The concealed carry bill passed by the House Wednesday would be a massive overhaul of America’s gun laws. It’s being sold as “let people travel with their guns” but it does much more.
Proponents say the bill is necessary to protect people like Shaneen Allen, a woman arrested in New Jersey for inadvertently violating that state’s carry laws. New Jersey did not recognize her carry permit from Pennsylvania.
Carrying guns across state lines can indeed be treacherous to gun owners. State laws are inconsistent. With growing numbers of Americans carrying concealed firearms, lawmakers should be thinking creatively about how to solve that problem.
While easing interstate carrying is a reasonable goal, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is an incredibly poor, blunderbuss way to achieve it. And it is also likely unconstitutional.
The Concealed Carry Act works by requiring states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by other states. This sounds pretty harmless, like drivers licenses which are recognized nationwide. But the devil is in the details.
Unlike drivers licenses, some of the most populous states have only a relatively small number of concealed carry permit holders. New York, Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Maryland and Hawaii have may-issue permitting policies that restrict public carry significantly.
In Los Angeles County, with 10 million people, only a few hundred ordinary civilians have concealed carry permits. They are awarded only to people who can show a special need to carry, such as victims of stalking.
Adam Winkler is a professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law.
Some argue restrictive, may-issue permitting is unconstitutional. Courts have generally upheld these policies but the question remains to be resolved by the Supreme Court.
The Concealed Carry Act requires states like California to recognize permits from Virginia. But you don’t have to be a resident of Virginia to get a concealed carry permit there. California residents can apply online — and carry in California, never having stepped foot in Virginia.
The numbers of guns on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Trenton, Baltimore, and Honolulu will skyrocket. In Los Angeles County, the projected number of lawfully concealed guns will go from fewer than 500 to 400,000.
In New York City, which today has very few legal guns carried on the streets, approximately 400,000 will be if the bill passed by the House becomes law.
The concealed carry act would effectively overturn the may-issue carry laws in every state that has them. But the impact will be far broader and will be felt in a lot of other states, too.
Many states, even red ones, prohibit certain categories of domestic abusers from possessing guns. Now an abuser will be able to apply in a state that doesn’t bar such a person from a permit. And that abuser will be able to carry in his home city.
Shaneen Allen was arrested in New Jersey for inadvertently violating that state’s carry laws. New Jersey did not recognize her carry permit from Pennsylvania.
(Ben Fogletto/The Press of Atlantic City via AP)
Even if the abuser was prohibited from having a gun, the Concealed Carry Act says no state law can prevent him from “possessing or carrying” a handgun if he has out-of-state permit. That would also effectively overturn state laws barring certain dangerous people from having guns. If any other state thinks it’s okay, that state wins.
The law is also an affront to federalism, even though many of its supporters are among the most ardent proponents of states rights. States would no longer have the longstanding authority-dating back to the Founding era-to determine who is eligible to carry a gun in their own borders. Some other state would.
Given recent reforms loosening carry requirements, including a dozen states now requiring no permit whatsoever, there’s likely to be “race to the bottom.” States will compete to attract applicants (and the fees) by offering the loosest, easiest, permitting laws.
The law is likely also unconstitutional. Congress has only limited powers, and the Supreme Court has expressly held Congress has little authority to regulate carrying guns on public streets.
The carry act has language seeking to work around this problem. It is limited to possessing or carrying a handgun that has traveled in interstate commerce. But this is a clear pretext, as nearly all guns travel in interstate commerce. Whether that pretextual hook will be enough for the courts we will have to see.
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is far more than just protecting the Shaneen Allens caught up in conflicting gun laws. It will completely reorder Americas gun laws.
Adam Winkler is a professor of law at UCLA. His book “We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights” will be published in February.
Source: Ny Daily News