NRA Pushes To Keep States From Deciding Their Own Public Safety Laws

August 31, 2011 4:37 pm ET — Chris Brown

Gun in the front seat, kids in the back. No worries if you're visiting a state that doesn't recognize your permit to carry a concealed gun — it's not their decision. Have a happy Labor Day.

That's the vision presented by National Rifle Association (NRA) chief lobbyist Chris Cox in The Daily Caller yesterday. Cox is pushing a bill that would override state laws concerning carrying concealed guns and force states to accept out-of-state concealed carry permits.

Cox writes:

This Labor Day weekend, many families will pack up the car for one last road trip to the beach, lake or park before summer ends. Unfortunately, many of them will have to check their right to self-defense at the state border. Thankfully, there is legislation making its way through Congress that would fix this.

The bill is the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 822) and it would allow any person with a valid, state-issued concealed firearm permit to exercise their right to carry a firearm in any other state that affords that right to its own residents.

The bill would effectively nationalize permits that states issue to allow concealed guns. The legislation flies in the face of the alleged conservative principle of states' rights and robs states of the ability to determine for themselves what laws work best to achieve public safety. Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) explained what this type of legislation would mean to his home state of Virginia in a Politico editorial titled, "John Thune's pro-criminal gun amendment" in 2009:

The Thune amendment [The Senate equivelent of H.R. 822] flies in the face of federalist principles by usurping state laws. For instance, in my home state of Virginia, we require individuals to complete firearm safety training and demonstrate proficiency with a handgun. We also prohibit those who have been convicted of certain serious misdemeanors (such as assault or stalking) from obtaining a permit, and we disqualify those who have been convicted of public drunkenness within the past three years or anyone convicted of drunk driving or who is a "habitual drunkard." These are reasonable prohibitions.

Most states have adopted similar restrictions, but under the Thune amendment, potentially violent individuals could obtain permits in the several states that have virtually no standards for issuing concealed carry permits. As a result, they could come to Virginia and walk the streets —- and frequent public places — with concealed guns

Davis also explained the gun trafficking implications:

Imagine you are an officer who sees a notorious criminal hanging out on the street corner carrying several guns, most likely waiting to make an illegal sale. Under existing law in Virginia and many other states, this person could be arrested on the spot; he would not be eligible for a concealed carry permit. It is likely he would go to prison.

But if the Thune amendment passes, that criminal will have absolutely no problem acquiring a concealed carry permit that would allow him to avoid arrest and continue selling guns illegally on the streets — guns that could be used in robberies, assaults and murders. In all likelihood, that criminal will not even have to travel out of state to get the permit. A black market for the permit will spring up, sure as day follows night.

Usurping states' rights to set the lowest common denominator for standards for concealed carry permits is literally granting a license to kill. The Thune amendment would empower these criminals and endanger the rest of us.

Cox erroneously suggests that this legislation would be similar to states recognizing a driver's license from out of state. Getting a driver's license means a person's ability to safely drive a car has been tested, but that's not necessarily the case for concealed carry permit holders' ability to operate a gun. Furthermore, a cop in any state can look up if a driver's license is valid in a national database, but currently that's not possible for concealed carry permits.

Cox also notes that states will retain the right to identify places, such as bars and churches, where concealed carry is and isn't allowed. Given that the NRA already lobbies against such restrictions at a state level, it's not much of a stretch to imagine that they'll be going after those laws through national legislation next.