testimony here.

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53 Responses to Philly Police Commissioner’s Testimony on H.R. 822 – National Concealed Carry

  1. As soon as I saw “Philly Police” in the title, I knew what his opinion would be on HR 822.

    Here in PA, Philly cops are notoriously corrupt and ignorant of carry laws. You hear stories every day of CC/OC gun owners being hassled, threatened, and sometimes arrested for legally carrying. Philly PD is a joke and it’s no surprise the commissar in charge of the thugs is against this.

    “This legislation is not aligned with our vision for the future of population control. It is counter to what the field of law enforcement needs to create more dependent neighborhoods, towns and cities.”

    -fixed that for ya.

      • I’m sure both DC and Philly have super low crime rates, with their restrictive gun laws and all *rolls eyes*. But I thought that this bill would only make all states recognize each other’s permits, so if my commie state of NJ refuses to issue a CC permit, this bill won’t make them do it anyway, no? So the state “right” here is preserved. But once you go across state lines, that becomes a federal issue. Hence, the federal requirement to make the CC permit more like a Driver’s License. Am I correct here?

  2. As much as would like to see a national right to carry I oppose this bill on consitutional grounds. I do not believe that concealed carry is protected by the Second Amendment. The standard of the day was “no honest person would conceal his gun.” National open carry is something that I would support because it is consistant with the “Keep and Bear Arms” language in the national and many state constitutions. HR 822 relies on the same expanded interpretation of the Commerce Clause that Obamacare uses. I can’t in good conscience oppose the latter while advocating the former.

    I am also surprised that you are acting as an apologist for Mr. Hill. Afterall you just published a three part series on the self defense plea. The article made it clear that shooting someone 13 times isn’t going to cut in court.

    • Open carry is a good idea but there is a problem with it. Open carry shows the bad guys EXACTLY who to avoid.Concealed carry keeps the bad guys guessing as to who they can victimize and get away with it.“no honest person would conceal his gun” is a nice thought but the honest gun carrying good guy has a “duty” to help keep the peace that would be hindered by open carry.

    • … I do not believe that concealed carry is protected by the Second Amendment. …

      The right to carry (i.e., “bear”) is protected under the 2nd Amendment. The right to keep it concealed is protected under the 4th Amendment.

      • +1
        Not to mention concealed carry keeps your weapon out of sight of the goon hit squads (police), which makes it a little more likely that the carrier will make it home in a vertical orientation. If forced to open carry I would be much more worried about the police, who through years of not suffering any consequences for their actions have developed a sense of invulnerability. Where as the majority of criminals always have been, always will be cowards, and run crying from an area with lawfully armed citizens.

        • Funny thing about the Chief, he seems to think that if someone is planning on committing a firearm crime, they would bother with getting any kind of permit. So he says that denied a permit, the person obtained a permit from another jurisdiction, thus allowing them to carry concealed, and to commit a crime? That’s bizarre logic if ever there was any.

  3. Mr. Ramsey was badly prepared for this hearing. Picking the Utah non-resident permit for his example he should have had someone actually look at a permit card. On the back of my Utah non-resident permit there are two separate phone numbers, each one with some text. The first one reads “To verify the validity of this permit for law enforcement purposes only, contact: 801-965-4446”. And the other one goes: “For all other questions regarding Concealed Firearm Permits please call 801-965-4445”.

    Perhaps a requirement could be added to the bill to require similar phone numbers be added to the back of every permit.

    • Such information written on the permit itself is useless, especially for something that can be made with a lamination machine.

      If you want verification, there needs to be a standard verification procedure for ALL licenses like there is with a driver’s license: the cop calls dispatch, gives dispatch the state and number, and gets the answer back.

      • It’s not entirely useless – if the permit is fake then when you call the Utah verification number you’d find out it was not valid.

    • “Keep and bear arms”

      The 2A does not specify that I am to only carry my arms in a specific manner. There are several issues with open carry – social, and tactical.

        • You think the authors were stupid? I don’t.

          If they meant to specifically protect one’s right to open carry I think they’d of specifically said so.

          Besides concealed carry was in practice as much, if not more, then it is now.

      • The only social issue with open carry is that the typical person is a moron. If they had no choice but to see people walking around carrying guns, after awhile they’d realize that they’re NOT going to be shot in the grocery store and they’d get over it.

    • I don’t want to open carry all of the time. I like conceal carry more. I live alone and go most places alone. My concern is an ambush situation and my gun is taken. Advertising you have a gun can make you a potential target for a group on individuals that may want that gun.
      The siuational awarness argument is iffy at best. No one can be 100% aware and defeating a group of guys is going to be damn hard.

  4. The whole “we can’t confirm the permit” argument is so bogus, I’m surprised you fell for it, Nick. His traffic stop example was the biggest lie. Pennsylvania already has reciprocity with Florida, Utah, Texas and 21 other states right now. So how does PA confirm the validity of an out of state permit? Someone makes a phone call! Holy crap! A phone call! The entire system may collapse! The sky is falling!

    Ramsey is the head perjurer of a department that’s famous for it.

  5. Create a federal CC permit that preempts state permits. Make the requirements to get the federal CC as restrictive as the requirements of the most restrictive state, but make it “shall issue”. Make the federal permit CC only to appease the states that do not allow open carry.

    • My first thought was that a Federal concealed carry permit would do nothing but send the wookie-suiters running to the keyboards and pounding out screeds about the One World Government and “First registration, then confiscation!”

      And yes, btw, I believe that registration leads to confiscation.

      But.

      A Federal concealed carry permit is (AFAIK) the easiest way for the citizens of Washington DC and other Federal areas are going to get their rights back. Yes, Federal Constitutional Carry is better, but baby steps, people, baby steps.

      • I also think that a nationally-accepted state-issued concealed license wouldn’t necessarily be the type of registration that would lead to confiscation. What the gun banners want to do is have everyone and his brother know that I own such and such a pistol with this serial number bought from this FFL, etc. That way they can either write a law to confiscate it, or simply apply a huge tax on it. I may have a CHL, but not own a gun.

  6. What an ignorant piece of trash. How difficult is it to look up the damn law and realize, “Oh, I see PA already accepts non-resident permits from state licenses they honor”. Oh well, I guess it’s just fun to go on a field trip as long as the tax payers are footing the bill for the gas. And it’s so much fun to tear down freedom where it may be found.

    Also, I sympathize with everyone opposing with “states rights” arguments. But the republic died a long time ago. We’re fighting unconstitutional fire with arguably constitutional fire. I’m game!

    • I sympathize with everyone opposing with “states rights” arguments

      Well, you must be a better man than I am because I think the “states rights” argument in this case is specious. The Feds control interstate commerce, not the states. HR822 regulates interstate commerce exclusively, so I’m totally fine with it. Cf. Obamacare, where a shut-in in Des Moines can be told by the Feds to get health insurance because he’s “affecting commerce.” The guy hasn’t left his apartment in eight years and he’s affecting commerce? Whaaaa?

      • Nonsense, whether or not a state honors my permit there is no effect on commerce. If I choose not to visit because I can’t carry then it’s my choice. I can still enter the state and transact business whether I carry or not.

        • Restricting what can be transported across state lines is the essence of interstate commerce. That’s exactly what the Commerce Clause is all about. The fact that someone doesn’t care is irrelevant.


  7. onsider the following situation, which could happen if this bill were to become law. A police officer in Brookfield, Wisconsin has just pulled over a speeding driver who is a resident of Texas. Through conversation with the driver, the officer learns that he has a gun, and the driver presents a concealed carry permit from Utah, which grants non-resident permits.


    How is the Brookfield officer supposed to verify that the Utah permit is real and up-to-date? And to what degree does the out-of-state and non-resident permit give the officer confidence that the individual is responsible, well-trained and thoroughly vetted?

    Doesn’t the bill requiere that you have a permit in your HOME STATE? That would invalidate his argument.

    • And I suppose you can easily give 100 examples of when this has happened? How about 50? Any statistically meaningful number of examples? How about we leave the choice up to the individual?

  8. If you are only person open carrying then you are target. If the number of people open carrying rises to the level concealed carry then nobody is a target. If only 2% of the residents of a major city carry then there are 10s of guns in sight all the time. No criminal will take action under those circumstances. Somebody will shoot him.

    • no if you are carrying openly then you are NOT the target. The target will be the young woman going home late after work or the elderly couple walking together or any other weak target the criminals can find.Not everyone has brightly lit crowded streets to walk on

  9. While not as familiar with the carry permits of other states, in Tennessee your carry permit is issued with the same number as your driver’s license and shows up when the license is run. Which is why I always hand over my carry permit when stopped, or will if I ever am. Don’t other states do the same?

    The solution is that the permit must be issued by the same state as the individual’s driver’s license to be valid nationwide. The Utah, “Out of State” permit would be superfluous if this bill passes.

    Seems to me the only opponents are statist politicians and big city police chiefs, but I repeat myself.

  10. This may sound like a potential win for the good guys, but step back for a moment and consider it. Ultimately, it is almost certain that serious problems will arise—perhaps as Ramsey described, perhaps otherwise. If they don’t, some gun-grabber will probably blow a small problem out of proportion.

    And then…national CCW standards, just like we see in the “Common Sense Concealed Carry” bill. The federal government doesn’t have this authority, but I’m sure someone over in D.C. is just begging for an excuse.

    • Gun-grabbers don’t need an excuse to be gun-grabbers. Stop looking for the boogeyman under the bed. This bill is good news any way you slice it. Unfortunately, it won’t get through the Senate.

  11. “How is the Brookfield officer supposed to verify that the Utah permit is real and up-to-date? And to what degree does the out-of-state and non-resident permit give the officer confidence that the individual is responsible, well-trained and thoroughly vetted?”

    And how is the Brookfield officer supposed to verify that the guy’s Utah DRIVER’S LICENSE is real and up to date, considering the numbers of fake DLs being sold to illegal aliens?

    I notice that this Chief didn’t seem to have a problem when Congress passed a law several years ago that authorized retired police officers to carry concealed handguns in ANY state in the US. Is that because the police are the ONLY ONES who can be trusted with guns? How do we know that a specific police officer didn’t retire because he was about to be fired for repeated excessive use of force, or isn’t a nutcase like that Canton, OH cop who threatened to kill at least 3 different people he pulled over?

    My guess is that the chief just wants to keep the peasants in their place.

    • I have one of those retired LE carry credentials and my agency(Federal)routinely denies them to anyone who had a significant number of problems on the job.
      I never had a single discipinary action or internal investigation and it still took them 6 months to issue mine-the renewals are much easier-you only have to certify under oath that you aren’t convicted of a crime or under a restraining order sine last issuance-AND a current qualification to LE standards in your state of residence is required to carry with the credential indicating type(caliber)of firearm(s)you are currently qualified on.

      • Praise for your agency, Joe. But how many state/local agencies have the same approach? Canton, OH seems to be in a state of total denial about their problem people.

        I didn’t mean my comment to be a criticism of retired officers in general, but more to point out the logical fallacies in the Philly chief’s argument against HR 822.

  12. I had about 27 years in LE and clowns like Ramsey travel the country as transient police chiefs whose tenure is more suited to “Queen for a Day”-these are the kind of guys who always looked harder for the next cushy promotion than for any lawbreaker.
    I got promoted once-I liked being on the street too much.

  13. The gun hating states are to stupid to be allowed to have any say over who carries a gun, so the Feds need to take control and force them to submit. They made all the truck drivers get a special license, and they should do the same for all gun owners.

  14. I dont get what these politicians dont understand…the bad guys are going to get and use guns wether they are legal or not. Why make the law abiding citizens suffer. Oh great im from pa have a permit to carry but im going to jersey for the weekend and i cant carry my gun due to reciprocity, but im sure all of the thugs in jersey are packin..

  15. I love how he says that what works in Pennsylvania doesn’t work in NJ – How would we know? They haven’t really tried CC in NJ? F-ing moron!

  16. I see one of the biggest flaws in his arguments is the same as most all of the antigunners, and it boils down to this: NOBODY, no criminal or law abiding citizen or police officer or elected official or anybody you can think of, NEEDS A LICENSE TO COMMIT THE MOST HEINOUS OF CRIMES. Yes, CCW licensees can go bad, but the extent of their violations is so small as to be statistically zero. We in this country are daily proving that no law will prevent undesired behavior. I want to know when those in authority will begin to recognize this? And the Brady bunch is the worst about it. They always want MORE LAWS because the ones we have are NOT WORKING or TOO LAX. Give me ten thousand breaks. One law or ten thousand laws would not change my behavior, which has been beyond reproach.

  17. We are living in mad times when even America’s Secretary for the Department of Justice — Eric Holder — openly states that he believes the American people, as private citizens, do not have the right to own firearms. Why does government believe it has some right to own firearms that is unquestionable yet the people don’t?

  18. what a dumb ass this will be taken care of

    Every state legislature has intensely debated what minimum standards should apply within their borders and has put those standards in place. For example, thirty-eight states will not grant permits to people convicted of certain violent misdemeanors, such as assault, stalking or sex offenses. Thirty-six states do not issue permits to people under the age of twenty-one. Twenty-nine states deny permits to alcohol abusers, including—in many states—people convicted of driving under the influence. And thirty-five states require some type of gun safety training or live-fire practice.

  19. what are computers used for not just to take up space on a desk this info will be entered into NCIC or on this mans record from his home state where does he get the info on this man for sure not wisconsin but from his home state

    Consider the following situation, which could happen if this bill were to become law. A police officer in Brookfield, Wisconsin has just pulled over a speeding driver who is a resident of Texas. Through conversation with the driver, the officer learns that he has a gun, and the driver presents a concealed carry permit from Utah, which grants non-resident permits.

    How is the Brookfield officer supposed to verify that the Utah permit is real and up-to-date? And to what degree does the out-of-state and non-resident permit give the officer confidence that the individual is responsible, well-trained and thoroughly vetted?

  20. funny how the good chief forgot that bit of info wasnt it

    what the Commissioner failed to mention was that the teenager he shot was attempting to steal Mr. Hill’s car. In the state of Pennsylvania, the use of deadly force is justified in the defense of one’s property (car, in this case) under state law 18 Pa.C.S. § 507. He has been charged with murder by the Philly D.A.’s office, but as far as I can tell has yet to be convicted.

  21. There’s another couple of bits of pertinent information Commissioner Ramsay failed to reveal. Marquis Hill was a resident of Pennsylvania and because he was denied a resident permit by that state, he applied for and received a Florida license. At the time of the incident involving Mr. Hill, it was widely reported that the information used to deny his Pennsylvania permit was not entered into the NICS system and thus was not available to Florida. Additionally, many states (Florida included) do not honor out-of-state licenses/permits when carried by their own residents. It would be relatively easy for Pennsylvania to pass the same requirement for their residents. If Pennsylvania had done either of these two things, Marquis Hill would not have been carrying legally, and I find it particularly contemptable that Commissioner Ramsay’s testimony did not contain “the whole truth”.

  22. Despite the commissioner being a bit… odd, I agree that this bill is poison. Not only does this ignore individual state’s right to set their own rules (annoying but important), but it can potentially open the door to federal regulation of CCW permist. How many of us want congress to dictate who qualifies for a permit, and for what reason? The less they are involved the better IMO.

    Just in the last 10 years most of the entire nation has seen expanded rights (not including Illinois, of course, but they’re working on it). Anytime there is a major threat to Gun rights where does it come from? The Feds. Why on earth do we want to give them even more power over us????

    -Valentine-

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