H.R. 38: National Concealed Carry Reciprocity

Representative Richard Hudson (R, NC) introduced the most recent National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill in the US House on January 3, 2017. The bill was introduced with 58 co-sponsors and is currently up to 140 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

The Legal Effect

The bill, if passed, would add to the Gun Control Act language which preempts state and local law regarding prohibitions on the carrying of firearms. Particularly, a person who has a permit to carry a firearm issued by any state, or can legally carry a firearm in his state of residence, can carry a handgun in any state that allows citizens to carry concealed firearms or provides a way citizens can apply for a permit to carry concealed firearms.

However, the bill does not preempt absolute location restrictions or restrictions by private property holders, and such prohibitions are specifically signaled out and upheld.

The bill goes further and provides that a person carrying a handgun pursuant to this section cannot be arrested. If arrested and charged, and the person puts forth this section as a defense, then the prosecutor statutorily has the burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, to show that this section does not apply. Further, should the defendant prevail, the statute provides for attorney’s fees. Also included here is standing and a cause of action for any person denied a right to challenge such law preemptively rather than waiting for a criminal charge.

Finally, the bill includes explicit permission to carry on particular federal lands including National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges.

Co-Sponsors

It is always important to know who is behind a bill. Fortunately, this is now very easy to find out directly from the Congressional website. As of this writing, there are 140 co-sponsors of H.R.38. All but two of the co-sponsors are Republicans. From a geographical perspective, the co-sponsors are largely Southern and western. Texas alone provides fourteen sponsors and Florida another dozen. But even the progressive Illinois and California provide six co-sponsors each. The New England states do not provide a single co-sponsor.

Unfortunately, the number of co-sponsors is still short of the 220 some achieved last Congressional Session for a similar bill. Such difference may be made up in time as more Representatives are asked to sign on and lend their support.

Key Public Support

So who are the big players behind this bill? National Carry Concealed Reciprocity as an idea has been introduced and promoted since January of 2007. The actual text of such bills have changed over time, but so far no bill has passed into law. The Senate has been a hurdle the bill cannot overcome even though a majority supported such action and multiple votes came very close to clearing procedural hurdles.

The text of this bill is receiving the support of several prominent and well known gun rights organizations. Gun Owners of America has come out in support of the bill and has asked its supporters to do the same. The National Rifle Association and its members likewise support the bill.

The single most important supporter is President Trump himself. The President put together a “Second Amendment Coalition” to research and advise him on issues related to firearms. The group supports both the right to own and bear arms and national reciprocity. Further, national reciprocity was a campaign plank of the President and one he mentioned multiple times during his campaign.

Supporters of the act argue that the right to self defense should not stop at state lines. If a person can be trusted in one state to carry a firearm in defense of self and others, then what magically changes about that person when he crosses an arbitrary line? Additionally, supporters point to the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution as requiring states to recognize permits issued by other states.

Opposition

Based upon the co-sponsors, this is primarily a partisan issue. There are a few Democrats supporting the bill, but the co-sponsors are overwhelmingly Republican. With such a vote, it is still very likely the bill can be pushed through the house.

The prospects become dimmer in the Senate. Currently the Republicans hold 52 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Democrats, and a couple of ‘independents’ such as Bernie Sanders who ran as a Democrat in the presidential primary, hold 48 seats. While 52 is a majority, typically the Senate requires a super majority of 60 to break a filibuster or end a debate and move forward.

In 2013 when the Senate voted on national carry reciprocity the bill only attracted 57 votes. That was 3 shy to stop debate and move on to a final vote. The make up of the Senate has changed, but the Republicans still do not have a supermajority necessary to clear procedural hurdles. Therefore some help, or absence, of the Democrats will be required. This gives some perspective to the size of the hurdle in place.

As if the demographics of the Senate were not enough, the Democrats have promised to fight the proposed bill. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D, CT) has predicted that a national reciprocity bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate. This position is backed up by “Americans for Responsible Solutions”, a gun control Super PAC, who has threatened to fight national reciprocity “tooth and nail.” Everytown for Gun Safety has also joined this fight and launched a campaign in opposition to the bill.

Chances of Success

National Reciprocity has been a goal of Republicans since 2007. Time and effort have been spent educating the public and building support for the bill. Such efforts have culminated in the election of a President openly in favor of this legislation. In the past decade, issued CWPs have almost tripled from 4.6 million to 12.8 million. With a gun-friendly President in the White House, now may very well be the time to push national reciprocity over the final hurdle.