News: CJ Exclusives

Shuler Co-Authors Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Bill

Measure would require states not to interfere with lawful actions by visitors

Americans who have received concealed carry handgun permits from their home states may be one step closer to having the right to carry their weapons across state lines. H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, would bring nationwide uniformity to what is now a system of voluntary agreements between many states honoring concealed carry permits.

The bipartisan bill was introduced on Feb. 18 by U.S. Reps. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla.

In a written statement to Carolina Journal, Shuler said, “49 states have laws allowing law abiding citizens to obtain concealed carry permits, in some circumstances. However, there is not a uniform method between the states of recognizing each other’s permits. For example, North Carolina recognizes concealed carry permits issued by South Carolina and Georgia, but not New Mexico. New Mexico, however, honors concealed carry permits from North Carolina.”

Shuler said the bill aims to prevent the confusion that law-abiding concealed carry permit holders experience when traveling across state lines.

The bill would not establish a federal licensing system but simply would require state and local officials not to interfere with the lawful defensive carrying of handguns by interstate visitors, so long as the visitor abides by the same laws governing concealed carry that are applicable to residents of the host state. H.R. 822 would not impose any new federal criminal penalties nor force any state officials to do anything other than recognize each other’s permits.

Opponents claim the bill would supersede state laws and nullify public safety protections that states have imposed on the issuance of concealed carry permits, particularly in states with tougher restrictions.

In a press release on its website, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has renamed the bill, “Packing Heat on Your Street Act,” which would enable “dangerous people to carry loaded guns across the U.S.”

Andrew Arulanandan, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, told CJ that the dire predictions made by gun control groups of an increase in violent crimes in right-to-carry states have simply not come true over the nearly two decades that many states have adopted these laws.

FBI data cited by NRA-ILA show that right-to-carry states have, on average, 22 percent lower total violent crime rates, 30 percent lower murder rates, and 46 percent lower robbery rates. The seven states with the lowest violent crime rates are, in fact, right-to-carry states.

“H.R. 822 makes good policy and good law. The reason people want a concealed carry permit is the realization that, when it comes to self-defense, law enforcement can’t always be there to prevent a crime, whether it’s a violent crime or a robbery. The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and to defend oneself shouldn’t end when you cross state lines,” Arulanandan said.

The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on the bill Sept. 13. Testifying before the subcommittee, David Kopel, adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, refuted claims by the Brady Campaign on the “dangerousness of concealed carry licensees,” saying they were “grossly exaggerated.”

Of the 29 incidents in a 2007 Brady report, most of them “did not even involve conduct with a gun that was carried pursuant to a CCW permit,” said Kopel. Four cases involved gun accidents, including two that were fatal.

Kopel also testified that “some of [the] exaggeration involved people who were determined by law enforcement to have acted in lawful self-defense.”

Joyce Lee Malcolm, professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, testified that concealed carry laws have played a critical role in reducing violent crime in America from “758.1 crimes per 100,000 population in 1991 to 429.4 per 100,000 in 2009.”

Malcolm testified about the misguided notion that disarming law-abiding citizens will improve public safety. During widespread riots in England this past August, Malcolm said, “Englishmen were reduced to the use of baseball bats to protect themselves sparking a 5,000 percent increase in sales of bats from Amazon.” England has limited the right of citizens to possess firearms for nearly a century.

H.R. 822 has 243 cosponsors in the House. Among the N.C. delegation to the House, all six Republicans are co-sponsors. Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre, 7th District, and Larry Kissell, 8th District, are co-sponsors, joining the 11th District’s Shuler.

CJ also contacted the remaining Democrats in the North Carolina delegation to learn their position on the bill. Neither Reps. G.K. Butterfield, 1st District, David Price, 4th District, nor Brad Miller, 13th District, responded.

Rep. Mel Watt, 12th District, said, “I’m not familiar with the bill, but my general philosophy is that I don’t support carrying guns concealed within the state, and I wouldn’t likely support carrying across state lines. There are too many guns on the streets already.”

The Brady Campaign and other gun-control groups have teamed up with some elected officials and law enforcement groups to oppose the bill.

But Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, said in an email to CJ that neither his group nor the National Sheriffs’ Association has taken a position on the bill.

Karen McMahan is a contributor to Carolina Journal.