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Is a national concealed carry reciprocity law Constitutional? Yes and no

We need a national concealed carry reciprocity law
We need a national concealed carry reciprocity law
Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

At the prodding of a federal judge, Illinois finally became the last state to recognize the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, and has begun granting concealed carry permits this year. Although there are a number of hoops to jump through, and gun rights are still heavily restricted in the state, there is at least the possibility that some law-abiding citizens will now be able to lawfully carry a concealed weapon.

Every single state in the Union now offers concealed carry permits, in some form or fashion. For an individual to obtain one of these permits in any state, they must, at a minimum, pass a criminal background check, show some knowledge and understanding of applicable laws, and engage in a modicum of training that shows some proficiency with their firearm. Basically, once someone has obtained a concealed carry permit in any state, they have proven to that state that they are a law-abiding citizen that knows how to handle a gun.

Many states have entered agreements with each other, wherein they recognize each others concealed carry permits. This is known as reciprocity. Unfortunately, there are also many states that disregard and refuse to recognize the concealed carry permits from other states. This is blatantly unconstitutional.

Article 4, Section 1, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution reads:

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.

What that means is that every state must recognize and accept a duly and lawfully issued license, no matter from which state it originates. This is why state drivers licenses are recognized across the country. The fact that some states disregard and refuse to recognize concealed carry permits from other states, which are in fact public acts, on public record, and done so in a judicial proceeding, is in direct violation of the above clause.

A national reciprocity law, passed by Congress, requiring each state to give full faith and credit to the concealed carry permits issued by other states, would in fact be Constitutional.

However, there is also an argument to be made that a national reciprocity law would be unconstitutional. This argument stems from the larger argument against concealed carry permits in the first place. A Tenth Amendment, state's rights argument could also be made, but that will have to addressed separately.

There are many people who believe that individuals should not have to ask for their state's permission in order to exercise one of their Constitutional rights, namely the right to bear arms. They believe that the Constitution already protects that natural and inherent right. This is known as Constitutional carry.

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution ends with the phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed". Being compelled to ask the permission of your government, to pass a test, and to pay a tax (fee) in order to carry a firearm is rightly viewed as an infringement by some people.

It is a natural and inherent right of all people to defend themselves from those that would do them harm. The best and most effective way for a person to defend themselves these days is with a firearm. Forcing people to ask permission and pay a tax they may be unable to afford unfairly prevents some people from being able to exercise their natural right. Their right has been infringed upon.

So, by a strict reading and understanding of the Second Amendment, a national concealed carry reciprocity law would be unconstitutional, as concealed carry permits are themselves unconstitutional.

The ultimate goal for many gun rights advocates is nationwide Constitutional carry, evidenced by a national respect and recognition of the fact that anybody and everybody has the right to carry a firearm for their personal protection, if they so desire. Criminals already enjoy the ability to carry a firearm anywhere and everywhere, for whatever purpose they please, as they ignore the laws that prevent good people from doing the same. Why should law-abiding citizens be placed at a disadvantage to gun-toting criminals, by their own government no less, a government whose sole purpose is to protect and defend the rights of it's citizens?

If more good, generally law-abiding people carried weapons, whether openly or concealed, the problems with gun violence would soon dissipate. Criminals are much less likely to carry out their violent criminal acts when they know or suspect that they will be met with armed resistance from good people.

Hopefully, one day Constitutional carry will be the norm in the United States, and people won't have to jump through hoops to obtain the permission of their government in order to exercise their natural and inherent right to bear arms. However, until that day comes, can we at least have all of the states recognize each others duly issued concealed carry permits. If we are going to continue to have concealed carry permits, then at least there should be national reciprocity amongst the several states. The Constitution demands that much.

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