It’s been a bad few weeks at NRA headquarters.
First, the gun lobby lost in the court of public opinion. The Pew Research Center released its annual survey of Americans’ opinions on guns – and the clear majority of us oppose the gun lobby’s policy priorities. Eighty-one percent, for example, oppose allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit.
Next, the gun lobby lost before one of its legal challenges could even reach the Supreme Court. SCOTUS declined to hear the NRA-backed suit Peruta v. County of San Diego – a denial consistent with decisions by four federal appeals courts. Each ruled that the Second Amendment, contrary to gun lobby ideology, does indeed allow states and localities to decide who can carry concealed guns in public.
Then, the gun lobby lost again at a gathering of the leaders most directly accountable to voters for protecting public safety. The U.S. Conference of Mayors formally resolved to oppose “Concealed Carry Reciprocity,” the top item on the gun lobby’s wish list in Congress.
With the losses piling up, the gun lobby and its allies are getting desperate. Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action responded to the latest incendiary, fear-mongering ad from NRA leadership, which has drawn condemnation from groups and individuals across the political spectrum – including gun owners and non-gun owners, and a former CIA analyst, who said the ad “fuels American extremists.” And as the gun lobby’s “guns for anyone, anywhere” agenda stalls in DC, one congressman is trying to jumpstart it with the argument that enacting “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” would be akin to the current system for recognizing driver’s licenses across state lines.
The gun lobby likes this argument, but the truth is, concealed carry permits are nothing like driver’s licenses. “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” would be more like a driver’s license if a dozen states allowed people to drive across the country without even having a license, learning to drive, or having their record checked for drunk driving.
States have largely identical standards for driving. You have to pass a vision test, a road test, and a written test. You have to be 18 or have completed a highly regulated training process. You cannot have criminal convictions for dangerous driving. Driver’s licenses are easily verifiable, too. With a keystroke or a phone call, the police can confirm that your license is valid. For these reasons, it makes sense for states to recognize each other’s driver’s licenses. That is why states have done so – by their own accord and independently, without Congressional interference.
Unlike driver’s licenses, concealed carry laws vary widely from state to state. Some states disqualify stalkers or abusive dating partners or drunk drivers from carrying; some do not. Some states empower law enforcement to deny applicants who have red flags and pose a public danger; some do not. Some states require some form of safety training or make you fire a gun before you get a permit; some do not. Twelve states do not even require any permit to carry – the standards in those states are practically nonexistent. Also, there is no national database that cops could use to verify permits from the states that do issue them. There is no hotline number to call, either.
So, if Congress imposes it on the states, “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” would gut state law on concealed carry. It would not create a national standard for who can carry concealed guns, as its proponents claim. On the contrary, it would force each state to recognize the concealed carry standards of every other state, no matter how low (or even nonexistent) those standards may be.
Under “Concealed Carry Reciprocity,” convicted stalkers, domestic abusers, other people with violent records, and people who lack even the most basic gun safety training could carry concealed guns across the country – and your local police would be powerless to stop them, regardless of local law. Cops would often be put in an impossible position, with no way to confirm who was following the law and who was not. Actually, the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” bill in the U.S. House would even allow lawsuits against police officers for arresting, or even stopping, a person they think is not properly permitted. Cops would be on the hook for legal damages – and, thanks to the gun lobby, they would have to think twice before doing their job.
Thus, the NRA’s wish would actually pose a public safety nightmare.
The gun lobby needs a winner, but it continues to play a losing hand. Not even the gun lobby’s friends in Congress can defend “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” on its merits. That is why they are misleading the public about their dangerous legislation.
The good news is that the American people aren’t buying the gun lobby’s lies. The courts aren’t buying them. Local political leaders and law enforcement aren’t buying them, either.
Neither should Congress.
John Feinblatt is the president of Everytown for Gun Safety.