Reading Sebastian’s introduction to his position on the case of federal intervention on concealed carry, it reminds me why my position isn’t strictly against the concealed carry reciprocity, it’s best described as being torn. From the legal standpoint, I don’t disagree. I am not naive enough to believe that the feds aren’t already involved in gun laws. I realize that they are, and I realize there are problematic gun laws at every level. I also don’t disagree with the power of Congress to address the issue from a legal standpoint. My hesitation is based on the political and practical concerns
However, concealed carry has historically been an issue where we’ve kept the battles in the states and been largely successful. Think about it, we only have two holdout states with no concealed carry and a handful with may issue, and an even smaller number that abuse the discretionary powers. The status quo is pretty good considering most of it happened in my lifetime and was largely established by the time I became an activist in the movement in college. It’s not like we’re losing on that front.
I am also sympathetic to the argument that a cure for gun laws as restrictive as New Jersey’s may only be found through Congress rather than the courts. We have more sway with Congress and the courts are more likely to examine only individual gun laws rather than the state’s framework as a whole. However, by keeping these issues on the state level as much as possible, we still have choices. Sebastian himself has noted that every time New Jersey creates a gun rights activist, they want to leave. If we create open a door for increased federal regulation of carry, then we no longer have that option.
Another concern I have is that increasing federal power on the issue of concealed carry may actually cost us the opportunity to advance in the states. Consider that even with our remaining holdout states, we’re making progress. Concealed carry has actually passed in Wisconsin, we’re just waiting to get the Governor out of office or get a legislature with members who will listen to their constituents instead of party leaders who want to help the Governor save face in a veto fight. In Illinois, there is slow progress toward getting enough votes together for some kind of carry option. If the Bryan Millers of the world walk into those state houses and lean on neutral or only slightly-pro-gun legislators with the fact that they are opening their borders to any Vermont nutcase who just hasn’t been caught yet (aka another version of Cho who could buy guns even though he was nuts because the state didn’t have their records together), we’re likely to lose a few precious votes.
So even if we don’t make things worse for the vast majority of gun owners who live in friendly states with relatively few carry restrictions, how do we defend the vote to a Wisconsin gun owner who will face years of no more carry rights in his own hometown because we wanted to cross the river to Jersey for a beer without stopping to drop off guns at home?
There are political costs with every move, and I think the greatest debate on this issue is what costs are acceptable given the likely reaction of other lawmakers. A three-branch approach is needed to fix gun laws and continue advancing the cause, but perhaps the legislative fight is best kept to the state level when it comes to issues like carry. At least for now…