CCW advocates have been following the progression of HR Bill 822, which proposes national concealed carry reciprocity by which a person who has obtained a valid CCW permit in one state can legally carry concealed in any other state. This bill has, of course, generated a tremendous amount of fear and doubt on both sides of the issue. Here are a few of the concerns (both real and imagined). . .
- The law would create a “race to the bottom” in which states that have very strict laws around CCW permit issuance would be forced to allow visitors who come from states with less strict gun laws to be able to carry in their states, thus circumventing the existing structure.
- The law would create a Federal registry and Federal standards for permit issuance thus letting the Federal Government and their “Black Helicopters” know who has guns and who does not.
- States rights would be trampled as they would be forced to possibly change the criteria under which they issue licenses to comply with the new law.
Of the three points above, only the first is really relevant. The other two are the result of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). The proposed law does not create any Federal system for licensing gun owners, nor does it require states to change their existing policies for CCW issuance. Point three does have some merit in that Federal law would override States’ interest in creating laws, but if you subscribe to the argument that the Constitution trumps State Law then, technically, it is illegal for states to define laws that undermine the second amendment.
All that aside, I’d like to make a modest proposal that might help bridge some of the gaps. It certainly won’t please everyone as some people simply do not want guns in the hands of citizens period under any circumstances. But they are by far not in the majority in this country and that view is so far outside the main stream of opinion in this country that it doesn’t merit consideration here.
Let me start my proposal by laying out several of my beliefs with respect to CCW:
- CCW licenses should be issued only to law-abiding citizens. If you have a history of committing felonies, committing domestic abuse or similar crimes, then no soup for you.
- We require drivers of automobiles to receive training and pass a competency test before they are allowed to drive. Why should we not ask the same of people who plan to carry concealed weapons in public? Note here that I am not saying you need to take a course and pass a test to simply own a gun. I only want competency tests for people who plan to carry them in public. We require our police to periodically demonstrate competency by periodically qualifying with their weapon, so why should citizens be different?
- Any qualification program must be reasonable. One fear that many people have is that the state might set the qualification bar so high that few people can ever pass it. A qualification program must be constructed such that a person can reasonably pass it with some practice. My gun club, for example, requires all members to annually qualify by putting 9 out of 10 shots onto a 2′ x 3′ cardboard target from 50′. This is not that hard and would demonstrate that at 50′, a person can generally get their bullets into the right place.
With that said, here is my modest proposal. First, I would define the qualification and background check requirements by incorporating the opinions of multiple stakeholders from police to the NRA to very senior firearm instructors, etc. Call it a blue ribbon panel that would define the criteria.
Once we had reached agreement on the criteria, I would then offer the states a choice. If their existing permit issuance program meets or exceeds these national standards, then they are all set. Carry on business as usual and your permit will be recognized in all 50 states.
If, however, you live in a state whose permit issuance criteria does not meet the national standards, the state would have a choice. It could continue to issue permits the way it always had, but those permits would not be recognized outside the home state, absent a specific reciprocity agreement with other states. For instance, your New Hampshire CCW permit would only be good in New Hampshire.
Alternatively, the state could change its permit issuance process to comply with the minimum Federal standards at which point the state’s permits would be recognized everyone. On the off chance that you wanted a nationally recognized permit and your state did not want to change its rules, you could always apply for an out of state permit from one of the states that has a qualifying program and thus obtain a nationally recognized license.
The beauty of this system is that it preserves most of the states’ rights. Your state and only your state would have your personal qualifying information. There would be no Federal registry and, even better, you would not have to apply for permits in every state you want to take a firearm into. States could choose to modify their permitting process to comply with the program or not, but they cannot choose to prevent U.S. citizens who have passed the qualifying criteria from carrying concealed where they want. It would also take the power away from anti-gun politicians and return it to the people where it belongs.