What the gunners want

What the gunners want

October 18th, 2011 in Opinion Times

Congressional Republicans typically reject legislative attempts to broadly override states' rights without a sound constitutional basis. So you would think they would not be trying to make states yield to a national gun-carry law that nullifies states' traditional rights to fix their own requirements for gun-carry permits. Yet a Republican-sponsored bill -- The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (HR 822) -- now before the House Judiciary Committee would require every state in the country to honor gun-carry permits issued by any other state, no matter how low another state's standards might be.

This is a stunningly bad idea on several grounds. It tramples state's rights to set standards. It fails to set high eligibility, residency, legal background and training standards on its own. And it fails to establish a national register of permit holders with fingerprints, qualifications and descriptions of permitted firearms. Those gaps would make gun-carry permits essentially subject to the criteria of the states with the least restrictive rules, and virtually impossible for local police to immediately verify the validity of an out-of-state gun-carry permit in the event of a traffic stop.

The proposed law would also directly conflict with the umbrella of states' rights to erect reasonable gun-control gun-carry laws that were cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2008 ruling asserting an enlarged view of the 2nd Amendment right of individuals to carry guns subject to state guidelines.

Congressional Republicans obviously aren't concerned about such basic flaws. Their primary interest, it seems, is election politics, and the potential benefit of signing on the National Rifle Association's current top priority -- the ability of its members to pack heat anywhere, anytime.

Thirty-eight states now refuse gun-carry permits to people with felony records, particularly those involving violent crimes and sexual assaults. Thirty-six fix the minimum age for gun-carry permits at 21, and 35 states require a training course and a background check. And every state currently decides on its own whether to recognize concealed-carry permits issued by other states.

New York and California are the among the states with the strictest gun-carry rules. They are particularly worried about the consequences of a porous national reciprocity law, because studies show that much of the gun-crime committed in their states involves firearms purchased in states with the least restrictions on gun purchases. Those concerns are aggravated by the stunning neglect of many states -- Tennessee included -- to require background checks for firearms purchased in wide-open gun shows.

Another concern is that more states become like Utah, which openly issues gun permits to non-residents, and even authorizes out-of-state private instructors to conduct the nominal half-day training that it requires for a Utah gun-carry license. The Sacramento Bee reported last week, for example, that Utah has issued 16,019 gun permits to California residents, even though California does not grant reciprocity for gun-carry permits issued by Utah.

Gun-related crime is already fearsome in many states. Tennessee, for one, has recently been found to have the highest per-capita rate among states in crimes involving firearms. No state needs more of the gun-crime plague. Making it easier to carry guns across state borders can only make matters worse. The proposed national reciprocity act should be defeated.