Congressional support is growing for a bill that would force all states to honor concealed carry permits issued in any other state, allowing citizens to take their firearms across state lines.
If passed, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 would be a huge win for Second Amendment advocates, giving a gut punch to many state and municipal gun control efforts.
Originally introduced this past February by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R- FL) and Heath Shuler (D-NC), The Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act now has 241 co-sponsors in the House, making its passage there likely.
A companion bill is soon to be launched in the Senate, and if it gets enough Democrat support to avoid a filibuster, it would probably pass there too.
The bill, H.R. 822, essentially says: If Florida awards you a concealed carry permit, every other state has to honor it, with narrow exceptions. This will greatly lessen "may issue" politics and bureaucratic obstructionism across the country when it comes to gun rights.
For those who live in notoriously anti-gun areas like New York City, it appears one would still need a permit from your home state to concealed carry within that state if the bill passes. Individual states will still be allowed to regulate concealed carry permits for their residents.
For example, If you live in New York, things could remain complicated. You would need a New York permit to carry concealed in the Empire State. If you received an out-of-state permit from Florida, that permit would allow you to carry any other state in the country, except your home state (New York), Chicago, and D.C., which do not allow for concealed carry under any circumstances.
Excluding the home state exception, even the strictest jurisdictions would be required to honor permits from the most lax. While the bill explicitly references the 14th amendment on due process and equal protection grounds, it also makes references to interstate commerce, stating that any qualifying citizen could:
"Carry a concealed handgun (other than a machinegun or destructive device) that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, in any State, other than the State of residence of the person."
The bill also states that:
"The Congress finds that preventing the lawful carrying of firearms by individuals who are traveling outside their home State interferes with the constitutional right of interstate travel, and harms interstate commerce."
The authors of this bill appear to be accepting one interpretation of states' rights (home state regulations will be respected) while drawing on the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution to allow travelers the right of self-defense while moving between states.
But it is still far too early for gun rights advocates to celebrate, as this is not the first time such a bill has been proposed. The National Right to Carry Reciprocity act of 2009 (H.R. 197) never became law, though it was close, and had substantial support from Senate democrats.
The American Bar Association opposes the bill, claiming states should have '"broad discretion" on gun regulations. And the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence will muster all of its political forces and use every bit of leverage it has on Capitol Hill to prevent the bill's passage.
President Obama could veto the bill if makes it to his desk, but his poll numbers are almost rock bottom and its an election year. A presidential veto could unlikely on purely political grounds. There are a lot of gun owners in the U.S., and plenty of them are swing voters.
As the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 would finally clarify concealed carry regulations, many are hopeful that the bill will pass and 2011 will be a banner year for the Second Amendment.