On March 12, S. 2188, the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012,” was introduced by U.S. Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). A nearly identical bill, H.R. 822, passed the House of Representatives on Nov. 16, 2011, by a vote of 272-154.
This bill would allow any person with a valid state-issued concealed firearm permit to carry a concealed handgun in any other state that issues concealed firearm permits, or that does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms for lawful purposes. A state’s laws governing where concealed handguns may be carried would apply within its borders.
Right-to-carry laws recognize the right to carry firearms for protection against criminals, and this bill seeks to protect that right when a person travels outside his or her state of residence. The Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, although it indicated that this right could be restricted in “sensitive places.” It is also well established that Congress has the power to protect constitutional rights from state infringement, and to protect the right of citizens to travel without undue burdens imposed by states.
Today, 48 states issue carry permits, Vermont allows carrying without a permit, and three other states also allow carrying without a permit, but issue permits for the purpose of permit reciprocity with other states. Only Illinois completely prohibits carrying firearms outside one’s home or business for self-defense.
While carry permit laws are well established in America, permit reciprocity is less so. Only a quarter of the states recognize other states’ permits unconditionally, and over half the states do not recognize other states’ permits, or do so only if certain conditions are met.
Most of the 48 carry permit states have fair and reasonable permit issuance policies, and in those states such laws have worked as intended. Confounding the predictions of these laws’ opponents, Americans with carry permits are more law-abiding than the general public. For example, in Florida, the state that has issued the most permits, only 0.008% of 2.1 million permits have been revoked because of firearm crimes by permit holders.
Self-defense is a fundamental right. The U.S. constitution, the constitutions of 44 states, common law, and the laws of all states recognize the right to use arms in self-defense. RTC laws respect the right to self-defense by allowing individuals to carry firearms for protection. S. 2188 would strengthen this fundamental right.