By Larry Keane

There are a record number of concealed carry permit holders in America, but they all face the same obstacle. Their right to keep and bear arms ends at their home state’s border.

It would be unthinkable for any other God-given right to be considered this way, but this is true of Second Amendment rights. States can issue permits for their citizens to carry a concealed firearm, but that right doesn’t travel across state lines.

Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) is working to change that. He introduced H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would treat a state-issued concealed carry permit much the same way as a driver’s license. They would be valid across state lines and would give the permit holder legal protection for exercising their right to protect themselves and their loved ones.

That’s a critical need for the nearly 20 million concealed carry permit holders in the United States. It’s a community of gun owners who have only increased seven-fold over the last two decades. With more then 21 million background checks for the sale of a firearm in 2020, and an estimated 8.4 million of those firearms being sold to first-time gun buyers, the need to protect law-abiding concealed carry permit holders is only going to grow.

The Problem

The problem facing concealed carry permit holders is that their Second Amendment right is regulated differently by all 50 states. Sixteen states have some form of constitutional carry, meaning a permit is not required to carry a concealed firearm, though some in that list of states restrict that to only residents.

States enter into reciprocity agreements with one another. That means one state will recognize the validity of another state’s permit, so long as the two states agree.  Still, other states and the District of Columbia refuse to recognize any permit issued by another state, only allowing individuals who possess a valid permit from that state to carry a concealed firearm within their borders.

So far, it’s not too confusing. Except for when a person is traveling. If a Virginia resident who holds a permit in the Old Dominion wants to travel south to Florida, that Virginia concealed carry permit is recognized through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. But if that same Virginia permit holder traveled north to New Hampshire, where no permit is required, they’d be breaking the law as soon as that person crossed the border into Maryland and would be in legal jeopardy through Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Second Amendment rights, in this case, don’t travel.

This isn’t theoretical. This actually happens and wasn’t any clearer in the 2013 case when Shaneen Allen, an African-American single mother of two who possessed a valid Pennsylvania concealed carry permit missed a turn and ended up in New Jersey. She was stopped by police, immediately told them of her permit and concealed firearm and was subsequently arrested. She was convicted and spent 48 days in jail until then Republican N.J. Gov. Chris Christie pardoned her.

The Fix

Congressman Hudson’s fix is simple. Treat the concealed carry permit the same way states treat drivers’ licenses. States don’t reject another state’s license just because it was issued by another state. They recognize its validity and the legal authority that comes with it.

The proposed legislation doesn’t mandate training standards or require states to adopt uniform codes as to when and where a permitted person can carry. Just like the drivers license, the state still dictates what requirements must be met to acquire a permit and those states can still deny concealed carry in sensitive places. This proposed law also wouldn’t force constitutional carry states – that have no permitting requirements – to adopt them.

What the legislation will do is end the confusing patchwork of laws that creates pitfalls for law-abiding permit holders who choose to exercise their rights when they travel across state lines. It makes their right to keep and bear arms a right that is truly one they can exercise nationwide, not just in their state.

This is a fix that’s long overdue and Congressman Hudson’s been trying to fix it for years. Congress had 20 million reasons to act before the end of the year. Now, they’ve got 21 million more.

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