The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in January. At first glance, it would seem an encouraging step in the direction of solidifying the Second Amendment right to bear arms. This is not true, however.
Whenever a constitutional right is accepted as a privilege extended by the government, freedom dissolves. The Constitution gives no authority to the federal government to grant rights to anybody; rather, it prevents the government from infringing upon rights already possessed. With that in mind, it becomes clear that the idea of any law-abiding citizen being granted a permit to carry a firearm is preposterous. Second Amendment supporters should think carefully, therefore, before praising any federal legislation that extends CCW (Carrying a Concealed Weapon) reciprocity to all fifty states, as many propose.
The most basic concept of this Act is that legal gun-owners would be able to carry a concealed weapon in every state; compelling all fifty states to recognize reciprocity. Currently, of course, some states have reciprocity agreements with several others, while some states only recognize CCW permits held by their own residents. The three main provisions of the Act would extend CCW rights nation wide. These provisions represent an enormous threat to the Second Amendment. All fifty states would be compelled to allow residents of any other state to carry if they are:
a person who is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm, who is carrying a valid identification document containing a photograph of the person, and who is carrying a valid license or permit which is issued pursuant to the law of a State and which permits the person to carry a concealed firearm or is entitled to carry a concealed firearm in the State in which the person resides.
Furthermore, the law would extend to any state that:
(1) has a statute under which residents of the State may apply for a license or permit to carry a concealed firearm; or
(2) does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by residents of the State for lawful purposes.
The flaws – from a gun-rights perspective – are clear. Firstly, the law would further legitimize the practice of states issuing CCW permits and, secondly, it gives states the ability to exempt themselves from this law by simply banning concealed carry altogether.
The entire concept that one is required to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon is unconstitutional. It implies that rather than being a natural right, carrying a firearm is, rather, something the state grants one permission to do. Advocates of Constitutional Carry understand this.
In general terms, Constitutional Carry means the right to carry a firearm anywhere, at any time, without mandated licensing or training. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act does nothing to advance Constitutional Carry. On the contrary; it would encourage the most anti-gun states to avoid compliance with the law by simply enacting legislation that outlaws concealed carry anywhere in the state, at any time. Further, this proposed law cements the legitimacy of CCW permits, when the federal government should be pressuring states to abolish permit requirements. Currently, only fifteen states have adopted Constitutional Carry. All others require an individual to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, after completing state-approved training.
Not all Americans approve of the Second Amendment. Their disapproval is, of course, illegitimate; this is not a question of holding differing opinions, but of refusing to accept a right enshrined in the Constitution. Those who push for tighter restrictions on firearms can be divided into two groups: One group – comprised of progressives and other left-leaning organizations and individuals – want a complete ban on the private ownership of firearms. Many of them will not admit this, but it is – nevertheless – their goal. The second group is those who, while recognizing the Second Amendment, advocate for laws and regulations which will, in their view, minimize gun-violence.
We should disregard this first group; the complete nullification of a constitutional right is not up for discussion, and they have, quite simply, no valid argument. How do we address the concerns of the second group, regarding Constitutional Carry?
Technically, laws that attach any conditions to the possession of firearms are unconstitutional. Any reasonable person accepts, however, that anyone wishing to purchase a firearm should be required to prove that they are not a violent criminal. Some system of criminal background check becomes a sane – and not unreasonable – proposition. Additionally, it should not be objectionable to expect that gun-owners train in the safe and proficient use of firearms. A requirement for comprehensive training benefits everyone. It reduces accidents and dangerous or irresponsible behavior. Training minimizes the possibility that a citizen, necessarily engaged in an armed confrontation, wounds or kills bystanders, as well as providing them with the greatest chance of survival.
Constitutional Carry supporters argue that the government – state or federal – be given no opportunity to create a de facto system of gun registration. How can this be avoided, whilst still requiring criminal background checks and firearms training? Lack of political will in Congress notwithstanding, the solution is simple. Private citizens should be able to avail themselves of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (N.I.C.S.) and obtain an official ‘clearance’ document – perhaps, valid only for some days or weeks. The document can then be presented to any licensed gun dealer; serving as the required background check. No-one applying for this would be required to state the reason for their application; they may need it to purchase a firearm, obtain employment or engage in any activity that requires them to verify their status as a law-abiding citizen.
As for firearms training; any law-abiding citizen or legal resident should be able to complete an approved firearms training course without ever having to prove that they own – or intend to own – a firearm. Once they have completed the training, they are provided with an identification card to carry with them. This card would not be a ‘permit’ to carry; it would merely prove that have been sufficiently trained in the use of firearms. They would not be required to show the identification to anyone, except after having discharged their weapon during a physical confrontation.
In this way, a citizen would be able to fulfill criminal background check and training requirements without ever providing the federal or state government with any information regarding their ownership of firearms. Indeed, they would never even be required to disclose the fact that they own or intend to purchase a firearm.
Lastly, of course, no citizen or resident, in any state, should be required to obtain any form of permit to carry, openly or concealed. Permission to do so is not granted by government; it is a right which the government can neither refuse nor restrict.