Since the prosecution of Shaneen Allen, there has been a push across the United States for national reciprocity but few are aware of the proposed reciprocity bills. While I have some concerns about national reciprocity (which I review below), it is important to understand the four currently pending bills regarding national reciprocity.
Senate Bill 498, introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and House of Representatives Bill 923, introduced by U.S. Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) are companion bills (meaning that they are identical, at least, when submitted). Currently S.B. 498 has 32 cosponsors and H.R. 923 has 36 cosponsors. These bills would provide that where an individual is not prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms and has license or permit from a state, which includes a photo, that allows him/her to possess or carry a concealed firearm, he/she would be entitled to carry a concealed firearm, pursuant to his/her license/permit, in any state that allows residents of that state to obtain licenses or permits to carry concealed firearms or in a state that does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by residents of that state for lawful purposes. Additionally, the same protections are afforded to a resident of a state where he/she is entitled to carry a firearm absent a license or permit. (This provision is of questionable benefit, since, to my knowledge, all states that have gone to “constitutional carry” still have a mechanism for an individual to obtain a license/permit for purposes of reciprocity). It should be noted that both machineguns and destructive devices are exempt from carrying, pursuant to this bill; however, short barreled rifles/shotguns and Any Other Weapons would seemingly be permitted, since not excluded. Furthermore, all the laws and regulations of the state the individual is in would apply; hence, if a particular state’s laws precluded hollow-point bullets, one could not carry hollow-point bullets in that state, pursuant to this bill.
House of Representatives Bill 402, introduced by U.S. Representative Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) currently has 93 cosponsors. This bill is almost identical to S.B. 498 and H.R. 923 but lacks the inclusion of non-licensed residents of states where the individual is entitled to carry a firearm absent a license or permit. (See above for the questionable benefit of this provision).
And, saving the best for last, House of Representatives Bill 986, introduced by U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), currently has 183 cosponsors. Similar to H.R. 402, it lacks a provision including non-licensed residents of states where the individual is entitled to carry a firearm absent a license or permit. (See above for the questionable benefit of this provision). Additionally, unlike the other bills, H.R. 986 supersedes state law seemingly in all respects, except for state laws which “permit private persons or entities to prohibit or restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property” and “prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms on any State or local government property, installation, building, base, or park.”
And if that wasn’t enough to sell you on H.R. 986, it also provides for (1) immunity from prosecution “unless there is probable cause to believe that the person is doing so in a manner not provided for by this section”; (2) the individual’s right to attorney fees, where he/she is prosecuted unsuccessfully; (3) a civil cause of action against any state or political subdivision that deprives an individual of their rights under this bill, where the individual is entitled to damages and attorney fees.
While I support H.R. 986, I have some general concerns about national reciprocity in general, especially in determining, whose laws apply. As I see it, there are five options:
- The laws of individual’s state of residence apply. This is extremely problematic as it would require that law enforcement know the 50 states’ laws, when they typically do not even know the laws of the state in which they are employed.
- The laws of state the individual is in apply. This has generally been toted as the most practical; however, how is a resident of another state suppose to determine what is lawful and unlawful? I frequently spend 4+ hrs during firearms law seminars just going over Pennsylvania’s law. I cannot fathom how any lay person could possibly comprehend, absent competent legal advice, most states’ laws regarding the carrying and possession of loaded firearms. This, in essence, is no different than requiring that a law enforcement officer know 50 different states’ laws; however, at least the law enforcement officer has training in reading and interpreting the laws.
- Hybrid of 1 and 2. My own personal opinion of the best option that is likely (e.g. absent 5 applying) is for each state to be required to make an easily comprehensible guide to their concealed carry laws, where if an individual reasonably relies on the information in the guide to his/her detriment, he/she is immune from prosecution.
- Federal law dictates the permitted conduct, such as, an individual carrying pursuant to national reciprocity is restricted to ten rounds, only full metal jacket,…etc. The problem, for me, with this approach is that this would encroach upon states’ rights. While the U.S Government has encroached upon states’ rights for decades, seemingly erasing the 10th Amendment, I have never nor can I support further erosion of the Constitution.
- The 2nd Amendment applies! Clearly, if all state laws regulating the possession and carrying of firearms are unconstitutional pursuant to the 2nd Amendment, then there is no erosion of the 10th Amendment, since the states cannot restrict an inalienable right. Unfortunately, most court decisions are not supportive of this position; however, it appears to (largely) be the outcome sought through H.R. 986.
Also, I must note that I have a problem with all of the bills in that they require photographic identification. As our readers are likely aware, I recently filed suit against the U.S. Government for denying my client the right to purchase a firearm because his religious beliefs preclude him from having his photo taken. As none of us are born with photo identification and all states have a mechanism in place for an individual to obtain, for the first time, photographic identification, any law should permit individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs to prove their identity no differently than that required for an individual to prove his/her identity for the first time to obtain photographic identification.
Let us know your thoughts on national reciprocity, which bill you support and why!