Every state recognizes the absolute right of its citizens to use deadly force when confronted with an immediate threat to their lives or those of their loved ones. Most states, starting with Florida twenty-five years ago, re-visited their concealed carry statutes giving practicality to this agreed upon right. After all, what value is there in having a right (self-defense) in theory if the state effectively denies you the very means to enforce that right?
The approaching firearm debate faced by the next Congress and president (elected or re-elected), is legislation authorizing a person to carry a concealed handgun in any state in accordance with the restrictions of that state if they could possess or receive a firearm under federal law and they have a valid license or permit to carry from any state. The National Reciprocity act, (H.R. 822) overwhelmingly passed the current House of Representatives by 272 to 154 with forty-three Democrats joining 229 Republicans last November. It has majority support in the Senate, but not quite enough for a cloture vote and has been held up till after this election.
The opponents of National Concealed Carry have pointed out a number of problems with the current bills which need to be addressed so Americans can travel across their own country with the means to defend themselves in a rational, legitimate, safe and justifiable manner. States laws on concealed carry run the gamut from Vermont (Montana, Alaska, Arizona), where any adult may lawfully carry a concealed handgun without a state-issued carry license (so long as their possession and intent is legal), to Illinois where no civilian can obtain a license because the law simply doesn't provide the lawful means to enforce one's inalienable right to life and liberty at the hands of violent predatory pond scum.
As currently written, neither H.R. 822 nor its Senate companion bill, S.2213, passes the probative and workable test for interstate carry, legal administrative oversight and application. Now that I've managed to tick off both sides of this debate, let me explain the problems and propose some (hopefully) useful solutions.
We at the Independent Firearm Owners Association believe that all adult citizens who are neither violent criminals nor mentally deranged psychopaths should be able to obtain a license to carry which would be generally valid from sea to shining sea.
This license would in effect become an enhanced federal carry permit. It can and should be issued by state authorities once the applicant meets a recognized standard currently in force in several "shall issue" states such as Texas and Virginia. The applicant should be competent in of how to operate a handgun, familiar with the basic rules of gun safety and hold a fundamental understanding of the laws of "deadly force" as well as how they may differ from state to state.
The NRA offers an excellent course entitled "Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home." They describe it as "... a nine-hour course and offers the essential knowledge and skills that must be mastered in order to carry, store, and use a firearm safely and effectively for personal protection outside the home." This course or its equivalent provides a sound basis for interstate concealed carry. In truth, most people who legally carry personal protection firearms now have far more training than the basics I've outlined and if they don't -- they should but that's a state issue better decided locally!
Another concern of the legislation is that law enforcement would have no way of knowing that an out-of-stater has a valid permit. Thankfully the Internet provides an easy solution. Any person who obtains their Federal Enhancement to their state license will have their name, license and expiration date entered by the CLEO (chief law enforcement officer) or designee of the state of issuance into the database. Nothing in this proposal would change the current reciprocity agreements between states, it would only add to, not detract from the ability of a citizen to carry lawfully in states (or jurisdictions) that don't currently trust their own citizens "may issue" (i.e., NYC, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California).
An additional issue better addressed in separate legislation arises from the legalistic distinctions between "felonies" and "misdemeanors" which vary considerably from state to state. A felony conviction generally prohibits your lifetime possession of firearms, but multiple convictions of serious violent misdemeanors do not.
Why should a person convicted of a non-violent felony, say tax evasion, lose their Second Amendment rights for life, but a violent offender arrested for dozens of serious felonies who manages to plea-bargain them down to misdemeanors does not? We are a pretty bright people; we can devise better formulae for restricting and regaining essential liberties such as firearm ownership than arbitrary and often meaningless definitional code words. This just isn't rocket science and we can apply it across the board prospectively for firearm ownership depriving the opponents of national concealed carry of a problem which we gun owners can intelligently resolve.
Perhaps the final criticism to this concept is that law enforcement groups (mostly big city chiefs) don't like it. Our response is simple, our laws should be written to protect the rights of the citizens -- not make the job of policing easier, (if indeed it would and no evidence exists to make that claim).
If Jim Lehrer does ask the two candidates a question on the gun control/gun rights issue this Wednesday, it ought to be forward-looking and not related to oft debated stale topics of gun registration, semi-automatic assault weapons (sic), Saturday Night Specials that aren't going anywhere. This question sets out new ground with an issue they will have to deal with; "Do you support or oppose National Concealed Carry legislation which would allow citizens to carry a handgun for protection with a state issued permit with federal mandated training standards? Why or why not, and what changes to the current legislation would you require to garner your support?" Over a hundred million gun owners deserve to know what next occupant of the oval office thinks about their self-defense rights before they vote.
What do you think?