Have you heard there is new federal legislation that will allow someone with a concealed carry permit from one state to carry in all 50 states? Sounds awesome right? Might not be as awesome as you think. The purpose of this article is to dispel some of the myths associated with this proposed legislation and give an update on its status.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 is a new iteration of a law that has been proposed several times over the past 6 years. In its most recent form it was introduced on January 03, 2017 by U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (NC-08). The NRA and other gun rights organizations have been outspoken in their support of this legislation. Largely due to the social media buzz surrounding it, many people in our classes are misinformed on many aspects of this potential law (many people we speak with believe it is already a law, which is dangerous). We have received hundreds of emails and phone calls from past students asking about the “new law” and the amount of misinformation we’ve heard is alarming to us. Don’t get me wrong, we love hearing from past students and we are always flattered when you reach out to us for advice, but there are some legitimate misunderstandings out there about the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, and we want to help clarify a few important points.
Many people we speak with believe this legislation would make it so one permit would be valid in all 50 states, like a driver’s license. In fact Congressman Hudson’s own website says the following regarding the law:
“Your driver’s license works in every state, so why doesn’t your concealed carry permit?” (source)
That is absolutely not what this law will do, however, and it is important to understand what the law actually says.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 is intended to “amend title 18, United States Code, to provide a means by which non- residents of a State whose residents may carry concealed firearms may also do so in the State.”
Subsection (a) says that anyone who (1) is not prohibited from possessing a gun under federal law AND (2) has a valid identification document containing a photograph in their possession AND (3) has a valid state issued license to carry a concealed handgun (from any state) may carry a concealed handgun in any state.
AWESOME RIGHT?!? As long as I have a photo ID & concealed permit then I’ll be able to carry in any state, what’s wrong with that???
The problem is the text of the proposed law doesn’t stop there. If it did, I would agree it would be a great law. Instead it goes on to create two very distinct problems.
1: A permit holder would only be able to carry in a state that, “has a statute that allows residents of the State to obtain licenses or permits to carry concealed firearms” OR “does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by residents of the State for lawful purposes.”
- The problem with the above text is that it provides a strong incentive for restrictive states (like Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii, New York & California) to prohibit concealed carry altogether. Think about it, when faced with the following two choices, do you think that New Jersey and California (who are historically very restrictive in issuing concealed permits) are going to (1) open the floodgates to every freedom loving American to carry a gun, OR (2) simply prohibit concealed carry altogether, thus exempting themselves from the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. If this law passes, reasonable minds could agree we would see at least the following states take steps to completely prohibit concealed carry: California, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Hawaii, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. In sum, we would see a regression in the amount of states that allow concealed carry. Naturally residents of those states could then take their case to the courts and hopefully we would see the state and federal courts rule favorably in some of those jurisdictions, but sadly as we’ve seen over the past few years, that is far from a sure bet.
2: “The possession or carrying of a concealed hand-gun in a State under this section shall be subject to the same conditions and limitations … imposed by…State law or the law of a political subdivision of a State”
- What this means is that those middle-of-the-road states (like Oregon, Washington, Illinois and South Carolina) which likely won’t decide to eliminate concealed carry altogether, but also don’t necessarily want millions of visitors carrying guns in their state, will likely make it SUBSTANTIALLY more difficult to carry a gun in their state. States like Oregon and Illinois (among others) have historically been very opposed to granting non-resident carry rights within their state. Instead of suddenly opening the doors for everyone to carry, we will likely see state legislatures tightening the areas within the state where you are allowed to carry through increased prohibited areas. Advancements that took years to accomplish could potentially vanish overnight due to an overly paranoid media frenzy.
There are some positives to this law. I like that concealed carry is being discussed on a national stage and I am glad it is making people more cognizant of the very complicated patchwork of gun laws we have in America. However, I think this legislation is badly in need of refinement if it is to accomplish what we all want it to accomplish. To me, a much better option would be to pursue a judicial remedy for the right to bear arms much like the NRA and the SAF achieved for the right to keep arms (click here for a summary of the difference). However, if we are going to attack this issue through legislation it needs to be done properly. As most are aware, Legal Heat is the largest provider of concealed carry training in America, having certified over 150,000 people to obtain concealed carry permits. We are also the publishers of a 50 state gun law book & app that is used by hundreds of thousands of gun owners to navigate gun laws in all 50 states. The attorneys at Legal Heat have also worked on several pieces of concealed carry legislation and would be more than happy to act in an advisory role for Congressman Hudson or anyone else involved in this legislation. We want this law to pass, we just want it to be amended slightly before passing.
Having said all of that, what is the status of this legislation? It is currently sitting in the House awaiting review by a committee and a floor vote. If it clears the House then it will be sent to the Senate for joint resolution before being sent to the President’s desk. President Trump has been fairly outspoken about his willingness to sign a law of this nature. For the first time in our history the question before us now is not IF we can pass nationwide reciprocity legislation, but instead HOW such a law should be strategically handled. We are in an exciting time for American gun rights. Legal Heat is very excited about the potential to see quick and decisive progress in the fight for the individual right to keep and bear arms.We will continue to stand on the front lines of this issue by training tens of thousands of Americans each year. If you are interested in attending a training class click here to find a course in your area.
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About the Author: Phillip Nelsen is a co-founder of Legal Heat, a nationally recognized firearm law attorney, college professor and author.