Since 1995, former House Representative Cliff Stearns (R-Florida) had introduced a federal concealed carry reciprocity bill during his term in office. It has only taken 20 years, but Rep. Stearns’ wish is looking like it may come true.
With a Republican majority and a concealed carry law finally in place in all 50 states, the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act seems likely to pass.
Last year, a story grabbed America’s attention exposing the harsh reality of strict gun control laws. Many Americans on either side of the gun rights debate cried foul at the treatment of Shaneen Allen, a law-abiding citizen who faced a felony conviction and an 11 1/2 year mandatory prison sentence for simply doing what her concealed carry permit training had told her to do.
In the summer of 2014, Shaneen, a single mother living in South Philadelphia, packed up her two sons and drove to Atlantic City to celebrate one of the boy’s birthdays. Shaneen, who worked three jobs to support her children, held a concealed carry permit in Pennsylvania. Due to her odd hours tending bar she often had to pick up her boys in the wee hours of the morning. She was mugged twice in less than three months after getting off work. To protect her children and herself, she chose to buy a gun. Unbeknownst to Shaneen, even though South Philadelphia and Atlantic City, New Jersey are less than an hour away, the states’ gun laws are a world apart.
Upon arriving in Atlantic County, New Jersey, Shaneen was pulled over for what was cited as an “unsafe lane change.” Shaneen had her Bersa Thunder .380 and concealed carry permit on her and as most concealed permit classes tell you, Shaneen alerted the police officer she had a gun in the vehicle. Shaneen was simply following what her training had to told her to do. Shaneen, with no prior criminal background, who says she had never been pulled over before, was arrested not only for illegally possessing a firearm, but also for possessing illegal ammo. Honesty lost Shaneen all three of her jobs, leaving her no way to pay bills, feed her children…much less pay for the lengthy and costly legal battle she faced. Shaneen spent 40 days in jail. After intense scrutiny and outrage, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain decided to allow Shaneen to enter the state’s Pretrial Intervention Program—avoiding prison and a conviction for the mother.
Shaneen’s case isn’t isolated. Many law-abiding and responsible handgun owners who carry face jail time and felony convictions for failing to understand the often-convoluted laws regarding concealed carry reciprocity and the interstate transportation of firearms.
It’s time to stop the harassment and unlawful breech against American’s rights and finally get this law passed.
In the last few years, Texas Senator John Cornyn has taken up the issue, presenting a bill every year to Congress. Cornyn’s Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2013 bill narrowly missed passing by only three votes.
Introduced on Thursday, February 2015, the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015 federally regulates concealed carry reciprocity laws, forcing all states to recognize out of state carry permits. Sen. Cornyn explains the law, “This operates more or less like a driver’s license. So, for example, if you have a driver’s license in Texas, you can drive in New York, in Utah and other places, subject to the laws of those states.” Concealed carry laws vary widely between states and regulations can be extremely muddled and confusing. Even in my frequent travels between Texas and Arkansas, I have been worried about where in the vehicle my gun is legal. Out in the open in Oklahoma, concealed in Texas—even though words are my strong suit, understanding the language of law generally takes a doctorate degree, so instead of being freaked out every time you stop at a Starbuck’s to refuel during a road trip, a Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity law makes it easier and safer to travel.
Even though the bill draws opposition from Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Michael Bloomberg-backed group Everytown for Gun Safety stating the bill interferes, “with states’ fundamental right to determine who is too dangerous to carry hidden, loaded guns in public,” the law will hopefully gain the majority support. It does not change a state’s right to restrict when and where a person can conceal carry. The purposed law does not enact a federal, national standard for concealed carry permits and rights—the Act protects the rights of legal concealed carry permit holders in every state.
The time is ripe to move the bill forward as more and more states vote for less strict gun laws this legislative session—as we see many states allow concealed carry on college campuses—Texas and Florida—and support permitless carry like in New Hampshire, West Virginia and South Dakota. Both the NRA and Gun Owners of America support Cornyn’s bill. The NRA says, “This legislation wouldn’t override state laws governing the time, place or manner of carriage or establish national standards for concealed carry. Individual state gun laws would still be respected. Concealed carry reciprocity would simply ensure that states honor permits issued by other states, just as they do with driver’s licenses. Importantly, if under federal law a person is prohibited from carrying a firearm, they will continue to be prohibited from doing so under this bill.” Despite the timing being right, New York Senator Charles Schumer is already fighting the introduced bill, saying, “It is a nightmare for our law enforcement officers and the community and I will fight this legislation tooth and nail.” We are never guaranteed gun owners rights will be protected in Congress, despite the house majority. Please write your representatives and tell them to support Senate bill 498 the Constitutional Concealed Carry Act of 2015 along with the corresponding House Bill H.R. 923.
What do you think about the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015? Share your thoughts in the comment section.