This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, May 18, 2015:
Member of the House of Representatives Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) has let his enthusiasm run away from his good sense. For the third time in a row he has offered a bill giving power to the federal government to force the states into granting nation-wide “reciprocity,” so that anyone with a concealed carry permit, or a resident of a “permitless” state, can carry anywhere he wants in the country without repercussions. An identical bill was presented in the Senate by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Stutzman explained why:
Americans enjoy a natural right to self-defense preserved by the Second Amendment. This federally guaranteed liberty should not be forfeited when state lines are crossed.
Unfortunately, this fundamental right has been under attack from the anti-gun lobby on both the federal and state levels. This bill preserves the right to keep and bear arms for law-abiding citizens while respecting the roles and responsibilities of state legislatures.
Well, not exactly. Firstly the Bill of Rights (specifically the Second Amendment) was put in place to limit the national government from infringing on sovereign citizens’ preexisting right to keep and bear arms. It’s not “federally guaranteed” but merely a statement of a right that the national government may not abridge or abrogate.
Secondly, the way the bill is drawn dreadfully and negatively impacts the states, especially those who, for their own reasons, have limited the right for their citizens to keep and bear arms.
Thirdly, it continues the expansion of the 14th Amendment into areas its drafters likely never considered. In the Supreme Court case McDonald v. City of Chicago a majority held:
The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in one’s home is fully applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. (emphasis added)
The Stutzman/Cornyn bills use this interpretation of the 14th Amendment as a hammer to threaten those “anti-gun” states like New Jersey, New York, California, etc., to bend to the will of the federal government, because, as the Gun Owners of American (GOA), a supporter of the bills, thinks it’s the right thing to do:
If you have a concealed carry permit – or if you come from a freedom-loving “constitutional carry” state that doesn’t require one! – you should be able to carry anywhere in the country without fear of losing your constitutional rights [just] because of where you are.
This is called “surface logic” or “first blush logic”: It accomplishes (or will if it passes both houses and the president signs it into law) a worthy end, but at a terrible price. It’s using the clear statement from the 14th Amendment – the same that the Supremes used in McDonald, to force non-compliant states into line:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person from life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
According to the GOA, “Sometimes a ‘right’ – even a God-given right – needs a mechanism to enforce it … when you carry concealed in New York, New Jersey, California, or another state, the fact that you are ‘right’ isn’t going to keep you from going to prison for decades – unless the Stutzman bill is passed into law [to] force these lawless states to comply.” (emphases added)
It’s those coercive words that expose the danger: if force must be used, someone must apply it. And the federal government, ever hungry to expand its power, would likely welcome the opportunity to enforce its will onto the states through this measure. It diminishes any remaining idea that the states have any say in the matter, it further confirms the idea that the federal government is the place to go for all remedies, and it violates the Constitution. These concerns ought to give pause to the GOA, but no. The GOA reminded their members of what happened two years ago when Shaneen Allen, a Pennsylvania resident travelling by car in New Jersey, was stopped for a minor traffic violation. Thinking that her Pennsylvania concealed carry permit was valid in New Jersey, she offered the information that she had a gun, ammunition and a Pennsylvania permit to carry to the law enforcement officer. She was immediately arrested and charged with a felony in a case that caught national attention and threatened to put her behind bars for years before New Jersey Governor Chris Christie intervened.
The GOA is selling the deal to its members as a two-pronged strategy to expand the Second Amendment:
- The bill “would allow Americans from constitutional carry (permitless) states to carry nationally without any permit”; and
- It would “work to turn large numbers of additional states into constitutional carry states which would benefit from this legislation.”
It wouldn’t create a “national permit” or “national registration” system, according to the GOA, but would merely “encourage” (by force) reluctant states into recognizing the right of citizens to carry without permits or licenses:
The beauty of the Cornyn/Stutzman legislation is that citizens will be able to carry without permits or licenses, not only in their home states, but all across the country, as well.
It took the usually rabidly anti-gun Brady Campaign to get things right. Its president, Dan Gross, wrote:
Under [The Stutzman/Cornyn bills], law enforcement in states with stronger gun laws would be handcuffed and helpless to take their own reasonable precautions to prevent dangerous people from carrying guns.
“Handcuffed and helpless” indeed. Constitutional authority Joe Wolverton, writing at the New American was less histrionic but just as correct:
The problem plaguing Americans [is] looking to Washington, D.C. for permission to do that which is beyond their authority to rule….
Our republic was not founded by men and women who looked to government for the green light for the exercise of timeless rights that have been enjoyed by their ancestors for years….
Promotion of a proposed federal law that would force states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by others states … would be unconstitutional.
Why Stutzman and Cornyn are pushing this bill now is a mystery. The momentum at present is all on the side of expanding the Second Amendment. Thirty states have already set up “reciprocity” with no help from the federal government, and many of those remaining are considering similar legislation.
Let it happen. Leave the matter to the states where it belongs, the 14th Amendment notwithstanding. Keep the federal government out of the matter. Ignore pleas from the GOA and other groups who have let their enthusiasms run away from their good sense in their support of Stutzman/Cronyn’s bill.
GOA-backed “Constitutional Carry” Bills Introduced in Congress!
GunOwners.org: Constitutional Carry Reciprocity Advances 2nd Amendment Rights
JournalGazette.net: Stutzman renews concealed-carry reciprocity effort
Ammoland: Shaneen Allen Reminds Us Why We Need Concealed Carry Reciprocity
The New American: Kansas is the Next State to Allow Permitless Open Carry
The New American: “Hard-working Single Mom” Arrested for Admitting to Owning Handgun