The Real Slippery Slope of Gun Laws

Richard Poplawski. Omar Thornton. Paul Michael Merhige. Jason Hamilton. Nidal Malik Hasan. George Sodini. Christopher Speight.

What do these men have in common?

# 1: They all committed mass murder (three or more innocents killed) with guns.

# 2: They were all concealed handgun permit holders.

And they're not alone. Since 2007, at least 19 mass shootings have been perpetrated by individuals who had obtained permits to carry concealed handguns in public.

Today, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 822, the "National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act," and it will almost certainly be passed by the National Rifle Association's allies in that chamber. Having spent the past 25 years gradually weakening laws to the point where even obviously deranged and violent individuals can obtain permits to carry concealed handguns, the "National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act" is the final chute in a slippery slope that will see our nation's gun laws reduced to the lowest common denominator.

H.R. 822, which was drafted by the NRA's lawyers, would force law enforcement to recognize concealed handgun permits issued by other states, including states with extremely weak regulations in regards to screening and training requirements. It would allow individuals with concealed handgun permits to carry loaded handguns when they visit other states even when they do not meet the standards for obtaining a concealed handgun permit -- or even owning a gun -- in the state(s) they are visiting!

How radical and dangerous is this legislation? Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee actually cast votes on October 13 to ensure that the following categories of individuals would be able to carry loaded guns in public in other states under H.R. 822:

  • Misdemeanant sex offenders
  • Individuals on the FBI's Terrorist Watch List
  • Individuals with misdemeanor convictions for stalking or unlawful surveillance
  • Individuals with misdemeanor convictions for assaulting or impersonating a police officer
  • Individuals with misdemeanor convictions for selling drugs to minors
  • Individuals who have been subjects of domestic abuse protection orders in the past 10 years

Consider, too, that several states require no training whatsoever on the part of residents to obtain a concealed handgun permit. Even those that do require no more than a single day-class of training, and that's typically good for life (no repeat training required when you renew a permit). Virginia's requirement, for example, has been reduced to a one-hour online class. You watch a video and then take a multiple choice test (as many times as you need to get it right). Some of the survivors of the Virginia Tech tragedy who have never even held a handgun in real life were able to pass this "course."

The net result of the "National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act" is to make the weakest state laws in the nation the Law of the Land. Denied a concealed handgun permit in your home state because of your criminal and mental health background? No problem. Thanks to the NRA, you'll now simply be able to mail-order a permit from Utah or Florida (whose screening requirements are an absolute joke) and you're ready to carry -- not just in your home state that determined you were a threat to public safety, but in every other state as well save Illinois (Illinois is the one state exempt from the bill because it has enacted no carry law whatsoever for private citizens).* Worried about not having undergone the licensing and registration process to own (much less carry) a handgun in a given state? No problem. The NRA's bill completely overrides those democratically-enacted laws as well.

We've already had a preview of how H.R. 822 will work in practice. In September of last year, Marqus Hill, a resident of Philadelphia, executed an 18-year-old who allegedly broke into his car, shooting him 13 times on the street. The city of Philadelphia had previously revoked a concealed handgun permit that Hill held in the state of Pennsylvania based on his criminal history. Because of a reciprocity agreement that Pennsylvania signed with Florida, Hill was able to get a permit in the mail from The Sunshine State with no problem.

If the NRA has its way, we'll soon be in the era of Forced Reciprocity, where law enforcement officers nationwide are powerless to disarm individuals like Marquis Hill before they pull the trigger -- even when officers know these trouble makers are packing heat in public spaces.

There's been a lot of attention cast lately on the tin-foil hat statements of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. The NRA boss told CPAC attendees in the District of Columbia "As soon as you leave this hall, your life is in jeopardy" in February and then followed that up last month with a fairy tale about "a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country."

In truth, though, the NRA's greatest lie is its talking point that gun violence prevention laws in America are a "slippery slope" that will eventually lead to total confiscation of privately held firearms. What an absurdity that is today -- 43 years after the signing of the 1968 Gun Control Act -- as demented individuals like Jared Loughner and Nidal Malik Hasan continue to legally buy guns and carry them in our communities.

The reality is that the slippery slope has been running in the opposite direction the entire time -- toward a future where even the most violent and deranged individuals can legally buy guns, legally carry them on the street, and legally bring them into churches, schools, daycare centers, public transportation, government buildings and the rest of our most sensitive public spaces.

If that vision disturbs and sickens us -- which it should any civilized society -- then turning back the "National Right-to-Carry Act" is a moral imperative and logical first-step.

* Current law allows people denied in their own state to procure one in another state if they meet the eligibility requirement in the other state. Florida and Utah give permits to out of state residents all the time. That would not change under 822. What would change is that states that currently do not have reciprocity with Florida would have to accept that Florida permit even if the holder was not a Florida resident. So for example, if I am a Pennsylvania resident and I am denied a permit in Pennsylvania but get my permit from Florida, I can now carry in any state that has reciprocity with Florida. What HR 822 changes is that now the Federal government would force every other state (except possibly my state of residence) to allow me to carry based on my Florida license.