North Carolina Republican Congressional Representative Richard Hudson is set to introduce a bill next year requiring all 50 states to honor firearm carry licenses from other states. “Our Second Amendment right doesn’t disappear when we cross state lines,” Hudson wrote in The Daily Caller. “The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 [click here to read] is a common sense bill to provide law-abiding citizens the right to conceal carry and travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state codes or onerous civil suits.”
The Bill’s proposed language mandates that a person “may possess or carry a concealed handgun (other than a machinegun or destructive device)” in any state that currently “has a statute under which residents of the State may apply for a license or permit to carry concealed firearm” or where Vermont-style “Constitutional Carry” is the law of the land. To fall under the protection of the proposed law while visiting highly restrictive locales (e.g., New York City), licensed citizens would be required to:
(1) Carry the valid license on their persons;
(2) Carry a “valid identification document containing a photograph of the person (not as silly as it sounds; Arizona, for instance, does not have photographs on its Concealed Weapons Licenses.)
(3) Follow the laws of that state concerning “no-go” areas for carry. The bill pointedly states that it does not supersede State laws that “permit private persons or entities to prohibit or restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property; or prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms on any State or local government property….”
This isn’t a “go where you want” pass akin to what the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which preempts state and local firearms carry laws (though not federal law) for current and retired police officers. Under this Bill, local gun laws still apply. If you’re in Texas, that 30.06 sign at your local Whole Foods means you need to leave your shooting iron behind or forego your organic curried chickpea soup. If you’re in Massachusetts, you can’t carry a mag that holds more than 10 rounds. Etc.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 doesn’t specify a residency requirement. So, for example, a resident of New York City who obtained a Utah Concealed Firearm Permit could legally carry a firearm in The Big Apple. (I suspect that would make a certain billionaire plutocrat rather cross.)
Hudson predicates the Bill on Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce under Article I sec. 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
The Commerce Clause has something of a bad reputation among constitutionalists (in many cases, justifiably). David Kopel and other legal experts argue that concealed carry reciprocity really ought to be justified per the ‘Privileges and Immunities’ clause of the XIVth amendment (protecting the right of interstate travel).
I don’t see the problem with relying on Article 1 sec. 8. The original purpose of the Commerce Clause: create a national zone of free trade among the several states. It gives Congress the power to preempt state laws. The purpose of this bill is to remove obstacles that seriously hinder the movement of persons carrying a specific product across state lines.
If that isn’t “commerce” in the truest sense of the word, it isn’t clear what is.
The Supreme Court has held that Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce underpins the Constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, the Court held that the interstate movement of persons is “commerce” that concerns more than one state, whether or not the transportation of those persons is “commercial.”
It’s safer for those seeking national reciprocity for concealed carry to cite the Commerce Clause — which has a considerable amount of case law backing it up — as opposed to doing something experimental with the Privileges and Immunities clause. Something the Court may decide it doesn’t like.
(For those keen to learn more about the Commerce Clause, Justice Thomas’ concurrence in the 1995 case U.S. v. Lopez — which involved the Gun Free School Zones Act, particularly his discussion of the Gibbons case — is worth reading.)
In any case, this isn’t Representative Hudson’s first pro-gun rodeo. He introduced legislation to roll back the ATF’s ability to use the regulatory process to ban ammunition, after the Obama Administration’s maladroit attempt to ban the 5.56mm M885 “green tip” ammunition for the AR 15 (which even the left-wing Newsweek conceded was an Obama “misfire”.
The language of the draft 2017 reciprocity bill is all but identical to H.R. 986 was introduced by Rep. Hudson in 2015 and co-sponsored by 216 other Representatives. That bill, unfortunately, never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. A similar bill introduced by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) in 2016 and co-sponsored by Rep. Hudson, suffered an identical fate.
According to an AP poll from July 2016, 53% of Americans support the idea of national concealed carry license reciprocity (compared with 44 percent who opposed it.) Even Hillary supporters like Howard Stern have come out in favor of it, because of its basic fairness. “What if you got a license in Maryland… [a]nd you’re driving and then every state you went to, you had to get another license? It doesn’t make any sense,” Stern said on his show in November.
President-Elect Donald Trump called for national reciprocity during the election campaign. In his first post-election interview with 60 Minutes, he reiterated his support for the Second Amendment. Combined with strong public support and renewed Congressional interest, 2017 may be the year for national concealed carry reciprocity. Watch this space.