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Concealed Carry Reciprocity and the Constitution

by Eric Vought

There are two bills currently in Congress for national concealed carry reciprocity, S.1908 in the Senate, introduced by John Cornyn, and H.R.578 in the House, introduced by Marlin Stutzman. Both bills provide that all states must recognize concealed-carry permits issued by other states when out-of-state travelers come to their states. The bills are nearly identical, with the exception that Marlin Stutzman’s bill provides that residents of states who do not require a permit for concealed carry (e.g. New Hampshire and Arizona), must merely present a government-issued ID in lieu of a permit:

“may possess or carry a concealed handgun … in any State
… that–
“(A) has a statute that allows residents of the
State to obtain licenses or permits to carry concealed
firearms; or
“(B) does not prohibit the carrying of concealed
firearms by residents of the State for lawful purposes.”

Anyone who has traveled or attempted to travel cross-country with a firearm knows that the hodge-podge of convoluted rules and restrictions can make complying with the law a near impossibility. Those rules often change suddenly and unpredictably. In our recent family travels which included Missouri to Minnesota, across to Pennsylvania, up to New York, down to Virginia, and back across to Missouri, we had to conceal carry in some states, open carry in others, lock them up for ‘peaceable journey’ in still others, and lock firearms up with out-of-state family before entering New York. Virginia had just stopped recognizing our Missouri permits a month or two prior. (Also see my Open Carry Travelogue going into nitty-gritty detail on a previous family expedition.) People cannot obey the law *if they cannot understand the law*.

According to the Constitution, this situation should not exist. Aside from the Second Amendment guarantee of the Right To Keep and Bear Arms (RTKBA) and the common law right to travel, there are two provisions in the main body of the Constitution which apply to carry permits: 1) the Article IV Section 2 Privileges and Immunities Clause, and 2) the Article IV Section 2 Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Privileges and Immunities Clause, Article IV Section 2:

“The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

Also known as the Commities Clause, this clause requires a state to extend the same privileges and immunities to visitors from other states that it extends to its own citizens. In this context, if a state allows its own citizens to be licensed to conceal carry or to open carry without a license, it must extend that same courtesy to visitors from other states without creating one law for residents and one law for visitors.

Full Faith and Credit Clause, Article IV, Section 1:

“Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.”

This clause requires each state to recognize records, acts, and proceedings of other states. For example, it is what requires one state to recognize drivers’ licenses, marriages, liens, deeds, and other official documents from another state. Concealed-carry permits should not be any different and the Constitution specifically authorizes Congress to enact legislation to make such recognition possible.

Concealed-Carry Reciprocity is not a new idea. Bills to accomplish it have been introduced every year for a number of years. If the idea is to move forward, gun-owners need to *push* it forward. That will take public support and a concerted effort with our representatives. In years past, reciprocity efforts have been defeated on the argument that it overrides states’ authority. As we can see from this discussion, reciprocity is both Constitutional and appropriate. Reciprocity will also increase compliance with the law by allowing law-abiding gun owners the ability to *understand* the law when they travel.

In an upcoming blog, I will discuss the potential effects on state concealed carry laws which may arise from requiring strictly-controlled states to recognize permits from relatively less controlling states.

Image courtesy of Brent Danley.

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