I’ve been watching the debate unfold, and wanted to address some common arguments I see from people on our side. I’ll address them one-by-one:
The constitution is the only carry permit I need! It should be, but that is not the current reality we live with. We’re now double digits on the number of states that don’t require a permit, and hopefully that will continue to spread. I actually think H.B. 38 deserves kudos for recognizing the Vermont situation, and codifying nationwide Constitutional Carry for citizens whose states don’t require permits. I don’t know if that will survive the final vote, but it’s worth reaching for.
Most Americans are living under some kind of permitting regime, with about 1/3rd of our fellow citizens still living in may-issue states. None of these states will go shall-issue, let alone Constitutional Carry on their own. The only way you’ll ever carry in New York City, for instance, is if the federal courts or Congress force them to allow it, and they might not get into the finer points of reciprocity. There aren’t enough votes in Congress for just preempting permitting altogether, and if you think we have City of Bourne v. Flores problems with National Reciprocity now, wait until Congress tries to do something more appropriate for the Courts to do, like striking down state permitting laws.
This will be the federal camel’s nose under the tent! The federal nose got under the tent in 1934. In 1938, we let it under a little more. Then in 1968 we got half the camel under the tent. Then in 1994, three quarters camel. My point is, the Congress knows how to pass gun control laws. They’ve been doing it a long time. I’m not of the opinion that we shouldn’t move the ball forward because a future hostile Congress might pass gun control. That can happen regardless of whether we pass National Reciprocity. The question is this: do you want a future hostile Congress to have to start from farther away from your rights or closer? Would you like Bloomberg focused on repealing gains we can make now, or focused on gains we made last decade, like getting rid of gun bans and passing FOPA? I know I’d prefer fighting him back to today rather than fighting him back to what I already won last decade. That’s the choice.
Let me address the Brady Act analogy here, because I think it’s worthwhile. We made a number of concessions in the Brady Act that weakened our arguing position. We ended up arguing that instant background checks were great in order to stave off waiting periods. Well, if instant background checks are great for retail sales, why aren’t they great for every sale? You see where the other side can go with this. Well, since every sale gets phoned in to the FBI or State Police along with the buyer information, why can’t we just keep that? Just a little record keeping, you know. Nothing to worry about!
The compromises that went into the Brady Act inherently weakened our position for future fights. Where does National Reciprocity weaken our arguing position? That there should be no federal gun laws? I’m sympathetic, but if the Second Amendment is a recognized fundamental right, I want the federal government to be empowered to protect it against state encroachment, just like it does with other fundamental rights. Are we to believe that a hostile Congress has never thought of using its power to screw us until we came along and decided to use it to help? Congress liberally used its power to our detriment for most of the last century! Believe me, whatever your fears about what a Congress will do to state permit systems the anti-gun legislators have already thought about, and they’ll do that to us if they have the votes even if we never pass National Reciprocity.
Let me take one common fear: a future hostile Congress will mandate state standards for issuance, like they’ve done with Real ID. OK. I’ll buy that. Say a future hostile Congress decides that only states that require 8 hours or more of training and a live fire test qualify for national recognition. I would certainly oppose that. But are we still ahead of where we are now? Yes. Did the future hostile Congress just blow political capitol pissing off 10 million people who have permits in this country just getting halfway back to where they were? Yes. Would you rather them chip away at gains we made a decade ago instead? Right now their goal is extending the Brady Ac, repealing FOPA, and as a stretch goal banning “assault weapons.” If we pass National Reciprocity, that’s going to become their target. That’s a good thing.
It’s a useless bill. My guns are illegal in the hostile states! H.B. 38, and most of the other proposed National Reciprocity laws that have been proposed have attempted to preempt local gun bans. If you look at the language of H.B. 38, it allows anyone to carry a handgun (other than a machinegun or destructive device). It makes clear that magazines and ammunition are included. Now, I actually think H.B. 38 needs to be made more clear that Congress is intending to preempt state law in this matter. It should make clear that any handgun legal under federal law is covered, regardless of state laws on magazine capacity or ammunition type. But there is an attempt to ensure you can carry everywhere with the guns you own.
New Jersey will just change its laws to eliminate the permits. So will other states! That might be so. But I’d still argue we’re way ahead. Will states that issue but have bad reciprocity arrangements, like Minnesota, Nevada and Oregon, repeal their laws? Probably not. Will New York City, which hands out carry permits as patronage, repeal theirs? Maybe. But maybe not. Don’t underestimate how powerful patronage is. We don’t know what will happen. Also, what happens if a future Supreme Court rules that outright prohibitions on carry are unconstitutional? This puts a lot of the hostile states in an outright bind. It’s worth doing. Also, don’t underestimate our ability to make improvements to the law after they pass it and the sky doesn’t fall. Perhaps repealing concealed carry won’t get New Jersey out of recognition forever.
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