EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of articles on gun rights. Each addresses a common anti-gun trope.

“Why should my state have to respect the lax gun licensing rules of some other state?!”

Lets say that you, an American living in America, wish to carry a handgun. For whatever reason, or for no reason at all. In the large majority of the states, you can apply for a concealed-carry permit (CCW) and, barring something specific in your history (e.g. a felony conviction), you will receive it within a reasonable period of time. These are known as “shall-issue” states, wherein the law places the burden on the government to show cause for denying a permit application. There are currently 42 states where gun rights are at least this robust (some states do not require a permit for CCW, and some do not for open carry but do for CCW). The remaining 8, known as “may-issue” states, make the issuance of a permit discretionary, i.e. subject to the whim and good will of a government agent, and dependent on the applicant showing verifiable need for a CCW. In most, saying “self-defense” without offering a documented threat is not enough.

A permit issued in a particular state may or may not be honored by another state. This principle is referred to as reciprocity, and the honoring of another state’s CCW permits is decided by each state, individually. This has created a tangled mess of reciprocity rules. While the gun community has been pretty good at keeping up with that tangle, from time to time we read stories about someone who, having committed no act of harm or ill intent, lands in jail simply for mistakenly assuming that his or her CCW was good in a state he or she was visiting.

Gun rights advocates (correctly) consider it untenable that 8 states in America, within which 70 million Americans live, deny their residents the right to a concealed carry permit. The Supreme Court has declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. While the Court has yet to definitively establish what restrictions the government can emplace on this right, and indeed has been negligent, IMO, in its repeated failure to accept a case that would clarify matters, it remains that an arbitrary denial of the right to bear arms by an agent of the government violates the spirit of this affirmation. To address this incongruity, a bill in Congress sought to establish 50-state reciprocity for concealed carry permits.

Single events, large or small, can sometimes change the course of history, and this certainly holds true for the gun rights debate. The Parkland shooting in February 2018 stalled, or perhaps permanently derailed, the nascent reciprocity movement, and that’s a shame. Full reciprocity is long-overdue, would continue the restoration of gun rights to the citizenry, and would honor principles explicitly declared in the Constitution: the Full Faith and Credit Clause; and the 14th Amendment‘s Privileges or Immunities and Equal Protection clauses. States recognize other states’ contracts, marriage licenses, driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and countless other documents. Constitutionally protected rights do not vary by state, and states cannot override federal protections.

While there’s significant and legitimate debate regarding the extent to which full-faith-and-credit should trump states’ sovereignty, including the choice-of-law matter, any lover of liberty should, in my view, default to whichever position invests the greatest amount of individual liberty.

I can understand the opposition that progressives show to the idea of reciprocity (although, it’s quite funny to hear that crowd make states’-rights arguments when their history is so rife with efforts to force red states to conform to blue-state ways). They don’t like guns, and they want their bastions to remain hostile to gun rights. But, the aforementioned fealty to liberty makes the opposition that some conservatives have to reciprocity puzzling. Why wouldn’t conservatives, who are expectedly pro-liberty and pro-gun-rights, support reciprocity?

I’ve heard concerns about the federal government imposing its own rules and restrictions on CCW, but that’s not what reciprocity does, and a reciprocity bill would have no impact on the residents of those states that are already shall-issue (or, better yet, “Constitutional carry,” where no permit is required). A reciprocity bill would (and the proposed one does) simply state that:

a person … who is carrying a valid license or permit which is issued pursuant to the law of a State and which permits the person to carry a concealed firearm or is entitled to carry a concealed firearm in the State in which the person resides, may possess or carry a concealed handgun … in any State that … has a statute under which residents of the State may apply for a license or permit to carry a concealed firearm; or … does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by residents of the State for lawful purposes.

Legal gobbledygook (and elides for clarity) aside, this simply says that, if I have a CCW issued in Utah, it’s valid in every other state (all 50 states have laws where people “may apply for a license or permit to carry a concealed firearm.”). What’s the harm therein? There’s nothing magically different about the handful of states that are may-issue that warrant denial of some rights. Unless, of course, you simply don’t want CCW in your state, have no problem infringing on your fellow residents’ rights, and don’t have any quibbles with bending the nation’s core principles to satisfy your personal preferences.

Why shouldn’t a CCW be valid everywhere? An individual’s right to bear arms is spelled out in black-and-white in the Constitution, and it’s been affirmed by the Supreme Court. Still unanswered is the question of what restrictions the government can legitimately put on that right, but it’s untenable to argue that such a fundamental right varies by jurisdiction. Is there any other right that isn’t as robust in some states as it is in others? Is your religious freedom greater in State A than it is in State B? Do your Miranda rights not exist in some states? Isn’t a key job of the Federal government to protect the individual rights of its citizens?


Gun rights lesson #602: Your right to bear arms should not be infringed based on where you live. A Reciprocity law at the federal level would help restore a fundamental right that has been long unjustly infringed.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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