Now, don’t get me wrong. As a gun enthusiast, I support Congress advancing legislation that protects the rights of law abiding citizens to own and carry firearms. As a gun enthusiast, I do like the intended outcome of this legislation, especially since I live in State that is not very friendly to gun owners. With that said, as a conservative that believes in the Constitution and the rule of law, I think that this bill is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen (well, at least recently; politicians are constantly raising the bar on stupidity so that’s kind of a moving target, but I digress…).
Flaw Number One
The first flaw falls under the banner of unintended consequences. Below is the introduction to the bill which lays out the basic premise and intention of the law:
Senate Bill S.446
To allow reciprocity for the carrying of certain concealed firearms.
“(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any provision of the law of any State or political subdivision thereof to the contrary—
(1) an individual who is not prohibited by Federal law from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm, and who is carrying a government-issued photographic identification document and a valid license or permit which is issued pursuant to the law of a State and which permits the individual to carry a concealed firearm, may possess or carry a concealed handgun (other than a machine gun or destructive device) that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce in any State other than the State of residence of the individual that—
(A) has a statute that allows residents of the State to obtain licenses or permits to carry concealed firearms; or
(B) does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by residents of the State for lawful purposes;”
Pay particular attention to sections A and B. Now, imagine the response to this bill from States like the People’s Republic of California. Simply put, their response will be the one and only time that they act under the guise of the 10th Amendment and assert their rights as a State. Being so vehemently anti-gun, California politicians will jubilantly recognize this as an opportunity and will swiftly eliminate concealed carry permits in the State. The best part is that they’ll take another massive step towards their goal of taking your guns and they’ll be able to (correctly) blame it on Republicans in Congress.
Oops. Didn’t think of that, did we?
Flaw Number Two
The second is a fatal flaw and that is the fact that this bill is vastly unconstitutional. For those that missed it in school, the Constitution grants authority to the Federal Government to carry out specific functions and only those functions that are enumerated. Nowhere in the Constitution is the Federal Government granted the power to force States to recognize the laws of other States. This is a blatant violation of the sovereignty of individual States and runs completely contrary to the fundamental premise of a Republic. The Founders would be turning in their graves (more so than they likely already are, that is). One would expect that a group of people that are sworn to uphold the Constitution would understand this (but then again, we are talking about Congress after all).
Even if Congress passes the bill and the President signs it into law, how long do you think it will take before it’s challenged by any State with even a little bit of self respect? The briefs will be ready to be filed before the bill even hits the President’s desk. The law will be challenged and even if an injunction isn’t issued, States will refuse to enforce it (as they should). In the end, the law will be overturned as unconstitutional and the only thing that will come of it is that the Republicans in Congress will show, once again, that they can’t get it together.
The Right Way To Do It
If Congress really wants to protect the rights of law abiding citizens to carry firearms, there’s a simple solution that easily falls within the bounds of the Constitutional authority granted to Congress: Create a Federal Concealed Carry Permit.
The 2nd Amendment protects the rights to keep and bear arms. The Federal Government has both the authority and obligation to protect this right. The Necessary and Proper Clause gives Congress the power to create any legislation that is Necessary and Proper to carrying out the obligations of the Federal Government. This clearly gives Congress the authority to create concealed carry legislation on the Federal level in order to protect the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms.
The permits should be managed through ATF on a shall-issue basis and the fees should be minimal and limited only to an amount that covers the expense of processing the application and the related background check. There also should be a training requirement. As much as I like the idea of Constitutional Carry in principle, I severely dislike the idea of a bunch of untrained idiots running around with guns. I take my responsibilities as a gun owner very seriously and train often. Anyone who wishes to carry a weapon should be allowed to do so, provided they can demonstrate a working understanding of the law and the ability to operate their firearm safely and effectively. This is the same requirement we have for getting driver’s licenses in every State, so it’s not an unreasonable expectation. Because of the shall-issue requirement, this protects the rights of the gun owner while simultaneously protecting the safety of the public.
Gun control advocates will oppose this idea on spec but the truth is, they shouldn’t. If their motivation is truly that they are concerned for public safety and wish to reduce gun violence, then we’re all on the same page. That’s a concern shared by gun enthusiasts as well. The gun control crowd needs to recognize that the overwhelming majority of gun violence is not committed by law abiding citizens and it IS committed in “gun-free zones”. There are over 200 million lawfully owned firearms in the United States and approximately 15 million Americans with concealed carry permits. When was the last time you heard of a lawful permit holder committing an act of violence with their weapon? The only time you hear anything about these folks is when they’re using their weapon to defend themselves, their loved ones or complete strangers who’s lives are being threatened.
As much as I’m a proponent of limited government, this is an area where I believe that the Federal Government should be involved. Many States around the country are very supportive of the rights of gun owners. Unfortunately, there are still many States (California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, just to name a few) that are outright hostile to gun ownership and trample on the rights of millions of law abiding Americans. One of the most fundamental obligations of the Federal Government is to step in when the rights of its citizens are being violated.
This is one of those times.
Image Credit: Ibropalic